A Lesson on How to Get Ahead in Life

A Lesson on How to Get Ahead in LifeToday, I was huffing through the last mile of my morning walk when the shadow of a bushy-tailed squirrel suddenly appeared by my side. Not on a grassy field or deep in the woods, but on a busy sidewalk in Boston shared by many pedestrians. It hopped alongside me fearlessly, then quickly raced off into the distance. It found shelter under a parked car, and then emerged seconds later to attempt a dangerous run through nearby traffic. It made it through unscathed.

Moments later, I noticed several people in the distance running. No, these were not joggers squeezing in a morning workout. These were people dressed for professional success, running like mad to catch the express bus that would take them into downtown Boston so they could do their jobs. It is a scenario played out every rush-hour weekday morning in every city across the globe. Clearly, to miss the bus (or train, plane, etc) would be the ultimate frustration — time that is wasted waiting for the next ride. To quote author Erik Larson, “time lost can never be recovered.”

The sense of urgency coming from everyone and everything these days is hard to ignore. The squirrel and the businesspeople were running off to somewhere important to them and were willing to do whatever it took to accomplish their goal. More so than ever, our lives have become an endless cycle of racing from one thing to the next. Does it seem like no matter how much we try to speed things along with the help of all the tools available to us, there never ever seems to be enough time for it all?

Lately, a commercial on the radio for a popular fiber-optic communications network provider has been reminding listeners, “we eat fast, talk fast, and sleep fast if we could.” In our speed-obsessed society, we hurry our kids along, we gulp down our meals, and we weave in and out of traffic. Why is it so hard for the modern world to slow down a little? Perhaps we need not look far but our overly packed schedules to know the answer to that question. Is getting ahead in life all about hitting the accelerator and hurrying up at all costs?

Here are my observations and thoughts:

1. Those who get ahead in life are those who ask for help. You say it is easier to handle everything yourself. While that thought may be true at times, consider the value of your time. Lots of wonderful services exist today with the goal of making people’s lives simpler, from grocery and fresh produce deliveries to errand running services and everything in between.
2. Those who get ahead in life are those who do not allow others to monopolize their time. People or things that demand a lot of your time and attention can squeeze a lot out of you, leaving little or no time for you or anything else. Be respectful of other people’s time. Keep conversations brief and to the point. I recently gave up my monthly massage sessions because the appointments were taking up a lot of my daytime hours, time that I would rather spend on more important matters.
3. Those who get ahead in life are those who are not afraid to say no. If you respond to every request with a cheerful yes when you really mean to say no because you do not want to reject anyone, you want to look like a team player, and look good in front of others, then doing so will not garner you any points in the honesty department. Be assertive and honest and let the other party know that you cannot take on more than you can chew, and move on with your life and be at peace with your decisions.

Image credit: Nijhuis