Things I Forgot from Kindergarten: 61 Insights for Better Leadership, Better Living – Aug 2022

August 23, 2022

As summer winds down and schools begin to resume, I was reminded of the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum.  It was written nearly 40 years ago (my, how time flies), but had instant popularity and is still relevant today.  Consider some of these gems:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Wash your hands before you eat. (COVID may have reinforced this one.)
  • Flush. (And I’d add: wash your hands after this activity too!)
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Decent advice for a five-year-old, and I’d argue still important for all of us at any age.  But deeper in Fulghum’s list is pretty insightful advice, speaking more about human relationships, personal reflection, and life itself:

  • It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.
  • Speed and efficiency do not always increase the quality of life.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Be aware of wonder.  Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up, and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.  So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

True wisdom, “not from the of the graduate school mountain,” as Fulghum stated, but “there in the sandpile of Sunday School.”  And in a world that has only picked up speed, becoming increasingly complex, sophisticated, and full of danger (but also full of opportunity I’d argue), Fulghum’s simple – yet profound – insights are foundational for lifelong success.

I ran across a guy named Sahil Bloom on Twitter a few months ago, who posts weekly insights – usually about 20 at a time – that are similar to the lessons we all learned in Kindergarten: simple, relevant, highly profound.  Some of his recent thoughts include:

  • Call your parents more often – they won’t be around forever.
  • Stop caring so much what other people think of you.
  • Every decision is either an investment in your future self or a loan against your future self.  Make decisions today that your future self will thank you for.
  • Finding the truth is much more important than being right. (Let me tell you: I learned this lesson very early in my marriage, thankfully!)
  • Not all decisions are reversible, but most of them are.
  • Learn the power of intensity and consistency.
  • You have to work hard to achieve great things.
  • Stop fearing being different – your difference is your edge.
  • History is written by the victors: we overestimate the odds of success because we only read about successes. Study and learn from survivors.
  • Persuasive people don’t argue – they observe, listen, and ask questions. Argue less; persuade more.
  • Luck is the result of thousands of micro-actions: your habits (and decisions) put you in a position where luck is more likely to strike.
  • Humans tend to prefer avoiding losses versus achieving gains; we systematically overvalue what we already have.
  • Anything asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
  • Leverage is anything that multiplies the force of your inputs.  Building systems that provide the leverage on your (or your organization’s) time, money, and energy will (lead to greater success, faster).
  • The best innovators think forward and backward.
  • Everything in life eventually comes down to people and relationships.

I invite you to check him out (@SahilBloom) – I don’t know him, and this isn’t a true endorsement.  But I do appreciate his insights, and I think you’ll find them useful – a modern-day Fulghum.

So with both of those lists – and in the spirit of some end-of-summer reflection – I offer my own words of wisdom.  I’m not sure some of these are completely original, but they’re all my own top-of-mind thoughts and words to live by. In some ways, you could label them a set of personal core values.  And I think most are universal truths:

  • Listen.
  • Always look for the win-win.  Life shouldn’t be a zero-sum game.
  • Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
  • Treat everyone the way you want to be treated (yeah, not mine: it’s the Golden Rule).  Actually, even better: treat everyone the way they want to be treated (not mine either: it’s sometimes called the Platinum Rule).
  • Being optimistic and being pessimistic are both choices.
  • Practice gratitude. Regardless of your situation, there are things for which to be thankful.
  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Use data to make major decisions; be whimsical when making minor decisions.
  • Find your passion.
  • Stop complaining.
  • If you have to choose between ethics and winning, choose ethics every time.
  • Plan for tomorrow, but live for today.
  • Embrace failure; embrace learning; embrace change.
  • Smile more.
  • Avoid toxic relationships.
  • In most things, choose progress over perfection.
  • Sometimes it’s ok to have downtime.  Take breaks; pace yourself.
  • Don’t judge.
  • Assume positive intent.
  • Always tell the truth.
  • Life isn’t always fair: sometimes the villain actually wins.
  • There is real value in trying something you’ve never tried before – experiment, experience, take risks.
  • Most big things start off small things.
  • Success usually is the result of practice, patience, and persistence.
  • Always play the long game.
  • Focus on finding what’s good in people, not what’s wrong with them.
  • Focus more on questions than answers.  Stay curious.
  • Multitasking is fake productivity.  Instead, focus on outcomes.
  • Love is stronger than hate.
  • If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. In whatever you’re doing, never stop improving. 

We’re on this earth for a short amount of time, and in the chaos of most days it’s easy to lose track of what’s truly important.  As summer winds down, the (Minnesota) State Fair kicks off, schools resume and we gather our breath as we turn to what for many of us is a very busy fall, it’s a good time for personal reflection.  Most months I share insights that focus on organizational improvement/excellence, so I hope you don’t mind that this month I focused a bit more on personal improvement/excellence.

Those four lists above have 61 insights to make us better leaders, better moms and dads, better friends, better people.  Take one or two a day and consider your own situation.  After all, wouldn’t it be a better world if we all assumed positive intent, showed more gratitude, and took afternoon naps?

What other insights/tips do you have regarding the life-long lessons you learned in Kindergarten?  Participate in a discussion on this topic: visit our LinkedIn group to post a comment.  And follow me on Twitter @LassiterBrian!

Stay healthy and never stop improving!

Brian S. Lassiter

President, Performance Excellence Network

A Catalyst for Success Since 1987!

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