Older and Wiser?

Today is my 47th birthday! A time for celebration and reflection.

May 14 each year is the day when I invariably find myself looking back over...

Today is my 47th birthday! A time for celebration and reflection.

May 14 each year is the day when I invariably find myself looking back over the previous 12 months to see if I have succeeded or failed when it comes to making the most of life and focusing on the things that matter. For a long time, I have been convinced that we all need to do whatever we can to ensure that we are in a position to enjoy those rare, special, wonderful experiences that can light up our whole being.

Companies regularly turn to a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to showthem how they can do better, both internally and externally. As individuals, though, we rarely conduct our own version of a SWOT analysis. I have come to the conclusion that it is beneficial if we do – and why not on a birthday? For obvious reasons (see below) I call it the “4L” analysis and it requires answers to four questions:

  1. Who did you LOVE?
  2. What did you LEARN?
  3. How did you deal with LOSING?
  4. What will be your LEGACY?


  1. Who did you LOVE?

    This is about all those people in my life who acted as a mirror, who invested their emotional time in order to help me become better at my craft, and who were honest enough to let me know where and when I failed. Most importantly, they told me if I had failed them. These are the people whom I call loyal friends and they are the ones that gave birth to the other three parts of the “4L” analysis.

  2. What did you LEARN?

    I realize that to learn more, you need to have more people around you from category 1 above.
    When it comes to one’s capacity as a professional, I have learnt, for example, that for others to count on you (and to hire you), you need to be knowledgeable, punctual and prompt. I was reminded of this earlier this year when I responded within minutes to a message I had been sent. This, in turn, led to the sender telling me with a mixture of surprise and admiration, “People at your level don't reply to my messages." I told him that those who he describes as “people at my level” are actually those who are prompt and reliable, which is what I strive to be every day.
  3. How did you deal with LOSING?

    One of my all-time favourite sayings is “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” If you have managed to learn a lesson from failure, you have immediately moved into category 2 above. In my 47 years, I have had many disappointments and setbacks. One such was an address that I gave, which didn’t live up to my audience’s expectations or my own. I had totally prepared for it but it just didn’t work as I had intended it to. Even though I walked off the stage to (polite) applause, I had been paid well in advance and was congratulated on the flight home by someone who had been there, I was still unhappy with my performance.
    How did I deal with losing? I came home ready to break down my performance and find out how to improve (What did you learn?). I watched the video of my presentation over a dozen times, pausing it at every turn, enrolling the help of my trusted advisors and loyal friends (Who did you love?)and asked them for their honest feedback. With their help, I learned, I understood, I improved and I never made the same mistakes again. Losing should always be seen as an opportunity for gaining later.

  4.  What will be your LEGACY?

    Only recently I gave a talk at Google about finding our inner compass. It was all about leading a life on which we will eventually look back with pride and a feeling of fulfilment; about making meaningful connections with people, taking difficult but morally correct decisions in life and, mostly importantly, following our hearts. Everything we leave behind, including the effect and impact we have had on everyone around us, becomes part of our legacy. We need to be the very best we can be because, at the end of the day, as Steve Jobs said, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

As I celebrate my 47th birthday, following my heart is all about answering the questions in my 4L analysis. I recommend that you try your own when the time comes for blowing out those birthday candles. Hopefully it will convince you that you have become older and wiser.