Clearly. I’m not Oprah so unfortunately not too many people will care what I think. There is no magazine or TV show with my name on it. But let’s talk about Oprah for just a second. In her magazine on the very last page she writes a feature every month titled ‘What I Know for Sure.’ She came up with the idea because someone on TV asked her that question, and she couldn’t formulate a good answer on the spot.
She found that the question, “What do you know for sure?’ really intrigued her and she reflected on it quite a bit. She decided she would use the last page of her magazine to answer that revealing question differently each month. She later confessed that she lived in minor fear of not being able to come up with a new idea each month; but I’m proud of her because she has stuck with it.
In case Oprah is reading this (stop laughing, it could happen) I’d like her to know that the last page is always the first page of her magazine that I read each month. It IS a wonderful question to answer. So….with a nod to Oprah…here are my answers.
What I Know for Sure
- Wisdom comes only slowly. And frequently it can only be located at all by looking in the rear view mirror. I’m astonished…as the decades accumulate…how I can have a whole new vantage point and understanding of something that happened way in my past. Wisdom reveals itself when you least expect it. “Why did that have to happen?” becomes, “Oh, now I get it. If X hadn’t happened then Y would never have been an option.” The challenging part is waiting for the wisdom. It can’t be forced. Believe me I’ve tried to force it. A new understanding will just occur when you are ready to believe it.
Regrets usually come from the things I didn’t do. Over time mistakes dim. You take a risk. You fail. You recover and learn from it. But not stepping up to an opportunity, not even trying, that inaction becomes a regret. From my vantage point regrets hurt much more than mistakes.
- Often the way people treat you has absolutely nothing to do with you. This is such an amazing lesson that I have to keep learning it every day. While it is true that if we treat people well, we also hope that they will value us, it isn’t always so. When people treat you badly, or talk behind your back, it often is a product of their own insecurities. They don’t feel good about themselves and can’t accept your good intentions. It frequently has nothing to do with you at all. I wish I could have understood this when I was much younger. OK I admit it, even today I have to continue to remind myself of this truth, even though I’ve reached the age our parents used to call “You’re old enough to know better.”
- The amount of money a person earns does not determine their value. This seems obvious to a young person, but in our capitalistic culture it becomes fuzzy to us as we age. Especially in America where our value system is so skewed, we have to keep our personal definition of value separate from income. In this country we seem to worship celebrities and people who can kick, hit or dunk a ball. America gives a thumbs down to someone who is “just” a teacher, especially recently. Celebrities are assigned ghost writers so they can claim to be authors and plagiarize the talents of true designers to claim their own line of fashions. Reality TV has taken the word celebrity to a new lower level. The family most willing to publicly display their dysfunction becomes rich quickly. Income seems completely unrelated to value anymore. If we tie our personal worth to income, people of real value frequently lose self-respect.
- The education you give yourself is more important than all the degrees you can accumulate. I’m a career teacher, so it is a little difficult to admit this. Earning a degree shows perseverance and an initial thirst for knowledge. However, if we allow learning to stop at age 22 or 35, we’ve missed the most valuable education of all. The real goal of earning a degree should be to make us become life long learners. I’ve learned a hundred times more from the books I’ve read than the degrees I’ve earned. A PhD doesn’t mean you are well-educated. Continually seeking knowledge throughout your life makes you well-educated. Nothing else does.
- Messages that come from your parents early in life are the hardest to change. Even when you understand that, it is still hard to break the hold those messages have on you. I’ve been the recipient of both the positive and negative sides of that truth. My parents thought I was incredibly intelligent and frequently voiced this. I was in my thirties before I realized that I wasn’t as smart as my parents believed. But by then my confidence in my intelligence already had a firm hold on me. However, my father was hypercritical about women’s appearances and especially critical of weight. None of his three children will ever feel attractive as a result of those early messages.
We are all responsible for surrounding ourselves with a circle of people who are encouragers. To live life with some success we all need our own group of cheerleaders. We all know people who lift and people who discourage. We know blamers, doubters, dreamers, and winners. We have to be selective and surround ourselves with people who encourage us to take positive risks, and people who believe in our ability to soar. In our vulnerable moments we must turn to our encouragers and away from the naysayers. It can mean the difference between living the life we dream of or a life of mediocrity.
Thank you Oprah, for giving us your answers to this insightful question each month. But mostly thank you for challenging me to reflect on my OWN life. These are the things Dauna Easley has learned for sure…so far.