I sometimes reflect on the most influential themes in my life and decided to list a few here.  Of the many people I have crossed paths with in life each has passed along some bit of advice or action that I’ve learned from.  Sometimes these lessons come by means of a message or characteristic that I want to emulate or avoid.  The following are three of the most critical rules by which I’ve learned to live.

1. Nothing is impossible, the impossible just takes longer

My Mom always believed in me even when there was no reason to.  Many times she would tell me that I can do anything I put my mind to.  She really had no reason to say this to me.  As a child she had never seen me accomplish something wonderful or amazing.  She did not base her beliefs on past experience and well calculated prediction models.  She based them on faith.

One day she bought me a t-shirts that read “future Nobel Prize winner.”  My mother is a woman of faith which is the only reason I can give for such action and belief.  Perhaps the only things parents ever can have is faith, but she repeated it to me so many times that even I began to believe.  I learned that always there would be people smarter, faster, or more creative than me.  It was that faith that gave me the secret weapon of brute force.

I would try longer, harder, and with more ferocity than others because I knew that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.  I am still of the belief that even if you do not know the right direction to go, it is better to run as hard as you can in the direction you think is right.  The faster you find the wrong path, the sooner you will turn around and run towards the right one.  Life is too short to ever simply wait and hope for the best.

Victory goes to those who believe in the impossible.

2. Learn the good, avoid the bad

I recall vividly driving to work with my Dad one day and he told me something in passing as part of a rare father-son moment.  He told me that I would come across all types of people in my life, but I would be most successful if I incorporated into my life the positive good they expressed and learned to avoid the bad.  That little talk may seem rather benign, and even writing it now sound like simple advice, but put into practice it can be a very powerful tool.

I believe that in each of us there is the ability for great good and great evil.  We express this in part by our actions or lack thereof.  I know that I cannot live a thousand lifetimes but I can learn from the lives of thousands of others.  I can listen to their stories, observe their actions, and learn to incorporate into mine the very best of each.

Call it the Highlander of social interactions, but it works.

3. Never stop improving

I once wanted to be a writer.  Not a blogger but a writer of books.  In my search I called people I knew who were great presenters and writers.  I recall pacing the hallway of an office building in Chicago when I called Richard Thieme and talked with him about my desires to become a writer.  He told me one very valuable thing.

“Never stop improving.”  He said that the moment you stop improving in your writing, or any domain for that matter, is the moment you might want to consider moving on to a new one.  I believe he is correct.  I believe to stagnate is to die the slow and painful death of mediocrity.

Genius vs Insanity

Remember that the line between genius an insanity is short, but so is the line between good and great.  Many people in this world are good at what they do but so very few are truly great.  The reason for this is not because they lack the skills but because the refuse to apply the skills.  The reason people do not become great is because they think is impossible, they do not learn from others, or they simply give up.

Begin each day by asking yourself if today is going to be a good day or a great one.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Frederick Nietzsche