Hopefully each year grows each of us into better people. If we are smart then we learn from our mistakes. This year was a trying year for my family which means there were some big lessons to learn. Only time will tell if I’ve learnt my lessons well.
Be careful where you place your trust.
WOW! What a hard lesson this was this year.
I trusted that I could wait a few weeks to buy insurance when I moved into my new office space December 2009. I discussed it with my wife and we decided it would be more convenient to finish outfitting the new space before doing this ‘chore’. Was I ever wrong! A fire ripped through the buildings near my office and into mine and most everything was trashed.
I trusted that people who were my ‘friends’ for years had my best interests in mind and actually cared about me and my family. When three different tragedies occurred (the fire being the least of these), many abandoned my family, others spread ugly rumors and a few stuck around. It did not matter how long we knew them or how often we saw each other or religious background, there was no predictor of who were real and weren’t. Even people who sit by you crying through one tragedy can run away faster than you think.
Only in tragedy do you know your friends
This is in the same vein as the last but only in this circumstance. I am blessed to have friends and to know they are real. Who can say this?! Not many! We treasure those who stuck by us. I doubt you know who your friends are until you go through so much. It does not take much to be a friend but it means so much. Some had a friendly chat over coffee, some fattened me up at TacoMac / Williams Bros BBQ / etc (w00t!), and I’ve had long chats while fishing. Oddly, some of the most amazing healing was over Social Media. More on that later.
Listen to your heart.
Some call it gut instinct. As a Christian, I believe it is often God’s way of directing me. This is a lesson that I thought I had already learned. Alas, I have not yet mastered it. I knew in April 2009 I needed to make a move to a different church but I did not. I did not know then where I was supposed to be but now I think I do and why. What a strange thing this is. My wife felt this as well. We rationalized it away. Why leave when we thought we were doing what we were supposed to be doing? Not everything is rational. Doing what you are supposed to do is not a matter for the brain to decide but too often we let it get in the way of what our heart knows is right. Psalm 23:37 says “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” The only thing worse than not doing what God says is doing what we think He said. I am sure I could have saved myself some heartache had I listened to my heart earlier.
Take joy in the little things.
Money does not make me smile nor does my house and cars. My family does though. My daughter lying on the floor begging to be tickled, the ‘I love you’ at the end of every phone call to my wife, and the geekisms of my son. Each crashing wave of the ocean can comfort a hundred griefs. When I recall good times I had in years past, it is mostly some trivial small thing that was being done or said that brings joy. It is not often that it was some large party or gift or other thing that people seem to place value on. While I wrote this my son asked me to play against him in Far Cry 2, a common request. This is definitely a nice way to practice this lesson …. Having done that I would say this might be one of those memorable moments. Playing a game, having the clock strike midnight on New Year’s and then my shooting him while he tried to heal himself. Even though I eventually lost the game, all three of them, it was Good Times.
Open yourself to others.
I don’t do this well. However, with all that was going on this year I got real tired of people greeting me with the casual-I-dont-really-care “How are you?” It is really like a “Hi!” in that they expect a reply but don’t want more than a “Good, and you?” Even worse was acquaintances that knew what was going on but said other equally obtuse things. So I let them know sometimes. Many times a polite condolence comes but an occasional bond is made. I found others going or been through similar experiences. These relationships are gems. Some of you don’t really know how much it means but I hope to rectify that. Not everyone of these relationships are particularly close but they all mean a lot to me. So while I am sorry for the few that were “hurt” by my raw expression to a simple greeting, it is far out-weighted by the good that was done. Not just for me and my family, but the comfort that we believe we were able to share with others. If this openness offends you, then just say “Hi” and I will do the same. When you open up some amazing things can happen especially when there are millions of people listening ….
Social Media is not the Next Big Thing, it is now The Thing
Phone calls are nice and face-to-face is awesome but Social Media (SM) is special. I thought I had a handle on SM. I even thought I was on the bleeding edge. How many people do you know who have successfully hired high-quality people sight unseen solely based on a SM relationship? I did that in 2009 from Twitter and ended up with three awesome dudes that do excellent work and are excellent to work with. This is after two from Craigslist (okay, not quite SM) in 2007 and 2008. Lesson learned? Nope! I have engaged clients met on Twitter. One such client I have only ever ‘talked’ with for FIVE minutes! The rest is Twitter and email. Relationships I had with people on Twitter would know people going through the same things. I have found long lost friends on Facebook through odd and seemingly unrelated ways and reconnected like no time has elapsed. Instant Messaging lets me vent to friends even while they are sleeping or say encouraging words the same way. When the earthquake hit Haiti, a pastor from Canton Georgia used Twitter to mobilize medical equipment, doctors, and transportation. He accomplished what the Red Cross, U.S. Military, and U.N Emergency Response could not. Those guys had their stuff stuck on the tarmac for months. CNN realized this and a reporter tagged along. Without Twitter he would have just been another person picking up rubble and so many people would be dead as a result. As we learn that people are messy and quit blocking or unfriending just because the message is unfiltered, we learn how to help them using SM. Pick up the phone or meet face-to-face every time you can, but for the rest, SM is spectacular. The Thing is SM exponential growth meets Amdahl’s Law with a twist.