Advice on Living from 95 Year Old - Resonates Today

When you learn you are growing. When you are growing you are living your life to the fullest. I find that stopping each Saturday morning to reflect on “what I learned” ensures that I stay conscious of learning, growing and living my life to the fullest. 

A portion of my reflections each Saturday become this blog post on Monday.  This past week was a big week of learning. I spent the week with friends I had not seen in 40 years - it was Big Chill without anyone having to die to cause the reunion. 

The learning that stuck with me all week however was the overwhelming reaction to last week’s blog post.  I had written about an insight from a recently recovered audio recording of Will Holder - my great grandfather. It was made just after his 95th birthday - he had retired from his business at age 90 and lived to the age of 99.  

Will Holder, like his father was a sailmaker.  In the interview he was asked what he had learned about living.… His learning was simple….“you need to understand one time you’re down, another time you’re up, and you're down again, and you come up again.”   

There were lots of reactions to this post … I was frankly surprised at the intensity of the reaction. It appears that in today’s world everyone needs a good nudge forward…

    •    A senior executive wrote me, “Thank you for your post - so helpful for perspective on life and also for what is going on right now in the USA and the world. I’m with a good friend who is going through a separation with his wife of 40 years. Your post helped us both! ”

    •    A senior executive in Europe wrote: Brilliant piece. Inspirational to me and so many others! I have had 3 amazing up weeks on vacation. This week will be a return to work and I can use this advice to get in my next upward trajectory. Can't wait to see you in September at the Innovation Engineering Conference. 

    •    A reader of the blog wrote: I just read your blog about your great-grandfather - it really hit home for me. I've had some major life-changes happening this year and it's definitely a "down" time. So THANK YOU for that little boost this morning - much appreciated! 

    •    John Ferris, my cousin also a Great Grandson of Will Holder wrote:  Love this Doug! Really captured what he stood for and amazing how relevant the message is for all of us today. 

The day I was drafting the post Bill Martin and his wife were staying with us. Bill was co-leader of the North Pole expedition I was part of. He also has expertise as a sports psychologist. After reading the blog post he told told me… "What your Great Grandfather is saying is to keep your head in the game.”  

He had done research on what happened to college basketball players after they made a bad play. What he found was that they would often be mentally out of the game” for 2 to 5 plays after making a bad play.  When asked about it players said they would often hear voices in their head criticizing them - their coach, parents, even their coach from high school. 

Bill explained how he helped them, “I worked to reprogram their mental reaction to bad plays. Instead of letting the voices consume their thinking - I taught them to let go of the bad play and instead to focus singularly on where is the ball now and what do I need to do right now to help the team.”

Think about this when you are down. What do you need to do right now to get moving towards going up again?

Walter Werner - Deming Master wrote.  This is fun to think about. Like the tailor in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF your great grandfather saw a chance to change a traditional skill by the addition of new technology. I appreciated the discussion of changing business results FIRST in competitors leaving the business and THEN new markets replacing sails. People forget that steam replacing sails and oil replacing steam is the same market principle as any new product in today's markets.

You can change or you can take the risk of survival where you are. Not every change works and not every person/business that stays behind fails. It's called risk.There are no long term guarantees.

Go west young man was an economic message in its time. People used to leave school early to work in the mill, get married and live the middle class life. Now those past successful economic plans don't work. Your great grandfather couldn't make sails forever either. The baby boomers went to college in record numbers but this generation has to wonder if that's possible since the costs have exploded and many careers are now closed. (Law, teaching, journalism etc) Not everyone is cut out to finish college much less in a STEM program. 

HP, Micro Soft and Apple all started in a virtual garage. So did Google and Amazon. There will be new successes and new failures. People with a vision, a willingness to take risks and luck will do well. Others won't. We don't know the future but we know that somebody is always trying to take away our business, our job and our customer. SEARS was a massive success in its time and now it's ready to die. 

The choice is always up to us. Take the risk and change or take the risk and stay the same. The question is do you believe your present position is secure and why would you ever believe that? I refuse to believe that anyone, even a government employee or tenured professor is secure. I repeat nobody is secure.

Barry Bruns - Nebraska Air National Guard Vice Commander Retired and Innovation Engineering Black Belt wrote: This is a great post for a lot of reasons. 

    •    The only constant is change, and while it happens constantly it does not proceed by a constant rate. Big changes happen rapidly and dramatically, and only a few see them coming before they sweep us up. Enter the sewing machine, gasoline engines, diesel locomotives, jet propulsion, the internet.

    •    Significant change and improvement nearly always requires someone to lead it. Sorry, I always come back to the importance of LEADERSHIP. This blog post is a perfect example.

    •    Trusting that things will get better again helps leaders prepare for and influence the future. Let the others wallow in the mire of despair. Relax, pay attention, and reload.

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