Hard Lessons to Learn

Here’s a great post learning lessons by Lily Kreitinger. Lily’s specializes in helping companies effectively train their team members. Follow Lily on LinkedIn. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.

I met Liz on the first day of class at a small teaching college in Mexico City, and we soon became close friends.

You couldn’t help but smile when you were around Liz. She was this bubbly redhead with freckles, an only child after the tragic loss of her newborn baby brother when she was 5 years old. Her parents adored her. She had tons of friends, most of them from her church. Through the four years we attended college, we spent a lot of time together. She taught me much about being on fire for the Lord and truly witnessing to one’s faith.

Close to graduation, we decided start our own practice treating children with learning disabilities. It was an exciting experience. Her dad agreed to finance our business, and we rented an office. We scrubbed the carpets clean, painted walls and picked out office furniture. We designed a logo and some business cards, and printed out flyers that we gave out at the mall and grocery store. We were ready to conquer the world.

After two years of hustling, we were making zero money.  Her dad just kept paying our bills. We needed to start making a living, and I felt increasingly uncomfortable.  I told her that I didn’t think it was fair to her family, and I valued our friendship too much to continue. We went our separate ways.

We kept in touch, but our friendship became distant. One day, I got a call from my mom. “Liz’s mom called to let us know she passed away,” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. She was only 25. It turns out that Liz had gone on a mission trip and got chicken pox. She had other health issues that resulted in the virus infecting all of her internal organs. She was so disfigured that she didn’t want her mom and dad to tell anyone. She had been hospitalized at a clinic that was literally a few doors down from my house. We attended the funeral and tried to comfort her heartbroken fiancé. I never talked to her parents again. I didn’t know how to.

These are the tough lessons I learned through this experience. They can apply for an entrepreneur.

  • Take a hard look at what you want to accomplish. Stick to your passion and your dream, and turn your dreams into realistic goals.
  • Don’t be afraid to do it all when you start up. Clean the toilets, scrub the carpets,  hand out flyers… and then change into your dressy clothes when it’s time to talk to your clients.
  • If you’re not profitable, change your strategy and set a deadline to pull the plug.
  • If you must choose between friendship and business, pick friendship.
  • You are NOT invincible and you don’t know it all. Ask for some candid advice, and seek guidance and mentoring.
  • ALWAYS tell those around you that you love them and appreciate them. I wish I had told Liz how much she meant in my life.

 Questions:  Are there any business decisions that you have made that you would like to take back? What are the lessons that YOU have learned?


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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

59 thoughts on “Hard Lessons to Learn”

  1. What a sad story Lily. Really drives home how important it is to value relationship/friendship over money. (One of my favorite points you just made.) That, and not being afraid to get dirty.
    My business card says I’m the General Manager. I have 11 people working with me – but that will never give me some sort of weird entitlement that excludes me from grunt work.
    I take the bus to distant client meetings if need be. That’s what our teachers will eventually have to do.  That’s what leaders do – if you have not done, don’t expect someone else to do it. 
    Bad business moves? I would take back a few hires I made. (Key words: hires I MADE. Not enough of a recruitment process a few years ago.) 
    Biggest bad: getting into debt. Plain stupid – if you are reading this and are thinking about doing it —- DON’T. Run far, far, far away from getting yourself into debt. Lesson learned, and a regret at the same time.

    1. @Aaron Nelson Great points Aaron! I love your comment about taking the bus. You’re acting like the leader you’re GOING to be…therefore you will be that leader!! Keep on keepin on!

    2.  @Aaron Nelson  I totally get the bus deal… except that I know the transit system in Mexico City is not the safer, most efficient or comfortable.  The fact that you’re willing to be uncomfortable will speak volumes to your team. As the “General Manager” riding the bus is not beneath you.   In Mexican culture, this is a HUGE deal.  Sadly, my people are sometimes really hung up on status and titles.  Great way to be an EntreLeader!

  2. Touching story Lily, thanks for being willing to share.
    The biggest decisions I wish I could take back are making job decisions based on what I DIDN’T want. Let me explain. More than once when a job has started getting unbearable and I decide it’s time to move on, I simply take the next job that is offered to me. My interest in the job is little more than “it’s not the job I’m leaving” this results in a sort of honeymoon phase when I enjoy the new job, challenges, and learning. But without fail every time it’s led me to discontent and I’m trying to find a way off the sinking boat…even if it’s onto another sinking boat!
    What I learned? Keep my options open always. Unless its your absolute dream job, constantly be aware of opportunities nearer to the dream job, so you aren’t caught making an impulse decision based on simply getting away from something.

    1.  @Skropp  My friend, you sound like a Quitter Conference candidate. HA!  It’s so great how you have learned from this and that you’ve identified the correlation between your choices and the results.  I am sure you will soon find what you’re looking for… because you’re now ready for it.

