A summary of wisdom from years of learning the hard way. Excerpted from a keynote I gave at Rochester Institute of Technology to the RC3 Security Club.
Is Anyone Going to Die? I learned this one in the Army where it was a real question. In the civilian world, overused military metaphors notwithstanding, not so much. The point is perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and let the stress get to you. At the end of the day, what is really at stake?
No Plan Survives First Contact. Ok, ok, so overused military aphorisms notwithstanding… whatever you plan, you’re not going to think of everything and reality is a harsh mistress. Plan to execute with the expectation that you will need to adjust. On the other hand, you can’t be stuck in analysis paralysis. The key is to balance 80/20 thinking.
It’s a Small World. When you’re young, the world seems so big. There is so much you don’t know and so many of other random people populating it. As you meet more of them, you start to establish a reputation. The lady that annoys you at work, the boss that you’re still not sure is actually literate; you’ll see them again somewhere in some capacity. They might even be a potential customer.
Do The Right Thing. You Always Know What It Is. We always know what the right thing is. It’s just hard. Sometimes really hard. Sometimes we have to say or do things that are going to upset others. If you have to rationalize your choices, then you already know where you’re at.
Ask Questions. Many people are afraid that if they ask questions, then others will think they’re dumb. How can that be worse than actually being dumb? Better to be thought a fool than to open your open mouth and remove all doubt. Questions are a part of active listening.
Be Kind. This is an elective choice. No one can make you do anything. No one can make you be mean or make you be nice. It’s up to you. If someone snaps at you or is rude, maybe they’re just having a bad day. A smile and some kindness goes a long way when you’re feeling down. Did you know that kindness is infectious? Really. It’s called moral elevation. Here’s the science.
Take a Break. Everyone wants to be of value. Yes, there are the laziest of the lazy, nothing in life is absolute. But, fundamentally, everyone wants to be a respected, contributing member of the team. However, this desire to succeed can come at the cost of ourselves. On a daily basis, work in a few physical and mental breaks (the two go hand in hand). Make this a habit. You only have one life and it’s up to you to take care of yourself.