Learning from the past and looking to the future
“Some of us learn from other people’s mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people.”
The end of each year is a natural moment of reflection, and 2009 is no different. I’ve seen several articles here on PoliceOne and elsewhere which take lessons from the past and apply that knowledge to the year (and years) to come. As I read them I’m reminded of a question I’ve been asking experienced law enforcement professionals from across North America and the UK for some time now: “What would be one thing you know now that you wished you knew at the start of your career?”
A question I’ve been asking experienced law enforcement professionals from across North America and the UK is: “What would be one thing you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?” In fact, it’s a question I’ve had asked of me and one I ask of myself. PoliceOne has selected me to write a series of columns about the responses I’ve gotten, as well as some of my own answers to the question, “If I knew then...”
Tell me your story — send me an e-mail at email@example.com. Meanwhile, here is my debut column: “What’s Important Now.”
What’s Important Now?
As I reflect on these past 30 years I have come to the realization that there are so many things that I know now that I wish I knew when I started in the profession. In this series of articles I will share some of my thoughts on these lessons learned. These are not war stories but rather key concepts, principles, and philosophies that may have influenced the outcome in the stories.
The challenge is that there are so many things I wish I had known that it is difficult to know where to start. I have decided to begin with the philosophy of W.I.N., a simple but powerful acronym for what I truly believe is life’s most powerful question:
I borrowed this philosophy from Lou Holtz, the famous Notre Dame football coach. He would remind his players to ask themselves this question 35 times a day: when they awakened in the morning, in class and study hall, in the weight room, on the practice field, on the sidelines during a game, and when on the field during games.
As law enforcement professionals we need to take a lesson from Lou Holtz and ask ourselves this same question 35, 40, 50 times a day. Every day, in our personal and professional lives, we are faced with a number of choices and decisions — some more critical than others. Our responses to those choices (the decisions we make) can have a lasting impact on our health, relationships, careers and finances. If we are to achieve excellence in our lives we must constantly ask ourselves “What’s Important Now? Doing so forces us to focus on what is important and in the field it allows us to prioritize tasks and threats and to take the actions necessary to safely and effectively win each confrontation.
The problem for many of us at the start of our career however, is that we fail to understand the power of asking ourselves this question. As a result we often fail to prioritize the decisions we face.
What I have come to realize over the years is that this simple but powerful question has the potential to positively influence every aspect of our personal and professional life. Every day we are faced with choices. Choices about:
When I ask myself: “What would be one thing you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?” the answer I come up with is the concept of What’s Important Now?
If I had understood the power of that one question much earlier in my life it would have helped me make better decisions over the course of my life and my career. That one question would have helped me a better father, a better son, a better husband, a better cop, and a better trainer. That is why I believe it is life’s most powerful question and why I now build it into every presentation I deliver. That is why I have developed W.I.N. wristbands and have distributed over 6000 of them around North America to date.
As you go throughout your day, your career, and your life, let the question “What’s Important Now” guide your decisions and actions.
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