In my previous blog, I shared a conversation I had with my older son about where I was twenty-plus years ago and how I didn’t imagine the life I have today.

Most people, I think, feel much the same way. And most of us—no matter how satisfying life has turned out to be—still might be looking for ways to make it better. To that end, I’ll repeat that favorite quote from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

With that in mind, allow me to share a few of the life and work lessons I’ve learned during the past 20 to 30 years. As I told my son, these are not in any particular order.

Leadership. Leadership is everything both in and out of the office. At work; in a marriage; with civic activities; at church; on a camping trip; in every circumstance, really, there’s no substitute for good leadership.

Selling. Focus on the client’s problems and opportunities, and the money will follow. Be an advisor for your client. Be their expert. Focus on relationships with your customers.

Business development/marketing. It’s not as simple as “If you build it, they will come.” The most successful companies are great at marketing and branding.

People. You win with people. Period. Your team is everything. Treat your employees with respect, and always do the right thing with them. This matters. A lot.

Cutting corners. Just don’t. There’s no right way to do the wrong thing. When you start to shave things here and there, it adds up over time. Trust me.

Recurring income. It’s everything. Ask any realtor how hard that job is—one house at a time with no automatically recurring income. It’s hard. The best advice I got 20 years ago was this: Selling “project work” will never work. You have to find and establish recurring income.

Repeat customers. This is as equally important as recurring income. Create “fans” of your business, and never ever take those fans for granted. Build relationships, and work hard to keep them solid. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a lonely (and broke) place.

Feedback. Take time to give employees, suppliers, consultants, etc. feedback on how they’re doing. Share the good and the bad, but don’t give too much of one or the other. We all love encouragement, and a little “polishing” never hurt anyone.

Building wealth. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy options. I’m all about options. For most of us, wealth is determined by what we spend and save each month. Be smart about that. Few of us ever hit the lottery.

Problems. We all have them. I love the adage, “You can’t keep problems from coming to you, but you don’t have to give them a chair to sit in.” Work out the problems life throws at you and then move on.

Marriage. It’s not always easy. But sometimes it is. Marriage, like the weather, has its seasons. Yet I wouldn’t trade anything for it. Treat your partner with love and respect, and know that both are equally important.

Family. Every family has some sort of dysfunction. Remember that you can’t control other people, but you can control your reactions to them. We all have some version of a crazy relative. Dixie Carter said, “No one in the South asks if you have crazy people in your family; they just ask what side they’re on.”

Faith. I have lived life with faith and without it. A faith-filled life is much more satisfying and comforting and fulfilling. Living for a greater power has changed my life. For the better.

And finally, as Richard Carlson first said twenty years ago: “Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.” Be happy, and enjoy the journey.


Do that, and you’ll do what you do better.