Do you remember the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” piece written by Robert Fulghum?
Can you believe that was written more than 25 years ago?
Fulghum said that wisdom was not learned “…at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday School.”
You remember—he said things like, “Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, clean up your own mess. Say you’re sorry if you hurt somebody. Take a nap every afternoon. Flush. When you are out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
There are more items in Fulghum’s list, but what got me thinking about this was that I just attended a luncheon with 20 college friends from more than 50 years ago.
When you are 18 and starting out in college, you are full of enthusiasm, and you sort of blunder through those years and emerge with a degree.
At least, that’s what happened to me. With perfect hindsight, however, I think I did learn a few things that have helped me in business and life.
Going to college in the 60s was interesting.
The early part of the decade was lighthearted and somewhat frivolous. Our first wake-up call was on Nov. 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. It paralyzed the country for a while.
Then the Beatles roared in with a refreshing sound. Life was still somewhat carefree. Then Vietnam changed everything. The draft, the nightly body counts and the living room combat gave us all a dose of reality.
By the end of the decade, nearly everything was political and negative. Protests about the war were ever-present.
For me, college was pretty buttoned down. I never thought of quitting. I made lifelong friends.
I learned how to work. One summer, I worked 73 days in a row to meet a goal. The result was an experience that I had earned and never forgotten.
I learned to compete. Everyone kept score. You knew your GPA. You knew how many units you needed for graduation.
We played hard. For the boys, it was generally about winning in every thing. Winning was terribly important. It was all about winning and competing.
We learned to trust one another. Picking good friends and helping each other was the order of the day.
So what does all of this have to do with business?
I think the values molded in our youth have a profound impact on our values as adults, as business leaders.
If you were honest and trustworthy then, you probably are today. If you said you would do something back then, you did it.
It was your word; your word is still good today, even if you have to work like a dog to meet the commitment.
We teach our values every day to others. We teach by our actions. We teach by making and keeping commitments.