Simple Truths I’ve Picked Up

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts where I will be sharing my thoughts on what it takes to lead others with strength and integrity. I hope you find value in these posts and I welcome you to comment and share your opinions and experiences as I share mine with you.

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Have you ever noticed that some of the most important rules of business look a lot like common sense dressed up in an Armani sport coat? And have you ever been surprised (or dismayed or disheartened) to discover that some of these common-sense rules aren’t all that common?

When you’ve been on the planet long enough, you start to realize that the lessons learned from your mom, your school friends, and your first crush actually have a bearing on the universe at large. Even a bad boss can teach you important things about yourself. I’ve absorbed many valuable lessons from flawed human beings. I believe you can continue to gain insights about yourself and others by accepting these two truths:

1) It takes one to know one. We’re all flawed human beings.
2) Everyone you meet is a possible teacher; don’t stop learning.

Often, when I share an anecdote with a friend or colleague that exemplifies one of these simple “life lessons,” they genuinely appreciate the story and apply it. It seems to happen more and more. (Does that mean I’m getting older, or that I’m hanging out with younger people?) In any event, it got me thinking about how many simple truths I’ve picked up over the years.

In honor of the people who’ve helped set me straight in the past, and in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ve committed to sharing some of those observations here.

Here’s my first piece of advice:
Stop waiting for a response that you’re never going to get.

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Sometimes we have expectations of others that they can never live up to. Sometimes we want something from people that they just aren’t equipped to give us. The result is frustration, which is an absolute energy drain. This often happens with family members — parents, siblings, or children who just don’t show us love in the precise way we want to be loved.

It can also happen with clients, bosses, and coworkers. They don’t have the sense of humor we crave. They’re too private and won’t open up. They don’t give us the pat on the back we’ve earned.

In these situations, we have two choices. We can quit — we can divorce, fire or disown these people. Or we can focus on controlling the only part of the relationship we can control. That would be our own expectations.

If your client is Oscar the Grouch, don’t expect a congratulatory fist bump when you’ve delivered an amazing result on a tough assignment. You’re never going to get it. But do the amazing work you always do anyway. Be gracious and professional. Give those hugs and fist bumps to your own team members. In other words, model the behavior you’d like to see. But leave your frustration — along with unrealistic expectations — in the garbage can with Oscar.

Agree, disagree, have a different take? Send me a comment and let’s discuss.

Let’s connect on Twitter as well @bpriestheck.

11 thoughts on “Simple Truths I’ve Picked Up

  1. BPH – these truths may be simple, but so very practical. As one who grew up watching the occasional Sesame Street episode, I can very much relate to the Oscar analogy. And, certainly we all have some “Oscar’s” in our lives.

    The writers and creators of Sesame Street must also be in complete agreement. The perpetually happy and optimistic Big Bird interacted often with Oscar (as did many of the other characters) and, as I recall, didn’t let his pessimism infect the entire street. Big Bird seemed just as happy after an interaction with Oscar as he was when he started one.

    One additional thought to your post. At times we likely all have been the “Oscar” in a situation. I think it’s very important to be self-aware as a leader, as a spouse, as a parent, etc. and recognize those moments. In my case, I have found that recovering from those instances requires humility, empathy, and often a recognition of my impact on the rest of the “street.” When my “street” seems unsettled, it’s time to transform back into Big Bird mode.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bob, so happy to see your words of wisdom become public. I do agree with your perspective and think expectation setting is critical across all types of relationships. Congrats on launching your blog and looking forward to the next one.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more with your #2 – Everyone you meet is a possible teacher. I think I probably learned as much from those few with negative thoughts and actions as I have from the many positive role models I have had. I was able to observe firsthand the repercussions of pessimism and criticism and was determined not to have such an impact on others. And isn’t it just more fun to be optimistic and positive? Thank you, Bob, for paying it forward!

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  4. This is so true Bob! Thanks for the reminder that we can only control our own thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions in any given situation. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, our attitude will influence someone else to make a change for the better.

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  5. Thank you for this post. I’m holding tightly to our Freeman Values – in particular, Integrity and Empathy – and am so very proud to be a part of an organization that is built around a shared vision of what is possible and the importance of connecting people in meaningful ways.

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