9 Lessons I picked up along the way to my 50’s

My knowledge of the world and life has gradually changed. The world as I saw it in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s are now more insightful. Growing up was not a walk in the park for me. Dozens of curveballs were thrown my way and I did not even have a proper glove to catch them.

This second lock-down has given me time to assess how I view life. I wrote down the lessons I learned along the way. I hope that these lessons are similar to yours if you are around my age. I hope that these lessons help the millennial readers in their quest for a meaningful life. I hope that my children also benefit from this and recalibrate the way they live their life.

The following lessons are not listed in any particular order.

1. Opportunities come from God through the people around you.
Growing up without a proper college degree was a challenge only to a certain degree. As I look back, a pattern emerges as I assessed the opportunities that opened up on my road to maturity.

When my dad left us and my mom kicked me out of our home at 18, it was a friend who took me in at 2 am. It was not easy for my friend to convince his controller father. Butch had to plead with his father to allow me to stay with them even for just a short while.

A few months later, a generous lawyer by the name of Atty. Antonio V. Agcaoili created a job for me even if he did not have an opening in his prestigious law firm. Atty. Agcaoili paid me to photocopy legal documents for the other lawyers in his firm. There was no job opening since it was the lawyer’s secretary’s job to do the copying. Atty. Agcaoili graciously created a job for someone he just met.

Years later, working for a Bank abroad, I was regularly promoted to a position where I did not know anything about. My direct manager and COO David Jones would always say I can always learn the technicalities of the work. He also gave me the time and resources to learn the ropes of my new role. He personally walked me through the major processes of the new function I am managing. He also advised me whom to reach out to for more technical details.

The CEO of a diversified retail company in the country gave me the opportunity to do my training and consulting work for one of his companies after meeting him twice. He is a remarkable Christian who grew his company from one to over a dozen businesses in less than 18 years.

There are still dozens of instances of opportunities presented by God through the people around me. The lesson? Be transparent and kind to the people around you. Who knows? They may be the source of your next opportunity.

2. Count your blessings.
Growing up I was allergic to nay-sayers or negative-minded people. They would always rant and complain about life. If you ask them what they are doing about it, the answer is ‘nothing.’ Life is already very challenging for me growing up. I did not want to get burdened by the negative thinking of these people. As the saying goes misery loves company.

When faced with difficulties, we always have two choices. Do we complain about it? Do we count our blessings and take it that it’s another blessing in disguise?

We do not have full control over the events of our lives. However, we have full control of how we will respond to it.

3. Value true friends.
I often hear others bragging that they have a lot of friends. It’s an interesting point of view. Do you really want to have a lot of friends? Do they really consider you as a friend? Friendship is an unwritten agreement from both parties to be there for each other through thick and thin.

I may not be as lucky as these people with lots of friends. In fact, I am lucky because I have a lot of acquaintances and a few really great friends. Friends that stick with me through the best and worst of times. Friends that I can count on. Friends drop by just to hand you a BFF Shake Shake fries from McDonald’s. Friends pray with you in times of challenges. Friends that laugh and have meals with you. Friends that reply to your messages.

For the rest. Well, they are acquaintances. Some of my good acquaintances show up now and then. Other acquaintances, you meet once and never see or hear from again.

4. Stay optimistic.
Optimism is not the denial of reality. It is okay to acknowledge that times are hard. However, believe that the future will be better. Optimism is anchored in hope. Hope for a better future. Hope chosen over fear is optimism.

The source of hope is faith. It is our faith in our God that He will never forsake us.

Be optimistic regardless of your situation. Stay hopeful and have faith in God.

5. Always be kind.
Huge egos and pride are the enemies of kindness. Sometimes, we allow our egos to get the better of us. Sometimes, in order for us to prove we are right, we run over others to prove they are wrong. At times, it’s even done publicly. In our quest to be right, the public has to see that someone else was wrong.

What we don’t see is the repercussion of our actions. The humiliated victim will start to fear expressing ideas and suggestions. They begin fearing the possibility of being publicly ridiculed for a question or a mistake. Respect is unfortunately replaced by fear.

Others who witnessed the event or even heard about it will start fearing for their reputations as well. After all, who wants to be at the center of a public verbal beating.

God has given us the ability to chose. Do we chose to be right and show others that someone else was wrong? Do we chose to be kind and possibly correct the situation in private. The correction can be done in a private setting. A gentle tone and a clear intention for development will go a long way. Respect is not replaced by fear. Actually, respect grows exponentially. Ideas are also shared more freely next time

Being kind is a choice.

