Be good

I like the idea of using this blog to note big lessons that I have learned in life. I have already written about the most important lesson I’ve ever learned (just do it!), as well as another important lesson on how the world is gray.

There is another big lesson that consistently pops up in my life: be good.

There are so many things some we may strive for in life. We want to be happy. We want to attract the opposite sex. We want that girlfriend/boyfriend, and that great wife/husband. We want that awesome job. We want that next promotion. We want to be socially aware. We want to be great leaders. We want to be powerful speakers. We want to be charismatic.  We want to have a close group of friends. We want to truly connect with others.

There are many ways we can go about striving to attain each of these things. People will give you advice. Experts will publish online, and magazines and books. You will hear tips, tricks, and lifehacks. These are all fine, but there is only one thing that matters: be good.

What does it mean to be good? Simple. Be genuinely good at whatever it is that you want. If you aren’t good, then the only thing that matters is to get good. Tips, tricks, hacks, and advice can be good, but can also be a distraction. They only matter if they help you get good at what you want.

Here are a few examples

Happiness.

Everyone wants to be happy, but many expect it to happiness to happen to them. That isn’t the way life works.

If you want to be happy, you have to get good at being happy. It means actively recognizing and finding reasons to be happy. It means creating happiness, and exchanging it with others.

You are only happy when you get good at being happy.

Career.

We all want great jobs. We want that promotion. That great title. That startup exit. Or that position of respect and influence.

To get there, you will hear all kinds of advice. Dress this way. Network this way. Communicate with your boss like this. Manage your team like this. Build your product like this. Follow these steps to gain leverage in your organization.

What always gets lost in the mix is the most important thing: be good.

That is all that matters. So many people are looking to be promoted to that specific job title so that they can have influence. They have it the wrong way around. You gain a position of power when you have influence.. when you are good.

Whatever our job is, you will almost always be best served by focusing on your craft. Be good. And when you are good, figure out how to get better.

Personal relationships.

People spend an amazing amount of time thinking about how to attract a partner. They will expend an incredible amount of energy, change how they dress, how them act, how they talk, etc. As an example, just take a read through The Game, a fascinating book on the world of pickup artists.

Again, only one thing matters: be good. In this case, simply be a good person. Have a set of values. Stick to them. Genuinely care about others. Respect others and respect yourself.

If you want that great girl, be a great guy. If you aren’t a great guy, she will find out. And vice versa. You can’t trick someone into thinking you are someone else.. at least not in the long term. If you are smart about it, your best bet is to just focus on being awesome.. and then that awesome person will like you.

See the pattern here?

I could go on and on.

I often go through the same pattern. First, I find myself wanting something. I find myself thinking about it, reading material, and trying tips and tricks. After investing some time in it, I realize that only one thing matters: be good.

It happens time and time again across many aspects of life.

I’m now in the process of trying to imprint this lesson into my head. Writing it down helps.

Is there something you want to be or achieve? Be good. That is all there is to it.

P.S. This is post number #81 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

Life lessons from Ender’s Game (the movie)

I recently got the chance to watch the Ender’s Game move.

I loved the book as a child, and greatly enjoyed seeing the book adapted to the big screen. Still, I left wishing that it spent more time on Battle School. In my opinion, the lessons from Battle School were most interesting parts of the book, and were the funnest to read. They would have been great to see, although they would have stretched the move to 3+ hours (I would have been OK with it though!).

Even with much of Battle School missing, I still found myself noting important life and leadership lessons during the movie.

Here are a few:

*** Warning ***: There will be a few spoilers so if you intend on watching the move, you may want to stop reading.

1) Isolation must never be broken.

Early in Battle School, Ender is constantly singled out on purpose. This isolation is lonely, but is essential for grooming Ender into a leader. The leader isn’t the same as the others. The leader needs to be different, adjust to it. A good way to kickstart this is just to be treated differently.

I immediately thought about the lonely journey as an entrepreneur. As I’ve written on earlier, there is power in being different: the only way you can hope to attain something extraordinary is to break free from the regular. Breaking free is lonely, so maybe it is right that the entrepreneurial journey is lonely. It wouldn’t work any other way.

2) No distraction.

