Len Waldron is a colleague and friend. I had come to know Len during some dark days for our industry. And we’ve all heard the line – you get to know someone when the going gets tough. Len is a good man.
Len is an avid outdoors enthusiast and a writer on the subject. Check out his website at www.waldronpond.com. (No worries…I don’t get any royalties of any type for producing this blog or referring Len’s site. I just think it’s cool…and his writing is exceptional.)
Given that one leg of my Lead.Learn.Live blog is LEARN, I’ve asked Len to share his thoughts on the subject.
Here are Len’s 10 “naked lessons re-learned by a repetitively-flawed human who should have done better…”
40 Years of Nudity…
Confessions from the Cusp of Middle Age
By Len Waldron
I don’t turn forty until October, but as my mother bore me in a normal way, I have been at least a zygote or better, for forty years. Many women in my life (my wife and mother included), and a few men, have characterized me as ‘stubborn.’ I fear they are correct. I have white-knuckled notions that I should have discarded and hard-headed my way down paths that were less-than-productive. Why nudity? Because naked is how I feel when I make mistakes that I have been advised against. Mistakes of ignorance are simply life, and if in your soul you know that you didn’t know better, it’s easier to mark-up a mistake as a lesson. The naked mistakes are those where someone, likely older or at least wiser, passed on some bit of advice that got ignored. In those moments, I feel naked. A repetitively-flawed human who should have done it better…and the whole world is watching. I’ll spare you the actual disrobings, but the following is a testimonial of ten naked lessons I had to re-learn (often more than once) over forty years, and dedicated to those who tried to warn me.
1. Be Prepared (Boys Scouts of America)
I am an Eagle Scout, but I learned this on the first day. Being prepared means more than carrying a Swiss army knife. It is a mind-set. It means paying attention to your life, your obligations, and what may be coming your way. Being prepared is a gesture of respect to your opportunities and to those around you who may well depend upon you for their life or livelihood. Ronald M. Shapiro will tell you how to do it in his book Dare to Prepare. I can only tell you it’s vital. Preparation and our cognitive ability as humans to think ahead is one of the few threads that separate us from animals. Live in the now, but also contemplate tomorrow.
2. Manage Your Expectation of Others (Mark J. Chiarrello, Esq.)
A lawyer friend of mine once told me, “Len, 80% of the world is crazy and 85% are waiting to politely be told what to do.” Perhaps this is not new information, and the numbers may be subjective, but the point is you cannot expect others to share your priorities, nor exercise initiative at the time and in the fashion you expect—if at all. Cherish and reward it when they do, but don’t expect it.
3. Your worst enemy is your own vanity. Learn to control it. (Leonard V. Waldron, my grandfather)
He said this to me, the first time, on the tee-box at our local golf course. I was about fourteen and had just shanked a drive across a wooded creek and into a cow pasture. I was visibly angry, and he stopped me short. “You expect to hit a three-hundred yard drive or a home run every time. Life doesn’t always work that way. You have to learn to manage your emotions when it doesn’t.” I wanted to reply (though was reared otherwise) “Damn-straight, I expect to win.” This probably sounds familiar to you Type-A’s out there. Much of my ‘vanity’ is how I am wired. In many ways, my high expectations and drive to succeed are what makes me, and has made who I am. I am not referring to a club throwing temper tantrum, which is simply bad behavior. I am referring to an over-abundance of something positive. Expect the best every time, but don’t let the last at-bat ruin the next one. Tough lesson? You bet it is.
4. Every deal dies 1000 deaths, the check will always show up late, for less than you expected, and it doesn’t count until it clears.(Hap Royster and Lou Baldwin, Jr.)
The original context for this lesson was real estate, but it applies to all aspects of life, particularly business. Be prepared to adjust, innovate, and reload when things go wrong. When the ultimate results are sub-par, don’t lose your mind (see #6). Take notes (see #5) and move on. And yes, you only get credit for what you finish.
