Stuff I’ve Learned, Part 2

Andy Bardon Photo

By Rob Shaul


(7) If what you are doing is wrong, stop doing it.

Often people find themselves in a “rut” – they know what they are doing isn’t right, but it doesn’t hurt enough to quit.

Know that a “rut” is a grave open at both ends. Staying in these situations past their due – job, relationship, whatever –  will lead to bitterness and deepening discontent. Some do this for decades.

Often we keep doing the “wrong” thing because we don’t have the next thing decided or lined up. It doesn’t matter – stop doing the wrong thing, even if the next thing isn’t lined up. Stopping the wrong will force you to begin the journey to discover the right.

As you move on, the next thing doesn’t have to be perfect – it likely won’t be. But it must be a step in the “right” direction.

(8) Always work on the product.

Ever been to a restaurant with a great atmosphere, quality staff, beautiful furnishings, but mediocre food? Did you ever return?

Every bought a shirt based on its style, material, and flashy advertising only to put it on and have it not fit? Did you ever buy another from that brand?

Marketing, customer service, etc. are important, but are far down the priority list of the performance of the main product.

This principle applies to public service also – where your “product” is the primary function of your job description.  Without a solid mastery of the fundamentals for this primary function, you’ll lose.

Businesses fail, and careers end when we stop working on the product.

(9) If it comes down to your “Head” vs. your “Heart,” go with your Heart.

I’ve yet to meet someone who when faced with a big decision went with their “heart” – and regretted it. This is true even if the decision ultimately didn’t work out. They started a business and it failed, for example, or started a relationship that ended.

But I’ve met many who went with their “head” in those situations and do feel regret, regardless of the ultimate decision outcome. They didn’t quit their job to start a business and went on to have a good career, for example. But in the back of their mind, they can never shake the regret of not going for it with the business.

Always go with your heart.

(10) Fix It.

See something that’s broken or needs to be done? Fix it.

“Fixing It” is the single most liberating and centering tool I’ve ever experienced.

The scale does not matter. Garbage in the parking lot while you’re walking into the grocery store? Pick it up and throw it away.

See an issue in another’s area of responsibility at work? Fix it.

Most see something that needs to be done but do nothing because they feel it’s beneath them or “not my job.”

Positioning yourself above another or above the mission …. both involve internal conflict and a decision.

Right before you decide to not “fix it,” part of you knows that you should. This is the virtuous part of you, and you must consciously push this part of you aside to arrive at “Not my job.” This shove wounds you. It’s a self-inflicted wound.

“Fixing it” avoids this conflict, avoids this wound, and is incredibly liberating. As well, “Fixing it” is humility in action. Nothing kills self-righteousness like humility and centers you to what is important.

(11) No one is thinking about you. 

In my 20s and 30s, I worried about what others thought about me.

In my 40s, I knew they were thinking about me, but I didn’t care what they thought.

In my 50s, I finally realized they were never thinking about me in the first place.

Under 50? This should save you some trouble.

Note: I didn’t come up with this one. I read it years ago, somewhere … 

(12) You don’t want to be bitter, at 70.

We all know senior citizens – folks in their 70’s or older – who are bitter, impatient, angry, petty, unhappy … just plain miserable. You don’t want to end up like that.

How to avoid it?

Learn from your mistakes. This takes acknowledgment that you made a mistake, reflection and analysis as to what happened, and a commitment to do better next time.

Forgive. Both yourself and others. The Stoics say, “forgive, then forgive again.” Forgiveness is a gift to yourself.

Be tolerant. As we age we should learn that the differences which made us intolerant in our youth are unimportant in the big scheme of life. The happiest and wisest older people I know are also the most tolerant of others. Learn from them.

Embrace death. Not only the final lights out, but also the diminished capacity that comes before. Fully accepting your aging and mortality will crystalize that time is precious, and cause you to spend what you have on the truly important commitments and relationships. It will help you do the most difficult of all things – truly live in the present and count your blessings.



Have you learned Stuff? Willing to share? If so, email it to and we’ll compile it for others.



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