August 12, 2019

Tom Atema Jr.’s 52 Lessons for Leaders to Learn and Apply in Order to Get Better: #40-52

I think at some point or another, we can all benefit from making lists. For me, “to do” lists are a part of my weekly routine—it serves as a road map to get me to where I want to be at the end of the week. It helps me stay on track so that I’m not tempted to let too many other distractions stop me from being productive throughout the week. Last year, I decided to write down another type of list—I wanted to focus on one “lesson” a week for a year. These 52 lessons (or important points I wanted to remember) have impacted my personal and professional life in countless ways, and I wanted to set aside dedicated time to reflect on them, and to make them a focal point for my life going forward.

As I look back now at all of the 52 points that make up my list (if you’ve missed my previous three blogs about these, check them out: #1-13, #14-26, #27-39), I recognize that some of them are easier to remember or act upon than others. Certain ones are easy sometimes, and tougher at other times—or in some situations. For instance, #6 on my list is about exercising. For me, that’s pretty easy to remember and to define. But #45 is about being honest. When we think of being honest, most of us first think about not lying, or stealing, etc. But it should also apply to how we are with ourselves—being honest with ourselves about the help we need to get better in a particular area of our life, or about what it is we really want for our future hopes and dreams. So that one might take a little more thought and processing at different times, and for different circumstances.

I offer my list up to you simply as a starting place. Come up with the list that makes sense for you, your life, and your future hopes and dreams. Your list might be a lot shorter. Rather than one point a week for a year, you might want to focus on one a month for a year and have 12 points. Make it personal. That’s what will give it the impact to be a positive force for change in your life. I enjoyed the process of making my list, and I’ve seen some real growth come from it—I hope you do, too!

40. Iron sharpens iron.
Only iron can sharpen iron. We need people in our lives who will challenge us and question us in a loving way. This helps us take a moment to consider a different perspective or approach in order to work things out without being, or seeming, one-sided.

41. Plan for your “worst case.”
I get it—death and illness aren’t pleasant subjects; but it’s just cruel to leave that for your family to figure out. I have an envelope in my office that gets opened in case anything happens to me. I consulted with attorneys to ensure there is a worst-case plan in place to operate smoothly if my loved ones are in a season of grief.

42. Choose your habits.
This applies to those things you’d like to stop doing and start doing. Stop saying, “Someday, I’ll . . .” Be intentional about this.  

43. Allow people to help.
This one is a common struggle among leaders, but in order for us to get better, we have to accept that we’re not the best at everything. Let people who are better at certain things help us with those things. For example, it took me ten years to allow someone to help me as an administrative assistant. Letting those who are professionals at their jobs actually do their jobs makes us better leaders. 

44. Live the life you have.
Comparing your life to others’ lives is not helpful. We can’t possibly know everything about everyone, so we don’t know what the next person has gone through or may be hiding. If you struggle with the comparison game—and that’s all it is, a terrible game that doesn’t accomplish anything—consider limiting your social media usage.  

45. Be honest.

This goes beyond simply not lying (though that should be an obvious goal). Be honest with yourself about what you want, what you need help with, about identifying your future hopes and dreams, and—this next one’s tough—be honest about how you feel. Write it down, talk to a professional . . . whatever it takes to be honest about what you need to get better.

46. Do what is right, even when it’s difficult. 

This is something I say to my son every day, but it’s also a great reminder for all of us. It’s easy for us to do what is right most of the time, but the more successful we become, the more temptations seem to surface. For example, you might see opportunities to take shortcuts where you didn’t before. I need to do what is right even when it’s hard or I want to do something else, even when a shortcut might seem easier.

47. Don’t be stupid.

Remind yourself that you are only one mistake away from ruining your life, company, marriage, family . . . the things that matter most. So don’t be stupid. 

48. Slow down, when appropriate. 

How many times is your goal just to “get it done”? Slow down, enjoy the process, listen more. You’ll make better decisions. 

49. Explore. 

Our planet is amazing! Visit new places. (Always take the double-decker bus tour if one is available!) Take some extra time to smell the roses—it’s time well-spent. 

50. Life is not fair. 

Life is not fair—get over it, whatever “it” is. It’s impossible to be fair to everyone, and in turn, not everyone can be fair to you. Focus on being consistent and doing what you can. 

51. Believe in something bigger than you. 

You may or may not be religious, but either way, believing in something bigger than you makes you better. For me, my faith allows me the strength and confidence I need to be the best father, husband, boss, co-worker, friend, vendor, and client I can be. 

52. Being kind and being nice are not the same thing.

We can always be kind, but we cannot always be nice. Being kind is important, because everyone is fighting some sort of battle, and we need to be mindful of that. There are those times, however, that we cannot be as nice as we might like to be; maybe your children need correction or there’s an issue at work that needs to be addressed. During those times, being nice is not beneficial—always consider what’s best for that individual or group. But we can always, always be kind.