We are all human, emotional, occasionally rational, and quite often we make rather serious mistakes. Here are three doozies I’ve faltered on in the past and still manage to mess up (at least unless I’m fortunate enough to make the one right choice.)
1. Worrying about little things, and forgetting the big ones.
Best current example is a friend who is worried about copyright theft of his successful book because the most inexpensive and effective distributor doesn’t think e-books need to be protected by “digital rights management” systems for copyright protection. His concern: Some scumbag will steal his book and put it up on a free take-it-all website or try to re-market it at a profit.
Yes, copyright is an issue, and if you look really, really hard, you might be able to find a bootlegged copy of my books online — just be prepared for plenty of spam, malware, and possibly porn if you try to download the book from one of these free sites, which are virtually impossible to find because Google is quite good about de-indexing them. We need to keep things in perspective. How important is the issue that you are dwelling on right now?
2. Misconstruing your needs from your wishes and allowing short-term pleasure to sap you from long-term achievement.
Sure, we need breaks, we need some fun, and if we never indulge in some real pleasures, we’ll suffer a miserly existence. (I still remember my encounter with a true miser — a single guy, teacher, who owned several apartment buildings, mostly dumpy, and lived in the basement of one of them. Yuck.) But if we are borrowing to pay for current pleasures, are we missing the future cost — racking up business debt or expensive leasehold obligations so you can have a great new truck or the latest IPhone rarely makes sense, when you think about it.
3. Keeping deadwood around, or becoming deadwood ourselves.
You can’t afford unproductive or disruptive employees, suppliers, contractors, and (yes) customers. This does not mean you should be an ogre of insensitivity, but you should have a systematic approach to hiring, contracting, monitoring and if necessary, dismissing people or organizations who fail to produce. Of course, it is harder for us to self-evaluate fairly (we are never wrong, are we?) but some critical self-examination is always in order. Are we really worth the money we are paying ourselves?)
Now, the one good choice . . .
1. Don’t be afraid to live for something bigger, better, and truly selfless.
Some people find this “bigger, better, and truly selfless” through religious faith and observance; others through community service; still others through a thirst for knowledge or maybe even some amateur sporting competition. The paradox is the time you spend sharing, helping, giving and contributing — even though the actions may seem totally unproductive on the three grounds above — almost inevitably result in accomplishments, respect and surprising benefits that take you further ahead than you could ever expect.
Do you have a selfless story to share? It is okay to be immodest here, some bragging is fine. You can comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org — or use the nifty feature on the “contacts” page that allows you to set a real phone call or video conference appointment with me (for free).