My best ideas come from others

My best ideas come from others“My best ideas have mostly come from others. And a lot of them came from this man.” I heard those words at a retirement party for a mid-level manager, and they made a big impression on me. In my corporate life, I had attended a number of retirement parties which, while honoring of the retiree, were (frankly) pretty boring. However, at this event, the retiree’s boss included that statement in his brief speech. It was probably one of the most honoring things he could have said about the retiree. And I am sure the retiree remembered those words the rest of his life. Certainly, those words have stayed with me ever since.

I have realized that most of my good ideas have come from others. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I was fortunate in being able to always surround myself with a staff of talented managers who were constantly feeding me with ideas. (I later learned that a couple of them could not be trusted, but that is a different story, perhaps for a different time.) Some of my managers’ ideas were really good, some were fair, but many were great. As an example, one particular regional sales manager, who will remain nameless, (he will know who I am referring to) was constantly coming up with bold ideas to make corporate sales goals and beat the competition. Some of his ideas were a bit risky or I thought would be too challenging to management, but many were dynamite and helped our team excel. The key thing that I learned over the years is to listen to others and you will find a great source for what can be your best ideas. And be sure to give credit to the sources of those great ideas!

Much of the wisdom I have garnered over the years came from others. If I could have “do overs” and go back in time to the beginning of my career, I would want to take back with me some of that wisdom. Otherwise I would probably make the same mistakes again. Following are what I call my personal “pearls of wisdom” garnered over the years from folks I respected. I wish I had known all of this back when I was starting out in the business world.

Wisdom I Have Learned Over The Years

  • “Don’t be surprised when people do what you expect them to do.”
    —From my favorite boss at OMC, Sam Spink, VP OMC… who had to remind me of this several times over the years I worked for him during the first several years of my OMC career. Often when I would go storming into his office to complain about something someone did, he would patiently hear me out, then say these words again to me.
  • “You never build yourself up by tearing other people down!”
    —This I learned myself over the years after seeing a lot of people spend way too much time and energy gossiping and passing along negatives, real or not, about others in the company.
  • “You do best what you think about most.”
    —Again, some wisdom from my favorite OMC boss Sam Spink. And he was right. Those who “kept their head in the game” always did a better job.
  • “If a decision isn’t clear to you…don’t make it!”
    —From my mother when she was in her 80’s. My father had died years before and I was urging Mom to make an important decision. She wasn’t ready to decide and after getting tired of me pushing her to make a decision, gave me this real gem of wisdom. Oh how I wish I had followed this wisdom more often. But too often as a young guy, I took the approach, “Do something, and do it now, even if it is wrong.”
  • “If you think you can…or if you think you cannot…either way you will probably be right.”
    —I don’t know where I heard this but it stuck with me. After finishing Air Force flight school, I was shipped overseas and for a few months I was squadron adjutant. One day the commander called me into his office and gave me a project to do. I then gave him several reasons why I didn’t think it would work. He patiently listened to me then said, “Lieutenant, you just gave me several minutes of reasons why this won’t work. Now you go back to your office, think about it, and come back in here in an hour and give me some reasons why it will work.” Wow! That really hit me. So I thought hard about it and then went back to his office with several reasons why I thought I could make it work. He then smiled at me and said, “Make it happen Lieutenant.” And I did. But I learned from this incident and it really stuck with me.
  • “If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing… you’ll keep on getting what you’ve been getting.”
    This is sort of like what some folks call the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
  • “Things done or said in anger seldom work out very well.”
    —I have personally learned the hard way that anger usually results in the tongue temporarily working faster than the brain. This rarely brought positive results for me. Maybe like… never!
  • “What you do to others – either good or bad – usually ends up being done to you – with interest.”
    —I saw this many times in 30 years of corporate life. What I witnessed over the years was that some bosses would do some really bad things to peers or those reporting to them, often to the point that you wondered how they could get away with it for so long. But eventually… in some cases over a pretty long time… I saw them “get theirs” and, in many cases, lose their jobs, including some top management who were let go after years of mismanagement and mistreatment of other employees.
  • “Time Wounds All Heels”
    —This is my play on the words “time heals all wounds,” further to the point above. I so very often witnessed some people doing bad things to others in the business world as they tried to get ahead of the next guy, only to eventually have something bad happen to them. In other words, as mentioned above, they eventually “get theirs.” I have also seen when people would do good things for others… good things usually happened to them in return. I keep thinking I will write a book with the title “Time Wounds All Heels,” filled with examples of things I have witnessed over the years.
  • “If anyone speaks badly of you… try to live so that no one will believe it.”
    >—Unknown source. But a good thought.
  • “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make all of them yourself.”
    —Unknown source. But it points out the benefits of listening to others and learning from them.
  • “Titles and authority do not automatically mean competency or wisdom.”
    —Oh my but how I have witnessed this so much over the years. I saw people get a promotion and new title, or get hired from another industry and given a big title. And then their egos would take over and they would immediately act like they knew all the answers to the problems of the industry and the company as well as for their new job when, in fact, they should have acknowledged what we all knew… that they had a very big learning curve to deal with and should turn to those who could help them learn what they need to know to get up to speed and do a good job.
  • “When you take over an organization, assure employees that you do not intend to make big changes. This reassures them and helps them feel more comfortable with a new leader. Then slowly and gradually make the changes you feel should be made.”
    — I was taught this in Officer training in the Air Force.

And as regards the Air Force, following are some humorous bits of wisdom I learned from my flying days:

  • If you push the control stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull the stick back, they get smaller. That is unless you keep pulling the stick all the way back then they get bigger again. It is not healthy if they get too big!!
  • A “good” landing is one from which you can walk away. A “great” landing is one after which the aircraft can be used again.
  • And then, “There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.”
  • It is generally not advisable to eject over the area you just bombed.
  • Airspeed, altitude and brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight.
  • And last – Basic Flying Rules: “Try to stay in the middle of the air. Do not go near the edges of it. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.”

In conclusion, we should always tune in to what we can learn from others. We are never too old to get great ideas from others and acquire more wisdom that we can hopefully use as well as pass on. And we should all strive to do the best we can with the mental and physical gifts God has blessed each of us with. I know I did not learn all of this as early in my career and life as I wish I had. However, in my later years, I have learned that Prayer is amazingly powerful. I highly recommend it. That can serve you as well or better than any wisdom anyone can share.

About Ben H. Sherwood

Ben H. Sherwood is a marine industry veteran and a marketing consultant who operates Sherwood Marine Marketing in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. For more info, click About on the main menu.

3 thoughts on “My best ideas come from others

  1. Very astute piece, Ben. Too bad we all take so long to learn these business and human relations truths.

  2. Hi Ben , Great thoughts, Sam Spink was truely one of the great ones. Your comments remind me of a couple pearls from Sam. “always date everything”and
    “If you do not think you will like the answer do not ask the question”. Truly one of the great ones.

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