Keep Your Zest and Hug Your Firsts!

Accountability Growth mindset


Key Point: Last week was “Learn at Work Week.” While I strongly believe in continuous learning during all 52 weeks, this particular week involves a search light type focus on the subject.  All this concentrated conversation about learning reinforced my view that high impact leaders are hungry learners with insatiable appetites. As the proverb says, “it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” True leaders appreciate they will never know it all.

In 1990, the late and celebrated Stanford professor John W. Gardner gave a speech on this topic to executives at the renowned consulting firm, McKinsey and Company. He questioned and reflected on what might be the personal attribute that allows individuals to keep learning, growing, and changing, to escape their fixed attitudes and habits. According to a recent HBR blog by Bill Taylor, Gardner responded to his rhetorical question this way: “Not anything as narrow as ambition. After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die.” He then offered a simple maxim to guide the accomplished leaders in the room. “Be interested,” he urged them. “Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested.”

In the same blog Taylor cites a recently published book called The 10 Essential Hugs of Life, by Roy Spence. Some examples include, “Hug your failures,” “Hug your fears,” “Hug yourself,” “Hug your firsts.” In his book, Spence notes: “When you’re a kid, every day is full of firsts, full of new experiences. As you get older, your firsts become fewer and fewer. If you want to stay young, you have to work to keep trying new things.”

The idea of replenishing ZEST through seeking firsts and fully embracing the “new” in life much like a bright-eyed child is a wonderful thought and reminder. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Seek out and hug your firsts. This is the beautiful mindset of viewing all the new in our daily lives. It could be a person we meet for the first time, a concept we’ve never thought about, a book we’ve never read, a new website, personal best during a work out, the list goes on. And as Spence says, “hug them all!!” 
  2. Remember that the way to be interesting is to be interested. Who can resist someone who is genuinely interested? When someone wants to really learn something about us it is hard not to connect with that person. We usually find them very interesting… Hmm.

Zestful hugs in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Sometimes as a 20-something, firsts are seemingly experienced all the time by a lot of people you know… It’s usually that newly engaged/married friend, or that person buying their first house, etc. Those are HUGE, but it’s not hard to appreciate (hug) those things… Although I’m developing and looking forward to the big “firsts,” it’s still important to always be doing something new that you’re looking forward to. I always want to be planning a fresh, exciting new “first.” Who wants to go skydiving?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis