Those who write are sometimes self-deluded into believing they have something worthwhile to write about. The fact that one can write however is not the same as having something worthwhile to say. It is even more of a shame if the people who have something worthwhile to say are not the people who write.
When I was boy and my emotional maturity was so much closer to my age than it has been ever since, I spent long hours with my mum’s mum, my granny. She was a gentle and unprepossessing soul, but like many of her generation she lived through quite extraordinary times.
She was born in the embers of Victorian England, was a young girl in the Great War, a fiancé in the General Strike, a bride in the Depression and a mother to three children during World War II.
She left school at 13, worked nearly all her life, raised her family before the Welfare State was a reality and saw the wider world change unrecognisably socially, economically and culturally, and then change again and again. She loved her children and her grandchildren and gave selflessly to all who called on her, but never asked for anything in return. And yet as far as I know no President or Prime Minister ever asked her for an opinion on their affairs of state. Undoubtedly this was their loss for, had they only known it, she was positively the wisest woman that ever lived.
The following thoughts, I’must confess, were not handed down to me verbatim. I do not think I ever sat at her knee asking her to speak more slowly so I could copy down the things she told me; but the things she told me have been so much a part of the way I think that I’might have done so and I certainly wish I had.
History will not show she said these things, therefore, but I am here today to at least pass on the essence of her thoughtfulness, and I am very glad I can.
- The first person to speak may not be the wisest man in the room; it is also true that the last person to speak may not be the wisest man either, but the last man to speak will often appear to be wiser than the first man.
- When you are trying to explain something to someone and finally the penny drops and they understand the point you are making, often the first thing they will say is “oh…I see”. So if to see something is to better understand it, maybe pictures and diagrams are a better way to make complicated points more understandable, however finely chosen your words may be.
- In a room full of strangers there will be heartache and joy, tragedy, comedy, opportunity and threat. There will be things to make you laugh, things that will make you think and possibly even cry. It will be a room full of stories waiting to be told and they will be yours to hear if you use the time to listen.
- Competition can either make you work harder to be better at what you do or it can make you cut corners just to win. It is never easy to lose; but winning by cutting corners is a victory at the expense of your self-esteem and integrity – this is a much greater loss by miles.
- A great relationship is not a “thing”. You cannot own it, share it or give it away. You cannot use it when it suits and then forget all about it when it doesn’t. A great relationship exists as the emotional space between two people; it is always there. It is not about frequency of contact; it is not about need. A great relationship is all about trust.
- If a person asks for your help, then that is a very precious thing. To ask for help is to recognise that we might be lost without the help we seek and to be trusted in these circumstances is a rare and important gift. And because it is a gift to you, therefore, you should treat it with gratitude and care.
- It is sometimes easier to inhabit a problem, to live within it and to be constrained by its walls. It is nearly always harder to build a new solution. In one instance we feel we are a prisoner of circumstance, but in the other instance we are at least free to try a different way. Do not be the tenant of your problems therefore, but try to be the architect of your solutions.
- Self-doubt is an important critical faculty and should never be ignored. It is the mechanism by which we can hold ourselves to account before the world takes that pportunity from us. If we use it well, it will sustain us even when the world is against us.
- The best fun you can ever have is to release three chickens in your school, mobilise everyone to search for them, but before you release the chickens tag them No1, No2 and No4!
- Do not play with your tummy button, for you may find you have undone your bottom…
I suspect we can all recall the thoughtfulness and the funny words and phrases of those who have loved us; it is a good thing to do, and while I am sure there is the odd cringing platitude to be found in my list and in yours, there will also be lessons in how to lead a good life (and run a good business) and that is worth a great deal. It is a true inheritance after all.