There’s an old proverb that’s states, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). But what if we could better prepare ourselves to stay away from folly all together, yet alone repeat it?
As I turned the corner from my 20s and entered into my 30s I realized how much I thought I knew, when in reality I knew nothing. I began to find myself as the fool repeating his folly in so many leadership decisions I was making.
It was a humbling realization to say the least, but I would not be defeated.
Rather than accept the fact that folly was inevitable, I spent the past twelve months polling fifteen respectable men I admire—men that have lived lives of integrity, men who are faithful husbands, and have been deemed successful in their chosen vocation.
The list of men I asked included presidents of nationally-known ministries and corporations, authors of best-selling books, CEOs, CFOs, a Division 1 basketball coach, and even a man listed on the Forbes 400.
Many of these conversations were face-to-face, while a few were correspondence via e-mail. Listing their names is not nearly as important as listing their responses.
The question I asked these fifteen men was this, “What are three things you know now that you wish you knew when you were thirty?”
I was hoping that these men would share the folly they had experienced as leaders and in life, so that I might not repeat their mistakes.
The forty-five responses I received from these men were packed with wisdom, humility, and truth that struck me to the core. I printed them out, laminated them, and placed in my office where they serve as a daily reminder and encouragement to lead well in all areas of my life.
Learning from the mistakes of others will help me avoid my own mistakes and, therefore, be less likely to be “a fool who repeats his folly.” I took the list of forty-five responses and reduced it down to the top fifteen. Some of the men had similar answers, so I took one answer from each leader, so that the list was not repetitive.
- The most important person you can lead is yourself.
- Nothing is more valuable than relationships.
- Maximize the moments with your children.
- Listen—you will never find the pulse of your family or organization if you don't learn to listen.
- Worrying is temporary atheism. Rid yourself of worry.
- Become a better steward of your financial resources through investments and wise decision-making. The older you get the more you’ll want to give away, being able to do so begins with the financial decisions you make today.
- Balance—the words “No” and “Not now” are empowering when accompanied with wisdom.
- Spend time reading and receiving the Truth every morning, because the world will only lie to you the rest of the day.
- Saying “I’m sorry,” when spoken from a genuine heart, has great healing power.
- Character should always trump talent.
- Retreat and Rest—if ships don’t come back to the harbor, they’ll eventually sink.
- Don’t stop learning—you're not as smart as you think.
- Learn to value patience. You’re likely to learn more while you wait.
- Time management—without it time will control you.
- Develop authentic and deep relationships with men who will sharpen you and see through you.
I hope that for any of us that aspire to be great leaders, we can look at this list that was compiled by men in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s, and learn from their lives well-lived. May we heed their wisdom as to prevent folly in our endeavors to become better spouses, parents, and leaders.
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