With every conversation I have, a book I read, a mistake I make, and new knowledge I acquire, I feel less sure about everything.
The French philosopher Voltaire said it best:
“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
When I got my first degree in business, nine years ago, I was certain I knew nothing. So I got a master’s degree after that. That took me about two more years.
Still, I knew nothing. So after that, I did my best to learn from mentors, family, business partners, clients, friends, colleagues. I tried to absorb all their knowledge.
I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of wonderful people who I’ve learned a lot from. And if you also want to learn from people you look up to, just observe them. Understand how they behave, think, talk, work, conduct business, etc.
That’s why I think everyone has mentors. But not everyone actively observes them.
Most of us expect a mentor to show up and say:
“As of today, I’m your official mentor. Here‘s lesson one: Don’t be an idiot.”
I don’t know about you, but that has never happened to me. Instead, I find ways to spend time with people I want to learn from and learn by observing them. That strategy has helped me a lot in recent years.
Here’s a list of things I’ve observed my mentors saying. I hope you find it useful too.
- “I like to work because that keeps me young.” One of my mentors is in his seventies. If you believe scientists, he should be a rusty old man with only a few good brain cells. Instead, he’s a vital person. Good genes? Maybe. He doesn’t have time to think about that stuff. He just does things.
- “Adults don’t need to ask for permission.” Screw gatekeepers and naysayers. If you believe in something, do it. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s always better to ask for forgiveness.
- “People who always complain give me a headache.” Don’t be a party-pooper.
- “If people want to go. Let them. And wish them well.” Over the course of your career, you’ll lose friends, colleagues, team members, employees, bosses, partners. Shit happens and people move on. Friends become enemies. Know when it’s time for you to move on. And never hold a grudge.
- “Be smart about your career.” Don’t be a sheep. Understand that everyone is competing for the same things. Be smart and think about winning. Just stay ethical. And yes, that’s possible. Life is not House of Cards.
- “Treat people well. The world is small.” We’re humans. And humans are emotional. And emotions make people do weird things. Don’t do weird things to people.
- “Life is not fair. Get over it.” Yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re sad. You didn’t get that promotion. No one cares about your product. These things happen. Don’t wish things were different. Just be better next time.
- “Know yourself. But also know your industry, business, friends, enemies, competition.” Self-awareness is the start of personal growth. But if you want to truly advance your career, you have to understand your environment too. Otherwise, you’ll be a monk who only knows himself.
- “I always make the best out of everything.” Stop trying to find your passion. And don’t be a spoiled little brat. Just enjoy your life, have fun, relax, be a sport. You don’t need a dream job or a million dollars to do those things.
- “I hate it when people are not prepared.” No matter how small your next assignment is, come prepared. It’s the difference between an amateur and a pro. Know your shit.
- “Hard things will always remain hard. Things don’t get easier by putting them off.” Difficult conversations, firing people, admitting mistakes, saying you’re sorry. You never really get used to hard things. It’s always better to rip the band-aid. Just get it over with.
- “Not everyone thinks the same way you do.” I often hear people saying: “That person doesn’t understand me.” Have you ever thought that it might be the other way around? People are different. Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- “Bad people only hurt themselves. I feel bad for them.” Never try to get back at bad people. Their punishment is that they are a bad person.
- “Always have a side-business” Everyone should be able to make money independently. Create something of value. When people pay for it, you’re in business.
- “Everything comes to an end.” Your good health, relationships, family, pet, business. We all know how things end. Just make sure you appreciate the things you still have. Before you know it, everything will be gone. And so will you.
- “I fail all the time. I just don’t give up.” Failure is overrated. It’s merely a different word for learning. We just get all emotional about it. “I suck.” No, you don’t. But if you give up you do.
- “Why does everyone want to be happy all the time?” There’s nothing wrong with being sad, angry, frustrated. Just don’t stay in those emotions. Acknowledge it, and then move on.
- “People are in love with their own voice.” Sometimes it’s good to shut up and listen to other people.
- “I hate fabricated fun. It’s not fun.” For the love of God, stop forcing people to have ‘fun’ at your stupid office party. It’s not fun to tell people to have fun. Just relax and be human, you weird android in a suit.
- “Resting is more important than working.” The art of resting is a difficult thing to learn. We’re all so restless. We want things to happen today, now, this very instant. Let it go. Just breathe for a second. Rest.
- “I don’t give a shit.” I can’t tell you how often I heard my mentors saying that phrase. Somehow, happy people don’t care about shit that doesn’t matter.
- “My goal is to learn one new thing every day.” Learning is something you do deliberately. Remind yourself every day that you want, no NEED, to learn something new.
What new thing did you learn today? After writing this list, I learned that all the stuff I know, I’ve learned from others. Does that make me stupid? I don’t give a shit anyway. It’s time to rest.