51 Lessons I Wish I Learned Earlier About Life, Relationships, Customer Service and Other Stuff


I’d consider myself middle aged. Professionally, I’ve had a good go of it, and over the last thirty plus work years I have learned many valuable lessons. I can’t wait to see what the next thirty have to offer. Probably like you, I’ve made many bad decisions and although they didn’t seem bad at the time, time always proves me right (wrong in this case), they were bad. Some bad decisions have cost me a lot of money, certainly lost time and unfortunately lost relationships. I don’t like making bad decisions and neither do you. Lesson learned.

I’ve made some great decisions too. Decisions that have generated big financial wins and created lifetime relationships. The problem is when I make a good decision, it may take years before I discover it actually was a good one.

I have also discovered that there is no such thing as an overnight success and while it may seem like success comes quickly to some, I guarantee it was a series of well executed decisions that could have been made over weeks or months, but more likely years. In my case, what I lack in talent, I make up in tenacity. However, regardless of good or bad, the bigger the decisions, the bigger the lesson learned.

As humans, we are pattern driven, so when we make a bad decision we mentally tick off the steps we took leading us to that fateful decision. We vow never to make that same mistake again. Conversely, when we win big, we want to duplicate the pattern carrying us to victory.

I have spent a career working in a service related industry. But aren’t we all in a service related industry? Unless you sit in a cubicle all day, shut off from the rest of the world, void of any human contact, you are in service too. Regardless of the product or service your company markets to the world, your day involves interacting with others, communicating and building relationships no matter what your widget is. And that is service.

I am no expert at decision making, but I do make lots of decisions, so if I had to say I was an expert at something, I would say that I am an expert at lesson learning. Lessons about service, life and relationships. If I had to go back and make some decisions again, I wish I had a checklist or primer to follow and although nothing can substitute a good lesson learned, a bit of foresight is not a bad thing.

You may not agree with all 50 (plus one) pieces of advice I offer, and you will certainly have a few that you could add that I don’t have on mine. This list is not all inclusive by any means. My goal in putting this list together is to get you thinking about your actions, decisions and how you handle yourself professionally and personally.

So let’s start off with the plus one lesson - never stop learning.

  1. Not everyone is a good customer for you.
  2. It’s ok to fire a client.
  3. Sometimes things are just beyond our control, and that’s ok.
  4. You are in charge of your behavior.
  5. As surprising as it is to me, not everyone is going to like me.
  6. Customer service rule one - deliver on every promise. Rule two - see rule one.
  7. Common sense is not so common.
  8. Nothing great was ever achieved by doing nothing great.
  9. It’s better to have a happy client.
  10. Saying “NO” is not always a bad thing.
  11. Saying “YES” is not always a good thing.
  12. Clients are sometimes unrealistic about their expectations and it’s ok to gently tell them.
  13. Nothing says thank you better than a handwritten thank you note.
  14. The customer is ALWAYS right, even when they aren’t right.
  15. Saying I’m sorry is the first step in dealing with an unhappy client.
  16. Being an expert in something doesn’t mean telling everything you know, every time.
  17. The best road to take is not always the one most traveled.
  18. Laughing at yourself is best for a healthy self esteem.
  19. Just because you know your client’s budget doesn’t mean you have to spend it all.
  20. When you are emailed questions from a client, it’s a good idea to answer every question. Not just the ones important to you.
  21. Thinking outside the box doesn’t pay the bills immediately, so get a job until your inside the box ideas don’t fit inside the box anymore.
  22. Being 15 minutes late is not on time.
  23. You are your own worst critic already, learn to be your biggest encourager as well.
  24. Alarm clocks are not my friend so I have learned to not use them.
  25. Listening is much better than talking. When in doubt, shut up.
  26. Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.
  27. There are many instances that signing “XOXO” on your signature line is ok.
  28. Never underestimate the power of one, especially if that one is you.
  29. Don’t discount the power of a good hug.
  30. Smiles are extremely contagious. Go ahead, give it a try.
  31. Conference calls and meetings should be used as a last resort.
  32. Attitude is everything.
  33. Never have a disagreement via text, email or social media.
  34. Book stores have these things called books in them with tons of useful information.
  35. Know a good idea when you steal it. And give proper credit.
  36. Catching someone doing something right will build a strong connection for you.
  37. Stopping to smell the roses is more than just an expression.
  38. I’ll call you right back is not just an expression.
  39. When someone compliments you on a job well done, be humble.
  40. Never quit, even when you fail, make adjustments and keep moving.
  41. Without support, reaching your goals will be impossible. Accept help.
  42. Fear is normal, but don’t let it hold you back.
  43. Nobody is watching, it’s ok to dance a little when you succeed.
  44. Nobody is watching, it’s ok to cry when you hit a bump in the road.
  45. Fair is a place with Ferris wheels and fried dough, sometimes life isn’t fair.
  46. If given the choice between reliable and skillful, choose reliable. You can train skill.
  47. There is no better you than you. Be yourself and no one else.
  48. Live each and every day with love in your heart.
  49. Live with purpose, be the best you can be.
  50. Nice guys finish first.

Which was your most favorite and least favorite? Generate your own list, or start a conversation with someone about one of the points on my list. If you feel compelled, take a red pen to my list. Go ahead, I can take it. My 4th grade math teacher taught me a valuable lesson about the real world with her red pen on my mathematics quizzes.

I welcome your comments below, feel free to share your lessons about life, relationships and customer service. Please visit the rest of my website by clicking here, or read a more depth description of the 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Service.

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