“Always take away a lesson from every experience you have.”
That’s what they say (side note: has anyone figured out who “they” are yet? No? Ok, me neither).
I get the sentiment, though: No matter if you had a good experience or bad experience doing whatever you did, it’s only helpful if you took something useful away from it.
Sometimes it’s knowledge in the form of a lesson. Sometimes it’s a kickass story. Sometimes it’s a valuable and meaningful relationship. Sometimes it’s all three of those things.
Corporate-speak types like to call them “takeaways” because it apparently sounds smart to take a verb and make it a noun…I don’t really know, but I’ve discussed before how ensuring these “takeaways” can help you never make a bad decision ever again…or at least, soften the impact of those occasional ones.
Usefulness is a product of creativity
I see this idea of always wanting to take something away from each experience come to life daily. Our 5-year-old never wants to throw anything away. We used to think it was a little crazy, but we’ve started to notice that he has a creative vision when it comes to these seemingly mundane things he insists on keeping. I mean, of course cardboard boxes what with their inherent magic of infinite possibilities, but other things, too. Random things.
- The trunk of my car is filled with sticks we’ve found at the bus stop and just about every playground we’ve ever been to (you know, back when we used to go places).
- Behind the small bush near the front door of our house is another pile of sticks and rocks — it’s where we keep all the stuff we find from our neighborhood walks.
- At any given time, there is — at minimum — three solo cups full of rocks and/or pine cones in our house.
- I just today took an old, broken dry erase board out of the recycling bin because he was sad we had to chuck it. Ok fine. I’ll bring it back in. Sheesh.
I never understood why he wanted to keep everything, but then it hit me:
This stuff is useful to him. He doesn’t care at all if I think it’s useful. It’s useful to him so let’s keep it.
I figured that if he’s creative enough to see things as more then just what they actually are — but rather what they can be, then more power to him. I think we could all use an extra dose of that creative vision.
- That stick is the perfect length to dig and has this little piece back here that makes it easy to hold and twist.
- This rock fits in my pocket and is the perfect weight to use as a hammer. Also, it sparkles in the sunlight and that’s just cool.
- This pine cone will be great to stick Cheerios on and hang near our bird feeder.
- The broken dry erase board, well, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him, but I am sure he has big plans for it.
Making things useful can lead to making people useful
The ability to see how seemingly irrelevant things can be useful is great, but it really starts becoming important and having an impact when that skill translates from things to people.
If you’re able to do that with a team of people — pushing them to perform at the best of their potential — it can be the differentiating quality of a strong leader. There are plenty of examples of how making a team of people useful, relevant, and empowered takes a leader’s touch.
- It’s the late Herb Brooks, head coach of the Men’s 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team, who wasn’t looking for the best players, but rather the right ones.
- It’s Steve Jobs, who was self-admittedly not a programmer, but rather the conductor of the orchestra that was a young Apple.
- It’s Michael Jordan, who made everyone around him better. This is why he’s the GOAT.
Making people useful can lead to making yourself useful
If from there, and with that same ability, you’re able to make yourself useful, then you theoretically have no limits on what you can achieve or contribute to any situation. You essentially then have the superpower of making yourself valuable, useful, relevant, and maybe even irreplaceable.
That’s kind of a big deal.
Imagine being so self-aware that you’re able to continue to see what more you could be even though you aren’t that — or never have been that.
If people can count on you to achieve something, they will. That ability to solve a problem, or at least chip away at a problem, will always be a valuable and desired characteristic in you.
Find it. Hone it. Use it.
At the end of the day…
…it’s really all anyone can ask of anyone else.
So while you’re out there being creative, look for ways things and people (and yourself) can be more than what was originally intended. No one likes to be typecast into being just one thing, and acting on the belief that people don’t evolve and grow isn’t just irresponsible, it’s also really dumb. Sorry, but we all need to be reminded of that.
So today, go out for a walk and find that perfect stick, rock, or pine cone. Perfect for what? Well, that’s for you to decide, but I promise you that once you’re able to see things for more than they are, then you’ll be able to see others for more than they are…and eventually, you’ll be able to see yourself as more than you are.
Some of us are better than others at this ability to see how things and people can be useful, but my 5-year-old has taught me that I could use a refresher, and maybe all of us could.