Lesson from a List of Lessons

There is always something more to learn.

Shaun Holloway
Lessons from Ordinary
12 min readSep 10, 2016


One of my flights back home. Believe it or not, one of my published story objects came from this area. Can you guess which one?

When I first started the journey of discovering lessons from objects, I was wondering if there could be enough lessons or if lessons would ever repeat. Well, I don’t have to worry about that! There is always something that can be learned from the things we interact with everyday.

Below is the aggregated list of lessons from every story that I have written. I will keep this list updated each time I publish a new one. All of the lessons in one place. Enjoy!

Lesson from a Step Ladder, Part II: The Great Resignation

  • Pay attention to your past experiences to help guide your future
  • A ladder is good for more than getting to a higher place
  • Listen and have faith in others who support you
  • Focus on the end-game, not on the limits of a tool’s primary purpose

Lesson from a Night of Fireworks

  • Humans like pretty things.
  • Humans like to stare at things that don’t happen often.
  • Humans like to see and feel power.
  • Human like to socialize with other humans.

Lesson from a Creepy Chair

  • Objects from opposite places put in the same place are the creepiest
  • Never miss an opportunity to create a place to share a story
  • Not everything is as it seems

Lesson from a Two-year Writing Hiatus

  • It’s okay to hit the pause button to regain focus.
  • Share for the right people. It’s hard, but reader numbers don’t matter.
  • Life lessons come in phases. Balance them to feel fulfilled.
  • Let others influence your writing and how you think about your impact.

Lesson from a Blown Theater Projector

  • Give professionals a chance. Stay out of the way and let them do their job.
  • Respect the expertise and experience of others
  • Once you live through a crises with people, you’ve bonded on another level together
  • Be prepared. Stuff happens.

Lesson from a Toothpick

  • Practice looking for answers outside of normal constraints
  • Creative thinking leads to creative innovation
  • Avoid getting stuck within boundaries that only exist in your mind
  • Do out-of-the-box thinking exercises as a group for creative team-building

Lesson from a Bucket [List]

  • Write down your lofty goals
  • Learn what inspires you and determine what should be memorable
  • There is never enough time
  • Involve someone else in helping you check off your bucket list items. It will make them that much more meaningful.

Lesson from a Phone Jack

  • Knowing how people work is more important than the tools they use to get the job done.
  • Future-proofing is about understanding the principles of “why” something works not “how” it works.
  • Obsolete technology may never go away.
  • Reliability is proven over time through calculated planning and forward thinking.

Lesson from a Russian Nesting Doll

  • Complicated things don’t get less complicated; they get understood
  • “The past is only a guidepost… not a hitching post.” ~ Thomas Holcroft
  • Whatever happened in the past was meant to be; otherwise, it would not have happened
  • Respect the past, but reject status quo

Lesson from a Street Brick from OHIO

  • Don’t be shy about telling your story
  • Share the history of the ground you’re walking on
  • Appreciate the places you go and those that came before you
  • Reflect on the moments that shape who you are

Lesson from a Step Ladder

  • What got you here won’t necessarily get you there.
  • Know what rung of the career ladder you’re on.
  • Climb up or step down… either way, a new ladder may just be what you need to reach higher.
  • Don’t forget about the little, old ladder that got you where you are; at the same time, don’t let it stop you from getting a bigger, newer one.

Lesson from a Drop of Water

  • Never stop being amazed.
  • Never stop being curious.
  • Never stop being magical.
  • Never stop being yourself.

Lesson from a Wild Mushroom

  • You always have to look out for number one, yourself.
  • Create and influence your own environment
  • Help others avoid shriveling up and dying in a bad environment
  • Not everyone “needs the sun” to grow and thrive

Lesson from a Streetless Fire Hydrant

  • Some things aren’t understood, until the “just in case” actually happens
  • It’s hard to know when you’ll need what you need until you need it
  • There’s usually a good a reason why things were done or exist they way they do — we just may not know it yet.
  • We need to worry about the important things, and we can do that, because someone else already thought about giving us the just in case.

