Business Lessons & Life Lessons

By: Victoria K. Munro

This week, I celebrate my 65th birthday and was challenged to reflect on and share some lessons I've learned. In doing so, I certainly don't presume I have in any way arrived. I plan to keep learning, growing and changing -- hopefully for the better.

In the process of starting and running nine businesses, I've made many mistakes, I've done some things right and I've learned a lot. Listed below are seven key lessons I wish I'd grasped years ago. I trust they will provide some useful insights.

1. Relationships are priceless. Treasure and honor them. Money may come and go, and though it's an important and essential aspect of life, money alone won't bring lasting fulfillment. Meaningful relationships will.

As my children grew up and left the nest, I encouraged them to seek out and surround themselves with supportive friends they enjoyed and respected. "Make this a priority," I urged them. "You will need these friends and they will need you. Be there for them, give more than you get and, when you have a need, they'll be there for you."

2. Take time out often to reflect -- just to think. In our busy, fast-paced lives it's easy to postpone or neglect taking time to step back and reflect on the big picture or even the situation at hand. It's tempting to push ahead, doing whatever it takes to make the business succeed, sometimes without stopping to define exactly what 'success' means to us.

Looking back, I see that during hectic, stressful times, I often made poor decisions. Taking time to step back, analyze the situation, consider all possible options and their potential consequences could have led to wiser choices. Think about what you really want in life. Write out your personal definition of 'success.'

3. Failure isn't fatal. It's a reminder that we're human and an opportunity to learn. We all makes mistakes. We do and say things we regret. It's far better to take a reasonable risk and fail, than never step outside your comfort zone. When I blow it, I follow three rules:

&bull Look objectively at what happened and what I can learn from it. Then, make changes to avoid repeating it.

&bull List all the positives -- you can always find some.

&bull Allow no beating myself up with negative self-talk.

4. Know and be true to yourself. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on further improving your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. Be clear about what is and isn't important to you. Identify your core values and commit to never compromising these.

5. Keep on learning. Education doesn't finish when we graduate from college. Continue learning: read books, listen to CDs and seek out and spend time with others you can learn from. Develop a curious, questioning mind. I didn't attend high school or college -- I started a business -- but I love to learn.

6. Life isn't fair. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. In life and in business, everything doesn't always go according to plan -- it's a journey over mountaintops, through valleys, and across flatlands and gentle hills. None are permanent and, when you're walking through a valley, that's good to remember. I've also found a healthy sense of humor to be a great remedy in tough times. Learn to laugh a lot!

7. Be quick to forgive, even if you need to forgive someone a hundred times a day. In business and in life, people hurt people. Decide to never hold a grudge. Remember to forgive yourself too!

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