        1. @lilykreitinger Haha. They will be. My wife always yells at me for having 2-3 books I’m reading at a time haha. I’m almost done with Total Money Makeover, and my brother is going to let me borrow EntreLeadership when he finishes it 🙂

    2.  @Skropp Sounds like you might benefit from reading Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love. I admire you for always finding jobs. I feel your pain for landing in ones that don’t fit. Before self-employment, my longest job was 3 years. (And it was L O N G)

      1. @cabinart I read Dan’s book about a month ago and am working through the schedule now 🙂 I thought I’d benefit from it too once I heard about it. I’m really wanting to move towards self employment I think

        1.  @Skropp  I knew that. There is a group of “gurus” that all seem connected. If we know of Chris, we know of Dave, Dan, Michael, John, Andy, and don’t even need to use their last names! Good for you – looking forward to hearing what you figure out.
          And, if you read it a month ago, you should know in 18 more days, right? 😎

        2. @cabinart Haha yep. I was actually introduced to Dan first, and then moved to Chris, Dave, Micheal, Andy etc.
          Ya, I’m currently making a list of companies to send intro letters to. It’s been the hardest part, finding companies I want to work for…the difficulty in it is making me think I may be more suited for self employment haha

        3.  @Skropp  When stuff is really hard, I ask myself “What is the worst thing that can happen?”
          Maybe someone will toss your letter. Maybe someone will like you and call you and you won’t be home. Maybe someone will like you, call you, and you won’t like him.
          I’m guessing you can live with all of those. (I’m guessing you can come up with some worse scenarios!)
          If you figure out how to handle all the Worsts, you’ll get through it!
          Don’t give up yet – this might just be the hardest hill you have to climb in the journey to find work you love.  

        4. @cabinart You know, it’s not so much what will they do with it? It’s more so I live in a super small town and so the amount of businesses that would want or need someone to do what I like doing is fairly limited. Haha

        5.  @Skropp  @cabinart How small of a town? Mine is 2600, and half of them are part-timers. Just trying to make you feel better, not bragging on the microscopic nature of my town.

  3. Great post, Lily. You do a great job of pulling business lessons from many life experiences! There are many decisions I wish I could take back, but know I cannot. It helps me to learn from them and move on with grace. As I work with clients on interviewing, I always encourage them to use what they view as negative life/work experiences and share those in an interview along with what they have learned from that experience. 
    Most of all, I like your encouragement to stick to your dreams and passions, turning them into realistic goals.

      1.  @lilykreitinger It seems to be the only way I have learned -I have heard that you can learn from your mistakes but its smarter to learn from other people’s mistakes!  I guess I’ve never been that smart!

  4. Every bullet point takes courage to perform (and learn) each lesson, and reminds me of the Monk and the Merchant book where it encourages people to be bold before men, but meek before God. It also takes courage to recall the lessons and learn from them, especially what happened later with your friend. It would be very easy to look back on the situation filled with regret because of what happened, rather than recognize the important lessons learned. You clearly did a great job learning from the lessons and not from the bad things that followed. Great post, Lily!

    1. Thanks Jonathan!!  I’m going to reveal that age, because I’m almost 40 and this happened 15 years ago.  Until that day I posted a comment on it, I realized how much I dread being an entrepreneur because of the way things turned out back then.  It’s the old “hindsight is 20/20”.  I know I can make up for lost time by applying the things I know now to make smarter career decisions, but I won’t get my friend back during my time on Earth.  However, I can be thankful for the good times and good memories and the time we spent together.

    2.  @Jonathan Henry  
      Thanks Jonathan!!  I’m going to reveal my age, because I’m almost 40 and this happened 15 years ago.  Until that day I posted a comment on it, I realized how much I dread being an entrepreneur because of the way things turned out back then.  It’s the old “hindsight is 20/20”.  I know I can make up for lost time by applying the things I know now to make smarter career decisions, but I won’t get my friend back during my time on Earth.  However, I can be thankful for the good times and good memories and the time we spent together.

      1.  @lilykreitinger  Lord willing, you have years ahead to implement the lessons learned so far. I am fifty-freakin’-two, and trying to catch my experiences up to my years.

        1.  @LouiseThaxton   Aren’t we just amazing, considering what fifties used to look like and do?? 😎

    3. @Jonathan Henry Isn’t it amazing that we always pull lessons out of extremely difficult experiences? I think it’s partly our mind’s way of coping with the struggle and trama, as well as way to make every experience worth something.

      1.  @Skropp  It’s not always easy, nor do the results turn out well. Take World War I: great authors like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Hemmingway experienced the atrocity of war… but so did Hitler. Their shared traumatic experience was a common thread, but the people that the authors surrounded themselves with (other creatives) helped them cope. The people that Hitler surrounded himself with (agitators) helped create things more atrocious all while trying to make the previous experience worth something.

        1. @Jonathan Henry Great point Jonathan! The way you view things is so important in moving forward…and how you view things is affected by who you surround yourself with!

