Everything I Need to Know I Did NOT Learn in Kindergarten
contributed by
craig c. callen, dds
mansfield, oh
You have probably heard of the book, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
It talks about sharing, getting along, so on. However, I beg to differ. There are many lessons in life I did not learn until I was older. Some I am still learning. Some were hard lessons to learn. And being a stubborn man, it sometimes took me multiple lessons to learn.

I wrote last time about being a perpetual student of your craft. Always learning new and better ways to improve your practice. Well, you also need to learn ways to improve your interactions with people and your personal life.

As a boss and somewhat dominant personality I have been reminded that I need to focus on listening, too my patients, my staff and my friends and family. That is a lesson I try to work on, although sometimes unsuccessfully. I am the one who takes care of everyone and people come to me for ideas on how to fix things, but sometimes you just need to listen. People do not always want your solution to their problem.

Learning to be patient for someone with drive is a difficult lesson. All good things take time. Rome was not built in a day.

One of the most difficult lessons for me was to learn to enjoy the process. Life is a journey, not a destination. As one who sets goals for myself, it is important to remind oneself that it is not all about the goal. It is the process of attaining the goal, the triumphs and the struggles. If you are too goal oriented you will find that life passes you by fairly quickly and you will miss out on the best parts of your life and the lives of those close to you.

Sometimes bad things happen for a reason. Sometimes you are going down the wrong path and you need a slap in the face to remind you where you are intended to go. A very hard lesson at the time, but necessary for positive change.

You don’t always go home with the one that brought you to the dance. In your professional and personal life some people are meant to bring you to a new level, but might not be able to take you to the level you deserve or wish to attain. One of the most difficult decisions is to have to fire a good employee to make room for a great one. Fortunately for me I think they sorted themselves out on their own. They were happy at a level that was below my expectations and decided to move on.

Learn to keep your head while others around you are losing theirs. In a moment of crisis or panic, stop, take a breath and think. Think before you speak, and think before you act. There’s often a solution if you relax and think.

Learn not to expect too much from people. Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. Not that you should not have standards, but you cannot always expect others to have the same standards. I have found if you get 80% out of an employee you are doing well. Once in a while you get those who give 100%. Treat them like gold, because they will help you soar. On a personal level I have seen relationships destroyed by unrealistic expectations. You are setting that person up for failure and yourself for disappointment. Lose /lose.

Praise goes a long way. I have read studies where employees will stay with an employer for less pay if they feel appreciated. As dentists we are trained to be critical. Critical of ourselves, which spills over to those around us. Learn to find people doing things right. While I hate a flatterer, giving some earned praise goes a long way. Constant criticism will get anyone down. I see this with my kids. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Look for a reason to praise.

Hate is a wasted emotion. While there are people in my life that I do not like, or do not trust, or maybe do not respect, I honestly do not hate anyone. I have been wronged in my life many times, both personally and professionally. While I get angry like anyone else, I do not hold on to anger. Let it go. If someone is making you angry and causing you to hate them, they have power over you and they are controlling you. Most of the time, I end up feeling sorry for them. What is so bad in their life that caused them to act this way?

Live a determined, deliberate life. Let things go that don’t help you. Look for the good and enjoy the process. These are the lessons I did not learn in kindergarten (Well to be honest. I never attended kindergarten).