Dark bags of vaporized water float overhead, ready to dump storms upon us. The sky is purple-gray, but the morning sun is hitting one particular billowing cloud with intense orange light, as if to offer hope that the looming storm will pass. 

After two months of solitude on this lake, the August season is upon us, and activity has increased tenfold. Most of the summer residents come only for August, then hibernate the rest of the year. When that happens, it will be silent once more as we enter the season of color. 

Though I love to see lake friends and the joy on the faces of kids as they learn to sail or water-ski, the silence is special.

My Checklist

We spend the entire year looking forward to our time here, yet it passes so rapidly, and my list of summer activities doesn’t yet have everything checked off.

I’ve painted my boat several times. Check. 

I’ve done evening sunset cruises in our old wooden speedboat most nights. Check. 

I’ve visited the Adirondack Museum and seen their glorious new art wing. Check. 

I’ve gone to the farmer’s market most Saturdays. Check.

I’ve used a fair amount of time for my woodworking hobby. Check.

I’ve yet to revisit my favorite painting spots, swim in the lake, water-ski or hike the woods or climb the mountain. So much to do, so little time.

Fridays off, not so much.
Of course, work requires eight- to 10-hour days, and though I intended to take Fridays off all summer, I’ve yet to take one. I guess I’m still a bit obsessed with working. But then again, there is much to do to create special experiences for others.

I wish I had worked more.
There is a saying that “No one says on their deathbed that they wished they had worked more.”

And there is no doubt that I do have regrets about working when I could have spent more family time. Yet there is a giant difference between working and working with a purpose. When working with a purpose to create things that change lives, it’s not work.

I do have regrets, and perhaps those regrets can be a lesson for someone younger who has a big future ahead of them. And they are reminders to me of what I need to focus more upon.

Some of my career-related regrets:

  • I wish I had wasted less time.

Time is our most valuable asset. We don’t know how much we get, and we don’t get more. I wasted too much of it. My best advice: Prioritize only the projects that matter, and put them in your calendar and get them done no matter what.

  • I wish I had taken swift action on everything.
    I missed tons of opportunities because I dragged my feet. Sometimes doors closed and I missed out. When you have passion for something you believe in, get it done. It does not have to be perfect, just get it done as fast as possible. Fix it later.
  • I wish I had embraced pain and understood that pain is good, because with pain and discomfort comes growth. 

More pain, more growth. More resistance to discomfort, less growth.

  • I wish I had been more open to learning from others more experienced.
    The best things I’ve discovered are mentoring and mastermind groups. I was so full of myself, thinking I had all the answers, that I missed out on a lot of great help that I only discovered once I had the courage and money to join.
  • I wish I had let go of my ego more.
    When you serve your ego, you’re not serving your customers — it’s all about you. When it’s all about them, you put your ego aside. Ego-driven decisions typically don’t go well.
  • I wish I had discovered painting sooner.
    All work and no play makes us dull. Painting (and hobbies) helps us lose our stress and get away from our work, and that helps us see the world more clearly.
  • I wish I had started sooner so my connections would be deeper.
    Don’t drag your feet. Don’t tell yourself you need to be of a certain age, or have a certain degree. Go for it now. I started in radio at 14, and as a result I have deep connections there that go back more than five decades. I can call anyone I’ve known that long and ask things I couldn’t ask of someone else. (Or I can ask, but deep connections pay bigger dividends.)
  • I wish I had started exercising sooner.
    “No time,” I told myself. But the benefit is clear thinking, more energy, and a better attitude.
  • I wish I had learned to stand and work earlier.
  • I stand all day. I don’t sit. Sitting is the new smoking. I got my first stand-up desk in 1995. It increases energy and efficiency.
  • I wish I had slept more.
    Sleep 8 hours no matter what. Go to bed early if necessary. Research supports this. You’re better with sleep. Eighty percent better with eight hours versus seven hours.
  • I wish I had focused more on quality and less on quantity.
    If you are going to do something, do it well, with excellence. Don’t just deliver — do it well. Quality matters every time. Your reputation is tied to your quality.
  • I wish I had networked more with people who change lives.
    Life-changing people think differently, and they get you changing lives. I wish I had focused less on me and my needs and more on others and their needs. It took me decades to understand that great things only happen when you’re solving problems and making life better for others.

I’m sure I could come up with dozens more, but enough for today. 

The most important thing you can tell your offspring or those you are trying to help is to be action-driven. Act fast, never assume that an opportunity will last, and do it now. Avoid thinking that conditions are not right. Avoid thinking, “I’m not good enough” — or young enough, old enough, rich enough, poor enough. You are what you are, and there is no reason you cannot reach the pinnacle of success you can imagine. No one can get in your way other than you. You can always go over, under, or around roadblocks. Life is filled with them. They don’t stop you, they simply force you to seek new solutions.

Your feelings will get hurt if you let them. Don’t let them. Hurt feelings or hurt pride or embarrassment are just your ego in the way. Things won’t be perfect. Do it anyway.

Eric Rhoads

PS: You are a unique human with incredible ability, even if you tell yourself that’s not the case. The reality is that you can master anything in a short period of time, if you study it intensely. And the more you work at it, the better you’ll be.

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