  5. It would have been good if I had learned to paint earlier in my career. I spent years struggling to build my business based on a product that few people value. My thought was that I just needed to get better. Problem was, I just didn’t know about that list of what sells best! (Ignorance is NOT bliss.) Pencil is at the bottom of the hierarchy of marketability in art; oil is at the top. The years spent in pencil have helped me get up to speed faster in painting, but if only I had begun sooner. . .  
    Instead of regrets about business choices, I have questions. What if? What now? What next? (Who’s on First and what’s on Second)

    1. Jana, I so enjoy your comments! If you decide to switch careers again, try stand-up comedy!   The years you spent doing pencil have trained your eye to catch what others miss.  Just my humble opinion 🙂

      1.  @lilykreitinger Lily, you are smart, insightful, kind, thoughtful, brave and just plain GOOD. I really enjoy reading everything you have written – thank you so much!

    2.  @cabinart I would focus on the future. Instead of “what if?” try “what is my next step to get to where I would like to be?” The experiences and training you have had will help you reach where you want to go, it just may not be clear how yet. Continue on the journey looking forward!

      1.  @ChristianNick Probably need a blend of both reflecting on the past in order to learn and looking down the road in order to plan. . . thanks for the encouragement!

    3. @cabinart I dont know’s on third….

      Great points! It’s like what Dan Miller talks about. Having a business plan in place, doing the research or the demand for your product or service.

      1.  @Skropp   Thanks, couldn’t remember about third. And I’ve ALWAYS wondered how to do a business plan. Tried a few times, ended up wasting time and paper and never looking at it again. Hmmm, could that be the problem?

        1. @cabinart I’m in that boat too. On Dan’s podcast last week he said there’s a form on his website to help with that. It’s in the “resource” section. I’m going to take a look for it when I get home…

        2.  @cabinart  @Skropp I use a “simple business plan” – and use one for each project – It is furnished by a coaching company I use – Building Champions.   If you like, I’ll send you a copy.  

        3.  @LouiseThaxton  @Skropp That is a lovely offer – thank you Louise! (and I’ve been wondering where you’ve been lately.)

    4.  @cabinart Have to tell you this.  My mother was over 40 when she took her first official art lessons.  We always knew that she was talented – but she just wouldn’t invest in herself.  After she took those first lessons, she just took off!  Within one year, she was teaching art – then she was selling art -then she was president of the local art guild!  She died at the age of 62 – and her paintings are treasured by family and friends (and her former customers).  But when I think about it – she only did it 22 years – but she will be remembered forever for the legacy she left in oil (and pencil and chalk!) 

      1.  @LouiseThaxton Wow, she died young. What a powerhouse she must have been – teaching within one year is stunning, and selling art is off-the-charts! Thank you for sharing that story.

    1. @JoelFortner Great point Joel. I read your post that you linked to. It’s so true. We get hyped on our purpose, then we get caught up in the everyday junk and push our purpose out of sight, out of mind.

    2.  @JoelFortner Great comment and great post Joel! Wow!  I can completely relate.  We get so lost in “what to do” that we forget why we’re doing it.  I think you’re doing a fine job of teaching others… maybe you take after your amazing wife. 🙂

    3.  @JoelFortner Joel – excellent post you wrote on staying focused on the mission!   And how well I know – distraction can keep us from the “right plan and the right direction….”  Blessed you are to have a great helpmate in life to keep you focused.  Left you a comment on your blog also.  

  6. Thanks Lily! Thanks for those tips. — “If you must choose between friendship and business, pick friendship.” — That’s really a gem. It’s a rare virtue. I hardly find it these days.
    And, many thanks for sharing your personal story.

  7. Wow, Lilly.  This was extremely moving.  I was touched by this when you briefly eluded to it the other day in the comments, but this is a very compelling story.
    As far as business decisions I have learned, right at the top of the list (among many things) is to always “hand complaints up” as Chris talks about.  I have never had any trouble “handing compliments down”, however.  Recognition has always been a strong suit of mine with my team, but as Proverbs says “A fool vents all his anger, but a wise man holds his tongue.”  

    1. @skottydog Man! That’s a tough one! There are sooo many people willing to listen to your complains that you shouldn’t share them with…you really gotta be vigilant to keep from sharing them!

      1.  @Skropp  @skottydog I’ve learned that now, and fortunately it’s not too late.  The gossips have moved on to someone else.  I’ve disconnected from the negative people and try to surround myself with the uplifting folks!  Makes the day go faster!  And better!

  8. Yes!  Several decisions I have made that I wish I could take back – and ALL of them I made without seeking “wise counsel”.  If only I would have “….asked for some candid advice…..” and sought guidance and mentoring, those choices might could have been averted ……

  9. Lily-  powerful story, I also meant to say.  It illustrates the point that we should do our best to remain in contact with those friends who mean so much to us.  It’s challenging when “life” is going on – but heartbreaking when we discover that we won’t have another chance to connect.  Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Good to read this very interesting story by Lily Kreitinger . I  would like to thank for sharing the great tips about the tough lessons .I think we should always choose friendship first  between the business and friendship.

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