A few months ago I wrote a column about what they don’t teach you in school. From the positive responses and suggestions I received, it became quite apparent that formal education is a good beginning, but real-world experience is also necessary to get ahead.

The prior list included concepts such as taking responsibility for promoting yourself, maintaining a positive attitude, the importance of a smile and handling rejection.

Here’s my additional list:

Life isn’t fair. How many times do you hear this phrase, especially from young people? It’s true, and you still have to deal with it. Whining about it rarely levels the playing field, but learning to rise above it is the ultimate reward.

Think outside the box. There is no substitute for creativity. Take stock of your usual practices and look for new and better ways to do things. When something has been done the same way for a long period of time, sometimes it’s a good sign that it’s being done the wrong way.

Exercise is good for you. I’ve always been active in sports, but one of the best decisions I ever made was when I became a runner more than 50 years ago. Being in shape keeps my energy high and my attitude positive. Studies show that companies that promote exercise have decreased absenteeism, greater productivity, better performance and improved morale.

Be nice to everyone. It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice. You don’t know who your top customers will be five years from now or where you will be in 10 years. You may have a fancy title, but you will always need help from the people around you.

You do not get what you want, you get what you negotiate. One of the skills that has made the biggest difference in my career is negotiating. It applies to selling, purchasing, hiring, firing, expanding, downsizing and every other phase of business.

Good manners never go out of style. Whether it’s responding to an invitation, answering the phone or e-mail, or showing simple respect, we expose our own weaknesses when we display thoughtless or boorish behavior. One of the nastiest names someone can call you is “rude.” Especially because it doesn’t take any more effort to be polite — and it takes a whole lot of work to restore your good reputation.

Visualization. I believe that visualization is one of the most powerful means of achieving personal goals. Many people, especially athletes and celebrities, have discovered the amazing power of visualization and have used it to enhance their careers and achieve their goals and dreams. They visualize that they are not quitters. They will not allow circumstances to keep them down. If seeing is believing, visualizing is achieving.

Practice humility. Humility is becoming a lost art in an era of self-promotion and making sure you get all the credit you deserve. Humility is not difficult to practice. It doesn’t involve downplaying your achievements. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be recognized for your contributions. It does mean that you realize that others have been involved in your success and you are prepared to be involved in theirs. Anyone who thinks he or she is indispensable should stick a finger in a bowl of water and notice the hole it leaves when the finger is pulled out.

Encouragement is oxygen for the soul. People love us not for who we are but for how we make them feel. People appreciate sincere recognition and praise. People tend to live up to the recognition they receive. Encouraging words have tremendous power.

Mackay’s Moral: An old dog can learn new tricks, and a new dog can learn old tricks.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.