Leadership Lessons: Scribbles on an Envelope

It’s exciting, isn’t it, when we stumble across crumpled notes that have been lodged in our wallet for years … to discover timeless gems that we may have forgotten? I’ve earlier reported on the piece of paper carried in the wallet of  John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach, which bore the words written by his father on Wooden’s high school graduation.

Harvey Mackay, author of Swim with the Sharks, recounts the story about Gordon Dean, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission under Harry Truman. When Dean died in a plane crash in 1958, it’s been said that among his personal effects was an envelope with nine life lessons scribbled on the back, none of which had anything to do with atomic energy or science.

Here they are:

  1. Never lose your capacity for enthusiasm.
  2. Never lose your capacity for indignation.
  3. Never judge people – don’t type them too quickly. But in a pinch never first assume that a man is bad; first assume that he is good and that, at worst, he is in the gray area between bad and good.
  4. Never be impressed by wealth alone or thrown by poverty.
  5. If you can’t be generous when it’s hard to be, you won’t be when it’s easy.
  6. The greatest builder of confidence is the ability to do something – almost anything – well.
  7. When confidence comes, then strive for humility; you aren’t as good as all that.
  8. The way to become truly useful is to seek the best that other brains have to offer. Use them to supplement your own, and be prepared to give credit to them when they have helped.
  9. The greatest tragedies in the world and personal events stem from misunderstandings. So communicate!

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