My Life Rules - September 1, 2020

So, having been an adult for a while, I've collected lots of knowledge along the way. Some of it highly useful. Some of it is useless but fun, like trivia. I love knowledge. And I love sharing it. Though I was only a classroom teacher for several years, I've been teaching all my life. It was definitely a spiritual gift God gave me. Sharing knowledge is fun, helpful, and important.

Every once in a while, I hear or learn something that sticks so hard with me. I find it profound, useful, and at the time I think it may be life changing, even if it won't happen til later. If I find it to be that incredible, or if it makes me stop and think for many days, I usually adopt it as a personal life rule. A life rule for me is something that puts different situations and events in my life in a better perspective. I share them with others many times to pass that profundity on. Sometimes I share one as it pertains to what's going on, and sometimes I share a few. I don't think I've ever shared them all at once.

So I have decided to share them all at once here in a blog entry. Why? Because why not. I share a lot of things I've learned, and this is another thing or six that stuck with me. I think about these often. I've even saved them so I can find them easily no matter where I'm at. So I've decided to share them directly, explain how I came to learn that, and how it affects me. So buckle up, this may be a longer one.

In no particular order, except how I remember them.

Rule #1 - No one is irreplaceable.

This one I learned in high school. This was a common saying of my band director, Mrs. Smith. I looked up to her a lot, and she really helped me decide for sure that I want to be a band director. She took me under her wing at a difficult part of my life and really invested in me. But one day, after someone was acting foolish and out of the room, and we were running our mouths, she said this again. Didn't matter if you were band captain, first chair trumpet player, or just someone that helped set up the percussion on the sideline, you were not irreplaceable.

I'm not saying, and neither was she, that people themselves are irreplaceable. We are one of a kind, unique individuals with value and something to offer. What she meant was, don't think you're so good that no one could do your job. They may not have your skills or be at a lower level than you are, but attitude and humility go a long way. She wasn't ugly about it this day, though she was frustrated, but she made sure we understood it. And I did. And it stuck. I have been quoting this line from her since that day.

I found it useful mostly at work. Yeah I may be good at what I do, but I'm never so good that they can't do without me. They'll find someone else to do the work if I'm not there. The work must be done, and I'm not the only one capable of producing results. But this had bled over into personal life, hobbies, being in groups, and so much more. It's humiliating in a way that reminds me that I'm not above anyone. Leaders are not better than others, they are just good at doing the job they are assigned. And it's just a different job than the people they lead.

Thanks, Mrs. Smith. This one was so important. Probably the first rule I set as a rule. And I'm forever thankful for it.

Rule #2 - CEO just means chief toilet scrubber.

This one I learned sitting in a friend's living room just after college. My friend was not there, and he needed that lesson the most at the time. His wife was there, and this was spoken by his mother in law. This friend had a habit of thinking he was too good to do menial tasks. He was starting a business, and his mother in law was doing his accounting and helping him develop his business and business self. His wife and I worked for him, as did others. But he was very bent on being CEO of his company. He had a certain way he acted and looked in that role. And after he and his mother in law had a tough talk, he left for a bit, and she shared this gem with us.

She further explained herself. When employees won't do a job that needs to be done, like scrubbing a toilet, the CEO has to do it. It's his business. If he won't do it, who will. I've learned in business to never expect someone else to do a job that you won't do. Most likely it won't get done. No one is above doing menial tasks like that. And I say menial, but they're still important. And it's not just in business. It's good leadership.

RULE #3 - You weren't born to pay bills and die.

This was a tough one, but it really did put a lot into perspective at a time I needed it. This one happened a few years ago. I've always been a workaholic, which led to an addiction to work. I struggled a lot in my early adult years, including finances. But I always threw myself into my work, working way too much. But as I got older, it's all I knew. I thought the more you worked the better off you were.

But it wasn't happening. I was missing so much. There was a hole in my life that I couldn't figure out, and then I was on Facebook one day, just scrolling, and I came across a picture of a snowy cabin in a wooded valley with these words centered boldly on the picture. And I just stared at it for probably and hour. I saved the picture to my phone. I couldn't get it out of my mind.

In a related statement, a friend of mine, John D., said in a comment on another post on Facebook that when people lie on their death bed, no one wishes they had slept more. Live life. Do life things. There was more to life than work and sleep.

It's led me to make sure I take at least a little time each week to do something I enjoy, be with people I love, and make a difference.

Rule #4 - You are responsible for your own happiness.

I do not remember who said this or why. I just remember it was said. I often hear people say "so and so made me mad." I love to remind them that no, you chose to get mad at what they did. And so many times I say it to remind myself of this very thing.

I was asked if I was happy. I said yes and no. But a lot of no. And they said well WHY NOT! Do something that makes you happy. I said I work a lot, and they said so take some time off. Make time for yourself. Be happy. You can decide to do that. Sometimes it's a tough lesson to learn, but I learned it.

Rule #5 - If you lie down with dogs you will get fleas.

Though this wasn't the first rule of life I established, it was the first one I heard. This came from my father. We had a very rocky and tough relationship to say the least, but he did teach me some things. This was the biggest.

At one point in my life I decided I didn't want to be miserable, depressed, and angry all the time. And as I took inventory of my life, I realized I was surrounding myself with people who were those very things. Later in life I've heard this line said as surround yourself with people who will lift you up not bring you down. And it's true! If you want to stop drinking you don't hang out at bars. You don't hang out around junk food if you want to lose weight. Surround yourself with what you want to be, or you'll be what you're surrounded by.

Rule #6 - The doors will always open tomorrow

They will publish your job position before your obituary.

This one came partially from my pastor. He says the second line a lot. The first one is a standard restaurant line. It relates very directly to Rule #3. This one sets me up to think about priorities. What are my priorities? What's important. And yes, work is important to provide, but it's not the be all end all. Our job is not who we are, it's just what we do.

So there's my rules for my life. It's what I've learned in my time here on this third rock from the Sun. And it's made such a difference for me.

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