Ender continually tries to email his sister during the early days of Battle School. He doesn’t receive any replies. When he asks Colonel Graff, he is told the email is shut off. There is no space for distraction in Battle School.

Any significant challenge requires focus. Watch the email.. and Facebook.. and other distractions.

3) Allow others to shine.

When Ender begins to be singled out in the classroom, he tells the teacher that two others students would be great at answering the question. He could have answered it, but as the singled-out student already, it serves him no purpose to be a know-it-all. You gain allies and friends by deferring the limelight and allowing others to shine.

4) Let others save face.

When toon leader Bonzo tells Ender that he can’t practice in front of the team, Ender asks to speak to Bonzo in private. He tells Bonzo that he will practice, and that he won’t be stopped. But, he will lay low for the day, and allow Bonzo to give him permission the next day.

When fighting someone, you are still better off if you find a way to get your way without harming them.

5) Don’t just win the battle, win the future battles.

If there is going to be a fight, Ender will literally end you. He doesn’t just win the battle. He fights to win the future battles. It is the best way to avoid future conflicts.

If you have a problem, don’t go for the quick solution. Don’t go for the one-time fix. Get to the core of the thing, and take care of business.

6) Do things your own way.

When Ender becomes leader of the Dragon Army, he immediately tells the troops that the youngest sleep by the door, and the oldest sleep away from it. Usually, the older troops get to sleep by the door. It is Ender’s way to telling them he intends to run his army his way. It isn’t described in detail within the movie, but he also runs the Dragon Army his own way, and is wildly successful for it.

There is always a “regular” way of doing things. Is it really necessary? Think about it, and do things your own way if it seems right.

7) Take the misfits.

Ender’s Dragon Army contains misfits from all of the teams. Historically, the Dragon Army has never won a battle, so when they resurrect this army name for Ender, it seems fitting that it take in the misfits.

Yet Colonel Graff knows that with the right leader, the Dragon Army can be great. The misfits are only misfits because they haven’t found their place on their team. In a different team, with a great leader, the misfits can be great.

8) Love for you enemy.

Early in Battle School, Bernard bullies Ender whenever he can. When Ender gets the Dragon Army, he accepts Bernard as one of the team. As the leader, Ender could have made Bernard’s life more difficult, but he didn’t. Showing your enemies respect can be powerful, especially when you don’t need to show the respect.

Ender is known for loving his enemies. He uses both intelligence and empathy to understand his enemy. With this understanding comes love for the enemy. It also turns out that the best way to crush an enemy is to truly understand them.

9) The importance of family.

Battle School can be brutal. As Ender is continually isolated without email and outside contact, he eventually gets sick of it. When Ender quits Battle School, the first thing he does is see his sister Valentine, who successfully talks him into going back to Battle School.

We aren’t machines. Minimizing distraction is great, but in the end, we really to be around people we care about. Family matters.

10) Play the big game. Try.

As Valentine convinces Ender to go back to Battle School, she says she believes that Ender is afraid of the future. He may be afraid of the unknown enemy. Still, in order to save the humans on Earth, he has to try.

11) You’re never ready.

Before the graduation battle, Mazer Rackham tells Colonel Graff that Ender isn’t ready. And it isn’t a big surprise. Ender isn’t ready. He is young, and is still in training.

Colonel Graff simply replies, “you’re never ready.”

12) The way we win matters. * Big spoiler alert *

Ender wants to win. And when he does, he wants to win on his own terms. He fights to win all future battles, but first seeks to understand.

When he unexpectedly wipes out the buggers at the end, he is overcome with grief. That is not the way he wanted to win. He never got to learn about his enemy before destroying them.

This is one of the big differences between Peter and Ender. Ender cares. He values life, humanity, and whatever you call it for other species.

The book is better.

The movie was enjoyable. Without a doubt, the book is better. If this post was on the book, the list would probably be two times longer.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you should! It is a fun read, and is chock full of lessons on life, leadership, management, and empathy. I also suggest the other two in the series (Speaker for the Dead and Xenophobia), both of which are much more somber in nature, but great in a different way.

P.S. This is post number #39 in a 100 day blogging challenge. Was late on this post, but my Internet went out last night halfway through writing. Should have another post by the end of the day 🙂

Follow me on Twitter: @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.