Lessons Never Forgotten

Recently I was reminiscing about life lessons I was taught as a child through adulthood that have served me well over the years. These lessons were learned from my parents, teachers, employers and by experience. I will share a few of these lessons that I’m sure a lot of others have learned as well.

The value of work

Very early in life I was required to to do chores around the the home and yard. These chores were my responsibility … and mine alone. The chores included mowing the grass, trimming the shrubs and trees, washing the car and cleaning the house every Saturday.

I started mowing lawns for others at the age of 12. I started with six lawns that expanded to 17 by the time I was 15. At age 14, I started landscaping. This work allowed me to purchase professional musical instruments and buy a car when I was older.

If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing it right

Not only was I taught the value of of work, I learned how to organize each task and how to do the job right and efficiently. I also learned that that the job isn’t done until I had cleaned up any mess I had created and the paperwork was completed.

I also learned that providing quality materials and workmanship were far more important than having the lowest price because having long-term customers that kept doing business with me year after year was what built a solid, profitable business that survived the up and down business cycles.

In everything we do, let’s do it so well that we’re willing to sign it.

Your word is your reputation

If you tell someone you are going to do something at or by a certain time … do it. If you can’t do what you promised, contact them immediately upon learning you are unable to do it. Likewise, if your promise requires numerous steps over a period of time, keep in regular (sometimes daily) contact with them. The person you made the promise to should never be uncertain about the progress.

If you tell someone you will call them, call them … even it was to give them bad news.

Be on time

Being punctual is a sign that you are organized and that you respect the other person’s time. Over 32 years of doing business, I was only late to two appointments. I always allowed myself an extra 15 minutes to get to the appointment in case I ran into a traffic jam, accident or whatever.

I had a teacher that called this practice working on the Vince Lombardi clock.

Be clean and groomed

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Ecuador was that the people took pride in their appearance when they were in public. Even those living in or near poverty made sure:

  • Their body and hair was clean and well-groomed
  • Their clothes were clean and pressed
  • Their shoes were clean an polished (if applicable)

Pay bills on time

Your paycheck is important to you and you expect to be paid on time for the work you provided to your employer. The same principle applies regarding the payment of your bills. The due date of your bill is the “pay day” for the entity that provided you with the product or service. They have the same right as you do to be paid on time.

First impressions

Within a few seconds of coming in contact with you, people will make an impression of you based on your appearance, greeting, speech and manners. In most cases, you have full control over how you present yourself to other people.

Greeting people

Make your greeting of someone else, especially someone unknown to you, genuine by looking them in the eye, with a smile and having a firm handshake. Giving all three will separate you from the everyone else. You will be remembered.


A skilled conversationalist listens more the he/she talks. This is a skill rarely learned.

Diversity of beliefs and opinions

Respecting the beliefs and opinions of others is acceptable behavior in a civilized society. Just because we rarely see this on social media and discussion boards today doesn’t mean it isn’t proper behavior. Everyone has the right to their belief and opinion. Acceptable civil behavior requires us to be respectful to those having opposing beliefs and opinions to our own. It does not require us to accept their beliefs and opinions but to be respectful in our responses.

I can remember being taught this in debate class in high school back in the 1960s. It has been to my own detriment that I don’t remember this lesson often enough.

Be kind

A genuinely given kind gesture, comment or word of encouragement marks you as a gentleman or lady.

But for the grace of circumstance, there am I

“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
― Eugene V. Debs

What ever success we achieve in life, it is as much the result of race, gender, education, the country we live in and family we were born to as to how hard we worked for it. To recognize this is the mark of a leader among all humanity.

Give more than we take

When we give more than we take, we’ll always have more than we need. This is as much a law of nature as gravity. Understanding and living this principle is transformational and the key to a fulfilled and purposeful life.

Sharing and caring is one of life’s greatest opportunities. We cheat ourselves when we let this type of opportunity pass.

Please share what life lessons have made a significant impact on your life.

Published by W. M. Brown

I am a retired U.S. expat living in Ecuador. I was a business owner for 32 years before retiring in 2012.

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