You grasp many life lessons only after making a mistake and realizing, “Oh crap. I wish I’d done something very different.” For some lessons, that’s not that big of a deal. In other areas, you’d be a lot better off if you could get started working to counteract the problem before it happens.
Here are eight of these life lessons you should consider addressing now, while you don’t need to:
1. Cut your living expenses – dramatically.
If you’re in the US, there are so many material goods so readily available it’s easy to get caught up in accumulating as much stuff as you can. As long as your income is rising, that can be manageable in the short-term. Sooner or later though, there’s a very real possibility you’re income won’t be rising for at least some period of time.You then have to make quick (potentially painful) decisions about what in your lifestyle gets cut to avoid accumulating debt.
Far better (although maybe not easier) to pare back elements of your lifestyle well before you need to do so. Not only does it curb potentially over-ambitious expectations for you (and your family) about what is “necessary” to be happy and fulfilled, every dollar of expense you eliminate is a dollar to be saved or invested for the proverbial “rainy day.”
2. Ask for help from your professional and personal networks.
It’s one thing to build a network and accumulate hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere online, plus those which exist in real life. But having a name and skeletal contact information in an online list isn’t really an active network. A functioning network comes from knowing you can reach out to people for help and they’ll actually recognize you and respond. It also means first doing your part to benefit those within your network.
So before you find yourself out of a job or in some type of jam where you need help RIGHT AWAY, get active with individuals in your network sharing ideas, offering help, and asking for their assistance in areas which aren’t critical. Getting a comfortable and regular dialogue going with specific people will make it much easier to make the “big ask” when you’re in a real pinch.
3. Seek out a career change.
The last few years have obviously seen a tremendous amount of uproar and change in the career prospects of millions. Jobs which seemed secure (in part because particular employers and industries appeared secure) have turned out not to be. With so many uprooted at once in tremendously challenging economic times, finding that next job has taken much longer. That’s why it has been important (and will likely remain so) to anticipate what your first steps will be if you’re suddenly out of work.
When you don’t really need to, create a plan B (and maybe even a plan C) and work multiple options so if a potential career derailment strikes you, you’re able to transition as seamlessly as possible to your next best alternative. Sure this means more work and effort, but better to be prepared ahead of time than thrown into a life crunch with no realistic preparation to exploit.
4. Hone your selling skills.
Many people not in sales jobs have the mistaken belief they aren’t salespeople. In reality, if you work, live, or interact with others in any way (that should include everybody reading this) then you are certainly trying to convince people to adopt your point of view. That means you’re a salesperson.
The implication is you’ll benefit from doing some reading and practicing selling skills right now. Doing so will help you improve at understanding others’ points of view, identifying what needs and benefits are important to them, and being able to anticipate and respond to objections they pose. Plus, if you ever find yourself needing to more actively sell (i.e., you want or have to start your own business), you’ll be so much further along in achieving sales success.
5. Get smarter.
Do you hear that popping sound? That’s your knowledge about whatever it is you do evaporating as new technology, new practices, new marketplace realities, or any of a thousand other things render your knowledge ineffective or downright incorrect. What do you do? Make an active and very concerted effort to continue learning during and after you are in school. Social media both makes ongoing learning easier (through ready access to experts and information you’d never have been able to reach before) and harder (since many “experts” have no clue what they’re talking about).
As a result, use every means you can to not only stay current on what you’re doing right now, but also try to anticipate what you may be doing in the future to get a head start on learning in newer areas. Pay particular attention to techniques on how to learn more effectively and faster, which apply across multiple fields of study. Far better to have a familiar command of a new discipline than learning from scratch in an accelerated time frame.
I always hated exercising, so I never did any in my 20s and most of my 30s. My resistance was bolstered by the fact my weight was manageable, although my waist size slowly increased by 6 inches in the years after getting married. When my wife finally got me to work out and then signed me up with a trainer, the initial physical assessment showed I was out of shape and had about 25 pounds to lose.
Slowly but surely over the course of a couple of years, I lost all the weight and dramatically reduced my body fat percentage. Only problem? There are areas (such as “love handles”) that show no signs of going away no matter how well I eat and work out. If I’d been exercising all the way through, I’d have been in a lot better shape, controlled some of those problem areas, and had much less of a hurdle once I started exercising way too late.
Don’t you hate when you only hear from someone when they need something? Me too. And we’re not the only ones either. When things are going well, take a little time to work on your spirituality, irrespective of what or wherever you choose to do it. Getting in touch with something bigger than you even if it only lies within yourself always helps put things in the proper perspective. And understanding the consolation spirituality provides when everything’s going your way allows you to understand the kind of spiritual second wind that can be yours when nothing’s going as you planned.
8. Be humble.
When things are booming, you’re not typically thinking about what life might be like when your situation isn’t going as well. That can lead to overlooking others who are important contributors to your success, especially if they tend to stay in the background and embrace a servant leadership approach to how they conduct themselves. The irony is that at those times when things are going super for you, you’re best served by noticing the “little people” and adopting some of their orientation to humble service. Doing this will reduce the number of people who will be rubbed the wrong way by you reveling in your success. It will also ensure you’ll have many more friends should your fortunes turn because you’ll be supported by others who care about you and not what you’re accomplishing.
My advice? Select at least a few of these areas to begin addressing right now. Which ones to select? That’s up to you based on what’s going to be most important to you when things aren’t going like you hoped!
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