Quotes are wisdom in a nutshell. We use them to spread our knowledge and experience throughout the world and the generations.
Mostly we use quotes from famous people. They are famous for something, right, they will know!
Peter Drucker, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill — all those men shared their insights through marketable short sentences, which find space on any sign, notebook, or Instagram post.
But sometimes when you are talking to people around you, and not only hearing them but listening to what they have to say, life has this tremendous beauty of surprising you in a good way.
Here are three personal experiences of people in my surrounding, which changed my thinking for good.
1. Life is hard — especially when you make it hard
It was one of these weekend afternoons, where though no party is planned, people just stop by your house and in the end, you spend the whole afternoon drinking and talking in the garden with your friends about the world we live in and life in general.
One of our friends was a hedonistic Russian. Money is something you have to have in big amounts in order to enjoy life’s possibilities in its entirety.
The other one was a problem-focused engineer, who would like to control everyone and everything, but failed on a daily basis to do so.
We were talking about politics, language, family, work, you know everything that plays a role in your everyday life.
At one point the engineer said: Yeah, life is hard.
And the hedonist replied: especially when you make it hard.
We were laughing of course a lot about this combination of sentences, which were representative of the underlying view of the world.
But it left me never again. Because of the immanent truth of these words. Life is not about the actual facts of what is happening around you or to you.
Life is about how you decide to look and to react or act.
You are the maker of your world. Of course, there will be good times and bad times, but still, you can make it easier or harder for yourself.
This fundamental aspect of life was presented to me this afternoon, through two friends of mine, representing the two sides of how you can look at life. And it taught me that the choice is mine.
2. Don’t ask what you can do for the company — ask what the company can do for you
This one is dated back to my corporate days. It was one of the frustrating phases. The job I did was getting more boring by the day, and there was no change to be seen on the horizon.
We spent the weekend with dear friends, who have an apartment at a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. I admire them for their way of living. For them it is not only okay not to fit in, they are not even trying. They always chose their own path not getting caught up in anyone else’s dream.
We discussed my professional misery over long hours. I was complaining that I did not have enough decision power, that I could do more, and that I have experience in more things than the tasks given to me. That I could contribute more, but they just won’t let me.
Suddenly my friend said: you are looking at it from the wrong angle! Don’t ask what you can do for the company, ask yourself, what can the company do for me.
I was stunned. Indeed, I never have seen it that way. I was brought up to give 150% and await the prize for the best in return. And companies are there to exploit this behavior. You can work 24/7 but still don’t reach your own goal. So it is better to look at your job in the proposed way: what does the company contribute to my well-being.
Do I have flexibility in my hours and my workplace? Do I like the people around me? Are there people inspiring you? Is the money worth what you are giving? Do you have enough holidays? Can you learn inside this company or are they offering paid training?
All these things are sides of your well-being, which the company you work for can contribute.
You are already doing your best, and that is enough.
Now it is time for them to do their share.
3. I don’t care if the teacher likes me. I like myself and that is enough for me.
Yeah, right a quote out of a self-help book. No, it isn’t. This wonderful sentence was delivered by my oldest son when he was only seven years old.
He was taking music classes, and the teacher sanctioned him every week for not practicing enough. I had a quarrel with my own mom about this topic, my son was present. She was of the opinion, that it was my duty as a mother to make him practice. I, on the contrary, said I am not the one being told off every week, it is for my son to change.
He turned and throw the above quote at me.
And at this moment I was tremendously proud and astonished. My seven-year-old son had mastered a level of self-confidence and self-awareness, that a lot of adults need years of coaching, consulting, or therapy for.
I also padded my own mom’s shoulder: some things I was doing right as a mom at least.
It also made me realize how strong and independent human beings children can be when we let them.
And how our educational system and the ideas of education from the past are still influencing us today.
He quit those classes soon afterward by the way. Music is not his thing we realized. And now that we’ve seen other teachers with my other kids, we knew that this guy was simply a bad teacher.
All these words of wisdom left a mark on me, made me realize truths, and change my perception. It also strengthens my belief that you do not have to read all the self-help books in the world or take every word from so-called gurus for granted.
You need to sharpen your own awareness of the wisdom around you. Sometimes this wisdom is shared by people you know and love, and at other times by complete strangers.
This article originally appeared in Medium.