5. Have something to write with and write on. (US Army Colonel, Ft. Benning, Georgia)
This was #1 on a list of advice to new Infantry Lieutenants posted to a wall where I was attending the Infantry Officer’s Basic Course. I can’t recall who said it, and the rest of the list was good too, but this one stuck. I interpret this advice more broadly than carrying a pencil and paper. While the advice is in some parts being prepared, it speaks more to paying attention. Be aware of your thoughts and of what is going on around you, assess what is important, and write down what is relevant. This could be specific information, a thought, a question, or a curiosity to research at a later date. Perhaps, you should just write someone a thank-you note. Rest assured, if you don’t you’ll likely lose it forever. Maybe Willie Nelson regretted best when he wrote, “Picking up hookers instead of my pen, I let the words of my years fade away.” For those curious, #10 on the list was “waterproof everything.”
6. Never Let Them See You Sweat (repeated by my father, Kenneth L. Waldron)
This is self-control and focus in the face of adversity, irritation, or a dynamic environment. David Milch, in his series Deadwood, penned these lines for Al Swearengen, “I don’t want to talk to these (plural vulgar derogatory expletive) but you have to. In life, you have to do a lot of things you don’t (expletive)-ing want to do. Sometimes that’s what the (expletive) life is, one vile (expletive)-ing task after another. But don’t get aggravated, that’s when the enemy has you by the short hairs.” Poise and confidence have a winning record, and they are contagious. Sometimes success isn’t often defined by being superior, but rather by simply not getting rattled and by retaining the ability to do what is necessary. This takes practice. But not doing so guarantees you a freight train of panic hormones that can be seen, felt and smelled. Stay cool, Stay professional. Repeat.
7. Understand the Difference between a Risk and a Gamble (Delta Force Officer)
Uncertainty is a life constant that forces us to gamble or accept risk. For this lesson, risk is defined as something you can ultimately get over or adjust to, because you have planned for contingenies. Gambling is rash behavior without assessment or planning. Driving risk is making a decision with imperfect information that you believe will result in something positive, based upon your experience and analysis. Risk has to be respected and managed. Drive it or it will drive you. Gambling, only slightly better than indecision, is something best left for old-ladies on slot machines and idiots on game shows, and leaves all the odds (rather than some) in the hands of others.
8. Write an Outline, First (Dr. Helga Welsh, Wake Forest University)
“You wrote and A-paper, but you are getting a B until you submit it with an outline.” My senior seminar professor was not impressed with my euridte stream-of-consciousness on the democratization of Eastern Europe. Perhaps it was becuase she was a Teutonic German (which she was), but more likely she was forcing me to use a tool that would serve me well and keep me clothed from that moment forward (except when I ignored her). Outlines allow one’s finite creative energies to focus unfettered, on content rather than structure. Ultimately, outlines are more efficient. They force you to plan and order your thoughts. Abrabham Lincoln put it succinctly, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first hour sharpening the axe.”
9. When in Charge, Be in Charge (Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., US Army)
Ok, last of the Army quotes and while Patton certainly championed it, the concept was not unique to his mind, nor to the military. If you have the honor and burden of being in charge – of a family, a team, a business unit or serving coffee, do so. Don’t waste people’s time and your life with milquetoast behavior. You are going to take the hit for outcomes, good or bad. This does not endorse domineering abusive behavior, however. Step up, be authentic and responsible – to yourself and to the forces of the universe that put you there.
10. Listen to Old People (Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding).
I save this one for last as it is a ‘how-to’ in addition to an ‘ought-to.’ Old people, whether in years or experience, have been naked more than you and will usually go out of their way to help you stay clothed. Yes, you will have to endure a few walking uphill, both ways, in the snow, to school stories, but get over it. I had the good fortune of learning from elders who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had, in the parlance of our time, ‘been there, done that.’ I am not sure how Woodstock and the 60’s compare, but each generation has wisdom of its own. Also, the resonance of hearing it from a real person, rather than reading it in a blog will get you much closer to the more elusive ‘understanding.’
Copyright Len Waldon, 2012