At my first marketing job, at Johnson & Johnson, I discovered the concept of “lessons learned.” This term described (still does) a great way to list the marketing programs we had done, categorizing them into successful and not so successful. The point, of course, was to learn from them.
Related: The Truth About Work-Life Balance
“Lessons learned” helped us admit mistakes we’d made. So that we could learn from them. “Lessons learned” was a great way to showcase our accomplishments. So that we could learn from them.
I’ve used the concept throughout my career, especially when I’m planning for another year or getting ready for a new adventure. But I don’t think we should reserve “lessons learned” just for the workplace. Instead, we should bring it home, especially as it relates to balancing work and family time -- and when we're trying to be both an entrepreneur and a parent.
We should each write down our “lessons learned” from our own, personal perspective. To get others started and to motivate their thinking, I’ll share my own: My kids are now grown. And I’m in an empty nest. So, my own “lessons learned” tend to be reflective. I hope that you can learn from them:
1. No one can do it all, on demand, all of the time.
I wish I had been easier on myself. I always thought that with sheer might I could do it all. I thought I could keep up with everyone’s demands, at work and at home. I thought I had to be “on” day and night. I never would consciously let anyone down, so I let myself down as a result. Lesson learned: Cut yourself a break.
2. Put down the smartphone.
I have to be honest and admit that there were many times when I was with my family, but my head was down, buried in emails on my smartphone. While I tried to hide this bad habit, my friends and family saw it all the time, and it took away from my ability to build both memories and relationships. Lesson learned: Leave the smartphone in your pocket, car or bag, and check your emails all at once later on.
3. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
There were days when I just jumped from one event to the next, not really absorbing any one single interaction. This was true at home as well as at work, when you go from meeting to meeting to meeting, without adding much value at any one of them. Lesson learned: Whether at home or at work, you need a plan for the day that includes truly experiencing the time you are with others, and adding value to each interaction, even if that means cutting a few things off your to-do list for that day. And if you have a dog, take lots of pictures. They don't live forever, but the memories certainly do!
It’s not easy being an entrepreneur, and it’s certainly not easy being a parent. I never had it easy. I can tell you that, despite any appearances to the contrary. We all have our struggles and our demands, and it’s really best just to have a plan, stick to it and help one other along the way.
Which is exactly why I chose to chronicle my own unique experience as an entrepreneur and dad in my new book Out and About Dad. Maybe by sharing my experiences, I can help others overcome the barriers that can get in the way of their happiness, too. I hope that my “lessons learned” can help others learn from their own experiences as I have learned from mine.