Three Simple Rules

Wisdom shows up when you’re ready

A few months ago I posted these “Three Simple Rules In Life” on my wall after I read them in a blog post. At that precise moment I needed a kick in the butt to get moving on a project. The rules felt fresh and brilliant to me.

  1. If you do not go after what you want, you will never have it.
  2. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.
  3. If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.

Shortly after I “found” them for the first time, I found them again. Then again. Huh? Turns out they’ve been around for some time (see the sample above). I guess The Universe waited till I was ready to hear them before sharing with me <grin>.

Nothing about those three simple rules is ground-breaking. But I had to be in the right context to understand what they meant for me. I’m reminded of the distinction between Knowledge and Wisdom.

Knowledge is about information – facts and truths and data — gathered from learning and education and reading, while wisdom is a quality of being that comes from lived experiences and sometimes from an application of that knowledge.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” —T.S. Eliot.

Do, you must!

For example, I KNOW that to get results I must take action. I KNOW that no one can read my mind, that I must speak up about what I want. I KNOW that I have to raise my hand and not wait for the world to take care of me.

But… BUT… BUT… Oh, so many ways I find to stand in my own way.

The gremlin voice in my head says, “they don’t care,” which then saps my energy.

My chronic case of Imposter Syndrome flares up and I get stuck in a doom loop of “I’m not good enough. What if they (whoever ‘they’ are) discover I’m a fraud?”

Fear and Anxiety, two friends who never completely leave the room, remind me that I could fail… so why bother?

All these forces conspire to keep me paralyzed. Which is safe, of course, because if I don’t act, how can I possibly make a mistake, right?


I know you’ve been there, too. We all have some version of that gremlin voice. Researchers at the Harvard Business School write about Imposter Syndrome all the time, as it is one of the most common maladies suffered by leaders. It’s being human.

The good news is that 99% of the time those three simple rules can pull us out of that stuck place. Step forward, ask the question, take action.

And yes, sometimes we fail, and from that failure we become WISE. Wisdom helps us understand that we can make mistakes and recover, that we can handle the Nos as well as the Yeses, and that if we take three steps forward and get punched back two, we are still one ahead!

We are surrounded by wisdom if we listen

I’m currently enrolled in a program to grow my skills in Team Coaching. One of my fellow students shared a mantra that I’ve heard many times, yet never “heard” until I joined this class:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

This strikes me as a variation on the ancient corporate acronym, TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.” Intellectually I’ve always known this.

As I examine my history and that of my clients, I realize the difference between a GROUP and a TEAM is more than just math– it’s a complex system of relationships and vulnerability and conversational skills and compassion and shared agreements and shared promises.

Teams, especially well-functioning teams, really do achieve more. HOW they do that is the wisdom I am coming into. (stay tuned in future editions)

What is the wisdom in Love?

Another bit that’s come back to me recently is this:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

This quote, attributed to Elie Wiesel, the death camp survivor who found beauty in life, is fueling for me a deeper and wiser understanding of how systemic racism** has rooted so deeply in the world. It’s not that the majority population have cruel intent, it’s just that most people are too distracted by other cares and — while they are not paying attention — a minority sets the rules under which people are harmed. It is not the hate of the minority that’s the issue – it’s the indifference of the majority that allows it to happen.

**This is true all over the world, from the issues of black/white in the US to the caste system in India, the ghettoization of immigrants in Europe, genocide in so many places (China, Sudan, Myanmar, Brazil), and the abuse of indigenous peoples under colonialism.

Woof. When I started writing this essay, I did not intend to go so deep. So maybe here is a place to pause and ask you two questions:

  1. What are you wiser about today than a year ago?
  2. What Action(s) do you need/want to take?

I’m still exploring what is mine to do. If you want to explore these questions, reach out to a friend, or write me and let’s set up a time to chat.

Remember, Leadership is not about a title: Anyone can be a leader who recognizes a need in the world and steps up to address it. Leaders act.