Best advice of 2004

Here are some things I’ve learned from others over the course of the year and have added to my mental arsenal. Where possible I have included the original statement as it was given. Many of things may not resonate with you, but you may find ideas worth consideration:

  • “It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” (source) Maintain high standards for the people you surround yourself with and you will start holding yourself to a higher standard. You can learn a lot of good strategies for life from other people. Listen closely to what people say and watch what they do, especially if you see them doing something you would like to do.
  • “Think in terms of opportunities.” I don’t remember where I first heard this. It was either in some mass-market self-help book or a book on investing. I don’t really remember. All I know is, it works. Granted, I’m not much better off financially or career-wise than I was 5 or 6 years ago, but if I ever get discouraged it helps me get back out there and fighting. Your own worst enemy is yourself, more specifically, your “self”. Little mental tricks can help you keep going in a positive direction. For example, instead of saying “I can’t afford this.” think “How can I afford this?” The first statement kills action and will. The second statement spurs creative thought and action. Be positive. Keep moving forward. Your attitude is one of the most important things you can actually change.
  • “Deciding not to act is still a decision.” I have this problem where I defer decision-making in the hopes that difficult problems will take care of themselves. I don’t like the responsibility of making decisions that will result in pain or discomfort. I ignore them. I delay acting. I let other people decide things and then I just adapt to whatever the eventual result is. You finally reach a point where you know this is exactly what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean I don’t procrastinate anymore, but I do realize that I am just delaying what will still be something difficult. Sometimes that helps me put everything aside and take care of those difficult responsibilities.
  • “Keep it simple, stupid.” My friend Oliver said this one day in AIM. What he actually said was “KISS” and I had no idea what he was talking about until he de-abbreviated it for me. It stuck in my mind and got rolled up into a lot of other ideas I was having on the problem with too much of the wrong kind of self-consciousness. “Keep it simple” can apply to almost any situation. Many times people just over-think things and this leads to paralysis and indecision. Thoughts can spiral out of control and you can lose sight of your goals and objectives. In other situations, you can start a project and try to do too much at once. Keeping KISS in mind helps you retain focus on what’s vital and important.
  • “Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” This is a quotation by Voltaire that has been on my Metafilter member page. This one can mean many things. For one, don’t be afraid to ask questions and admit when you don’t know something. Secondly, there are few definite answers. Beware of anyone who thinks they have all the answers or who speaks too stridently. Facts and knowledge can block understanding. Think in terms of questions and hold your own counsel since no one can read your mind or see things completely from your point of view. Asking questions is also a great thing to do in the midst of a debate. Focus on the inconsistencies of the opposing argument. Ask who, what when, where and how? This can go a long way.

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