The Rear View Mirror, Knowledge Is Power

I find myself adjusting fairly well to the “banner birthday” I have coming up this year. I know that some women don’t like discussing their age, I really have no problem with it. I am proud to say that I will be turning 50 this year. I suppose I am almost looking forward to it. In fact, I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far, and face this half century milestone standing tall (until the knee starts aching…and the back…then I need to sit for awhile). OK, so maybe my body won’t stand as tall as my heart and soul will. Which makes sense to me, considering my heart and soul are pretty sure I’m not a day over 25.

When I start thinking about these last few decades, they are a blur – marriage, children, the crowded house, the emptying nest. Looking back, I always appreciated the big milestones; kids taking their first steps, their first day of school, teaching them to drive, graduating from high school, sending them off to college. What is interesting, however, is how significant all the seemingly intangible milestones became. Like when the girls didn’t need the liquid medicine anymore because they learned how to swallow pills, or when they first got to wear make up, and when they learned how to shave their legs. None of these are your typical Hallmark card milestones (although a greeting card for the first time one shaves might be fun, perhaps little bits of red tissue paper stuck to the front of the card).

So, I have come to appreciate those random and unexpected milestones. Like the one we recently hit. The one where my two college students, who also have part time jobs, learned about writing checks to Uncle Sam.

Yep. My girls learned about taxes. They have watched us over the years balancing checkbooks, saving for rainy days, paying bills – and yes – doing our taxes. My husband and I have it down, he is Mr. Organized, and I am Miss. Tax Form Queen. This year, the girls learned more than they wanted to about taxes.

As I was explaining how the system works (…your place of employment takes “y” out of each check. “x” is the percentage of your earnings you need to pay in taxes, because you need to pay “x”, and they only took out “y”, you get the honor of writing a check to make up the difference.) I pointed out that no matter how painful writing that check is, by recognizing this early on, one can prepare themselves for next year. How they can request a set amount be taken out, or they can save a certain amount each month to go toward that payment they may have to make to the IRS. We went through dozens of scenarios, proving once again that knowledge is power.

And getting that knowledge early on is even more powerful. For all things – not just taxes!

And if we are talking about powerful knowledge, is there anything more powerful than understanding your strengths and talents? Think about that a minute, if you knew “then” what you know “now” about your strengths, wouldn’t it have been one of the best gifts of knowledge ever? I’ve had a great life, and have been pretty successful at what I do…but when I think about some of the lumps I took along the way, some of the choices I made…I could have easily avoided numerous chaotic phases in my life. If I’d spent my energy fixing what was wrong by focusing on what was right, as opposed to beating my head against the wall fighting what was wrong, some roads may have been much, much smoother.

If nothing else, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have lost so much sleep wondering why things were going the way they were!

The way I see it, teaching my girls about taxes is important – but how much more important is it to teach them about their strengths!? If I knew in college what I know now about my strengths, I would have been far more prepared to choose a major. Far more prepared to enter the workforce. Far more prepared for everything!

Maybe this type of insight only comes from the miles one has already traveled: the decades as seen through the rear view mirror; the defeats, the victories. Perhaps this is why I am ok with turning 50…I have earned an appreciation for the wisdom I have gathered over this last half century!

So – here comes my sage advice: if you haven’t taken the StrengthsFinder assessment – take it. When you get the results, take your time reading the information regarding your top five strengths. And when you finish, read it again so you can really absorb it. Trust me, you will find yourself having these “ah hah” moments left and right. Next, embrace those strengths and make them your own, because they really ARE your own. Go through the exercises that that are given to you after completing the assessment…your “ah hah” moments will continue and a way to apply your strengths will begin to emerge. Finally, if you have an older teen, or young twenty something, have them take the assessment as well…share this tool with them, because knowledge IS power – and knowing their strengths is one of the tools that will help them along their journey. And who knows, perhaps even change the decades viewed through their own rear view mirror as they reach a half century!

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Shelley Hom is a technology manager with the State of California who was introduced to Strengths Finder through a leadership academy at work. Using what she has learned both in her work and personal life, she mentors colleagues, family and friends on using ones’ strengths to get them where they want to go! When she isn’t working, she loves hanging out with people and enjoying the simple things life has to offer; laughing, chatting, reading, and let’s not forget writing – all usually done with a really good cup of coffee close at hand! Outside of blogging for 34strong Shelley’s own blog can be found at: www.myhomworld.com

Her top five are: Input, Intellection, Connectedness, Communication, Positivity.

Photo credits: stockphotosecrets.com