This morning I sat at Frothy Monkey, a cozy little coffee shop in downtown Franklin, TN, and spoke with a man about 25 years my senior.
Kent has a demeanor that I envy. He has a contentment and calm gentleness that I’d love to emulate. He is sincerely interested in who you are, and commands a genuineness that is rare these days.
Interestingly, Kent is a highly successful businessman, despite not being the hard-edged shark that we like to envision. He’s enjoyed some good runs and also been humbled a time or two, and was gracious enough to sit with me for almost 2 hours and dispense wisdom generously.
It would be a tall task—one which I’m unwilling to take on at the moment—to attempt to catalogue all that we covered, all the reasons why you should find a mentor yourself, and so on. So to keep it simple, I’ll share 3 truths that Kent shared this morning that stuck with me.
Hopefully, not only will these be helpful, but they’ll serve as a sales pitch to push you to find someone similar to learn from. No matter your age or status, there is someone out there who knows more, has lived through more, who has seen what you’re up against, and will speak to that experience.
Don’t Fill Emptiness With Accomplishments or Possessions
“Brian,” he said, “if you notice an emptiness, and you find that you’re trying to fill that will the next raise, promotion, house, car, commission, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”
This was powerful. As a driven person, I know you’re familiar with the tension between ambition and contentment. I am too. Kent, a man who in his own words has “had the houses, the cars, the club memberships,” is sitting here telling me that each time he reached one of these goals, which he was convinced would satisfy that emptiness, that it never did, and that after a matter of days, the emptiness returned. Then he was back at square one. Chasing a raise or a purchase or a goal that would finally be the answer.
The 5 Year Test
After 30 years in high-level corporate banking, Kent finally walked away from the prestigious corner-office position. It was a huge transition in his life. Kent was cleaning out his desk and came across a large report. He recalled how that report had been a huge deal at the time. Peoples’ jobs were riding on it—it had to be done, it had to be done on time, or heads were going to roll! It had consumed him, he had worked late and spent weeks or even months on this thing.
Now here he sat, holding that report, and realizing that it had no bearing on his life whatsoever, and he was tossing it into the shredder. Literally. This thing had dictated his life and contentment for a period of time—now it was literally trash.
He said, “Brian, if what you’re worried about isn’t going to affect your life in 5 years, then don’t worry about it.” I believe he said his dad had taught him that. That doesn’t mean don’t take care of business. But you can work and fulfill your responsibilities, without fear and worry running your life.
Something worrying you? Give it the ol’ 5 Year Test.
Love and Self Are Opposites
The man that sat across from me this morning was a gentle, gracious, generous person. If I had to describe him in one word, it would be “selfless.” Interestingly enough, one of the first things that he said to me was that he had somewhat recently discovered that “love and self are opposites.”
He confessed that he had harbored a bit of a selfish streak that had cut him off from some of the more valuable riches that life has to offer, and that by loving others selflessly, he had “lived more life in the last 2 years than in I had in the previous 15 or more.”
To be clear, he never said that you shouldn’t take care of yourself, or work hard, or desire anything. But he emphasized that the most important things—and this is coming from a man with some good living under his belt—concern other people in your life.
I would personally summarize the idea by saying that by neglecting other people, you are neglecting yourself. Contributing to others and building rich relationships with other people are the keys to fulfillment.
We covered quite a bit more ground than this, which is why I would encourage you to find a person you admire in all aspects, and seek them out. Humbly ask if you might learn from them.
Don’t simply find a rich person—there are plenty of monetarily wealthy people who I’d rather not emulate—but find a person who is rich in life, rich in relationships, who give and loves those around them, who displays a wholeness of life that you’d like to emulate.
Please comment below: if you sat across from me and were to share one powerful truth with me, what would it be?