By Michael Gunther

Last week my team surprised me with a birthday lunch—it was actually quite fun and I was truly surprised. (It’s rare that my intuition doesn’t pick something up from everyone’s activities and detect something “suspicious” going on.) During the lunch we were laughing and sharing stories when Paden said, “I’m so happy you’re 50, and that you have so many years of experience to share.”  My first thought was, “Am I really 50?” I know I can’t change it, and I’ve made it to this life milestone, but how did it happen so quickly? After I calmed down internally from this realization, she continued and asked me to share two key lessons with the team from my five decades of life experience.

I reflected for a few seconds before they came to me, and later that day, I pondered a third lesson. I realize these may not have been earth shattering perspectives or new revelations or concepts. They are lessons of which, in our youth, we may be aware, but don’t truly own as ways to live or apply to our daily lives. It seems that we are so busy in our twenties, thirties, and forties trying to build a life for ourselves that as time marches on we begin to become more reflective on the past, as we turn the corner to the shorter road ahead. So here they are:

–          Lesson one: Being balanced is the foundation of life. I realize I was extremely fortunate to have a set of parents who sacrificed and provided for a family of 17 kids with a core set of values related to supporting and loving one another. They experienced and saw everything (I would imagine) while raising so many children. They always came back to the importance of being happy no matter what path you chose, and it was truly your direction to decide. They had a simple motto: it is important to feed the mind, the body, and the soul. It was balance of all three of these that they felt brought amazing conversations, and learning not to take yourself or life too seriously (i.e. learn to laugh at yourself and the situations that happen to you).

–          Lesson two: Open and honest relationships will bring you great strength and joy. This concept may seem simple, but it is truly hard to practice. Relationships take a lot of work whether they are personal or professional. At the heart of all relationships is a desire to be respected, understood and cared for. I have seen many long term relationships (at home and at work) where a challenging conversation or apparent inappropriate action alters or destroys a relationship quicker than a fly gets stuck in honey. The reality is, relationships can be challenging. I think we are always questioning whether the other person has our best interests in mind, and we will constantly evaluate their actions or comments against these ideals. (I know I could probably write a book on this—oh wait, I am! It’s called Relationship Centered Leadership.)

People will make mistakes and we will get hurt, but if we value the individual and get through these situations, the relationship only grows stronger. We each have to be willing to own our roles in these situations, not take things so personally, learn to forgive, and have a strong desire to maintain solid relationships.

–          Lesson three: You can create whatever you want. (This is the third lesson I would have added to my team lunch discussion.) I am a true believer in creating goals and working hard to achieve them. It is not always easy or often; the goals may evolve and change on your path towards accomplishment. I can point to numerous times in my life when I wanted to create something new and realized that I had to stay focused, develop creative solutions, and push myself harder than ever before to develop new skills, knowledge, or behaviors in order to make the goal happen. I think of when I moved to my current city (San Luis Obispo, CA) 10 years ago, and I didn’t know a soul. Over the course of that 10 year period I have worked with hundreds of business owners, helped start over 250 local businesses, trained even more managers, built a great team, and developed a solid reputation for assisting business owners to grow their organizations.

Bottom Line

What are your lessons? How can you help inspire your team and those around you by sharing your stories, your experiences, etc.? Take the time to write them down and see what really makes you tick. What has helped you to become the successful leader you are or will be?

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. 

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