6. Create memories.
After hitting my 50’s I came to realize that as we grow older the memories I have become more important. Recalling them makes my heart smile.

When I see Facebook memories popping-up in my timeline, I recall the day the picture was taken. I get a sensation of what I felt that day. I get to go back in time, if only for a few seconds. A photo of my family in Thailand, a photo of my son taking up archery six years ago, a photo of my son dancing while eating his Ramen.

Sometimes, I get a LinkedIn message from colleagues in my past corporate life. They would reminisce about the old days when we worked together for the same department. When I see my photos in a suit with the other executives of NCB, it makes me recall my discomfort. I was never comfortable in a suit. I also got a bit nervous talking to our CEO and CFO in those days.

7. Share your story.
Our lives are made up of stories. We are made up of good stories and the lessons we learned from not-so-good stories. It is in our DNA to share and listen to stories. Stories were the only way of passing on historical events and knowledge in the old days. This eventually became hardwired in us through the years.

It is our duty to share our stores with others. We need to pass on the lessons we learned so they would benefit from it as well. There is nothing more powerful than a lesson shared in the form of a story. Lessons that are embedded in a story have a tendency to stick. They are recalled even after years pass by.

I always make sure to wrap my workshop lessons in stories. The participants may not recall everything I talked about but they will definitely recall the stories.

Share your stories with your loved ones and your friends. That’s our simple way of leaving behind bits and pieces of our legacy.

8. Build up, people.
It does not matter if you are a leader, a manager, a husband, wife, colleague, father, child. It is our duty to build up others. The wider our influence, the more meaningful this responsibility gets.

Going back to Atty. Agcaoili. I tried to look for him upon returning to the Philippines after working 20 years abroad. I searched for him on LinkedIn. I did not find him. I found his son Atty. Agcaoili Jr. instead. I copied the office phone number and called his son.

It was unfortunate that lung cancer has taken his Dad in his 50’s. I shared with his son what his dad has done for me. I told him that I was truly grateful for his father’s kindness. His father was instrumental in helping me build my life. Atty. Agcaoili Jr was thankful.

His son was surprised that hundreds of people called in or visited their office after his father died. Literally, hundreds of people owe his father a debt of gratitude for the kindness he extended to them. His father made sure to build up the lives of his employees. He even went to the extent of helping build up the lives of people outside the firm. That is a legacy that his family will always remember him for.

9. Ask questions if you don’t know the answer.
A brief video clip of the famous author Simon Sinek was hilariously compelling. It’s titled ‘Be the idiot’. I recommend that you search and watch it on YouTube.

The lesson is that it’s okay not to know everything. It is okay to ask questions. It is okay to be an idiot. If people put you down for asking, do not mind them. You were silly only for 30 seconds. If you had not asked, you would have been silly for the rest of your life. You would not have known the answer to your question.

The former CEO of NCB hails from Harvard. He was the youngest CEO of the Bank. I was at a Microsoft presentation with him years ago. We also had several other Vice Presidents in the same room. Half an hour into the technical presentation of Microsoft executives, Abdulkarim our CEO, stood up. He politely asked a question to the Microsoft executive leading the presentation.

“What do you mean by Domain Server?” Abdulkarim asked. The Microsoft executive, sporting a blue suit, paused his slides. It took him a few seconds to process the question of our CEO. He then proceeded to explain what a Domain Server is in layman’s terms. As I glanced around the room, it was clear that most of the VP’s had the same question in mind. However, none of them took the risk of looking silly by asking a question. They all nodded throughout the presentation pretending they understood every single detail that came out of the presenter’s mouth.

After the workshop, I thanked Abdulkarim in private for asking the question. I mentioned that clearly, it was a question in everyone’s mind that nobody dared to ask.

Abdulkarim, in his steady slow voice, said that while he was studying at Harvard one thing he learned was that nobody knows everything. There was no shame in asking a question. Before you ask a question, you are silly for not knowing the answer. After you get the answer, you are not silly anymore. If you do not ask a question because your pride prohibits you then you are silly for the rest of your life.

Go ahead. Ask questions for things you don’t know. It does not matter what people think.

If you have questions regarding anything I shared here, go ahead and feel free to reach out to me.

Have a great day and stay safe.

Jordan Imutan

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