32 Life Lessons in 32 Years – Part 5
27. Vulnerability is messy, but necessary
The queen and sage of vulnerability is the amazing Dr. Brene Brown, so check her out for more. I did a radio interview on vulnerability in July 2019. Feel free to listen back to my parts below – it’s only 7 minutes. From my perspective, vulnerability is the willingness to emotionally expose yourself to someone in order to truly engage with them and develop intimacy. So of course this means it is not something you do with everyone, or with everyone at the same level. But the bottom line is, if you can’t be vulnerable, you can’t be fully known or fully loved.
28. “Better at 70”
Pastor Judah Smith
Wow, I did not realise this quote has become famous for being a tattoo on Justin Bieber’s body until I googled it to reference it right.
I remember first hearing this in January 2016, sitting at an evening church meeting in a neighbourhood in Seattle, while Pastor Judah Smith was preaching. I loved it as I instinctively knew what he meant even before he explained it. It was about ensuring we live our lives in such a way we become better people with every passing day. Pastor Smith explained it was a family motto for his family and I thought that was pretty awesome as far as family mottos go. As I am now part of my own new family and we frequently talk about our mottos and have even written a family manifesto, I never forget this quote as a great summary of what we want to achieve.
29. Listen more than you speak
As an introvert and trainee counsellor, my default is listening above speaking. But even if you are neither, leadership research has shown time and time again to be a good leader, you need to be a good listener. No one knows everything, and we don’t know what we don’t know. Through active listening you can learn more and beyond what you expected.
In counselling, hearing my clients tell their stories and actively listening to them helps me understand them better. This allows me to ask relevant questions which then triggers their learning more. Leaders therefore, can lead their teams by empowering them to lead themselves, simply through listening to them.
Tom Rath for Gallup
I remember one of my first lectures on Positive Psychology during my university studies and the discussion around why it makes more sense to focus on our strengths, not our weaknesses. This is where my personal research on strengths development began, and Gallup is a key advocate of strengths development and have even devised their own assessment tool, called StrengthsFinder.
It has inspired me to focus on building my strengths more so than mitigating for my weaknesses. And this counts for my teams too. How great it would be if we found ourselves mostly engaged with our strengths, in teams where everyone is happily drawing on what they are good at and passionate about?
31. Don’t be a public hero at the expense of private tragedies
I always struggle when I read biographies of successful men and women at the top of their game as leaders in their workplaces, but whose personal/family life is a mess. But that might be because I esteem character above capability or in the Christianese version, fruit above gifts. I would argue it requires more of you to be a decent human being than it does to be a successful one. Which is why there are so many stories of horrible but celebrated bosses.
But at the end of the day we can’t take any of our accolades and profits with us. As an avid player of the long game of legacy building, I try and resolve private issues as a matter of highest urgency knowing that a healthy private life is foundational to the kind of legacy I want to leave.
32. “When they go low, we go high”
It is fitting to end my 32 lessons with an iconic quote from my favourite female leader, Mrs O.
I am in awe of how well her husband and her did in leading one of the most powerful nations on earth, without losing their cool, class, confidence or children. They are my only public/celebrity ‘relationship goals’. And they are the epitome of hard-working, people-centred, inspirational and emotionally intelligent leaders. In a world where presidents have lowered themselves to tweeting abuse about people, the Obamas remind me that there are still honourable leaders out there. And as I continue to work to be one of those honourable leaders, I hold on to this quote as a reminder to do better.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey of reviewing my 32 life lessons.
I hope this has encouraged you to reflect on some of your own too. If there are any that particularly stood out to you, feel free to share, comment or subscribe to my blogs.