Lesson from a Handful of M&M’s

  • “Everybody” is not a target market.
  • Develop a niche of loyal customers and a solid product before trying to grow exponentially.
  • Remain relevant to the core market by adapting to what they pay attention to and how they get things done.
  • Become sharable.

Lesson from a 2,000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle

  • The environment and tools matter, if you want a job done right and on schedule.
  • To increase productivity speed, start big and then drill down your focus
  • Organizing chaos takes planning, time, and technique.
  • The unseen can become seen, eventually.

Lesson from a Forgotten Golf Course

  • Where an idea fails, there is another to pick up where it left off… eventually, the failure is forgotten… the only thing left to see is OPPORTUNITY.
  • Understand what made something a success… and failure.
  • Take care of what you have or nature will take it back.

Lesson from a Sand Hourglass Timer

  • Meetings shouldn’t be had for meeting sake.
  • Respecting someone’s time will result in great ROI.
  • Follow through with what you say you are going to do.
  • We all only have so much time.

Lesson from a Cedar Point Park Map

  • Don’t overdue something that just needs to be simple.
  • People are still fascinated by and need maps, no matter their form.
  • Art and functionality don’t always work well together.
  • When working with the general public, pleasing the majority is a must, and somebody will always complain.

Lesson from a TV Show Script

  • The more we think we’re different, the more the same we are.
  • Human emotion and belief systems are too powerful to truly comprehend.
  • Try to understand why others believe what they do.
  • Do what you think is right, and always stand by the people you care about.

Lesson from a 3.5" Floppy Disk

  • Keep some of those old pieces of technology. You never know when it might come back in style.
  • “The good ole days” is actually happening right now.
  • Tell the stories of how things were, so the next generation can appreciate how we got where we are.
  • Don’t be afraid to let go of old technology and embrace the new stuff.

Lesson from a Bunch of New Leaves

  • We should all strive to see and follow the light.
  • There is strength beneath the surface… you don’t need to see it, in order to feel it.
  • If you take care of a tree, it will return the favor exponentially.
  • Plant a tree, so the next generation can see and love what trees offer.

Lesson from a Coat of Arms

  • The family has and continues to be the backbone of human survival.
  • Take ownership and pride in your heritage
  • Keep history alive by digitizing the past and sharing it
  • Make your own mark on the world but do so with honor and generosity

Lesson from a Dog Treat

  • Things you forgot you had could still have great value.
  • Incentives don’t need to be complicated.
  • People are greedy to the point of unrealistic expectations.
  • The reasons why people buy haven’t changed, but the message has become more emotional than logical.

Lesson from a Holly Tree

  • Break routine and choose a different direction to discover something new
  • Go off the path once in a while
  • If something looks like it should be left alone, leave it alone.
  • Plant a tree

Lesson from a Dead Ash Tree

  • Often, we need to let nature run its course.
  • No matter what protections are in place, there is always something that aims to destroy.
  • The nature of nature is to change. We need to adopt and adapt.
  • Visit an arboretum frequently to celebrate and appreciate our trees.

Lesson from a Quiet Snowfall

  • Shut up and listen to your environment. You might hear something you need to hear.
  • The bonds that nature has built within itself exist within each of us.
  • It only takes a small amount of effort to screw something up. Apply force in the right places and in the right amounts.
  • If only humans behaved and treated one another like quiet snowflakes.

Lesson from a Carpenter

  • There is perfect within imperfect.
  • A carpenter sees and creates what we need to survive.
  • Be there for those that need you.
  • Celebrate the birth of Jesus and let Him shape you.

Lesson from a Jigsaw Puzzle

  • Spend energy on things that encourage you to finish.
  • If a piece doesn’t fit, don’t force it.
  • Don’t underestimate the need to have a functional and efficient space to get things done. It’ll change the way you feel about work and play.
  • Open old boxes… you never know what you’ll find inside.

Lesson from a Coca-Cola Bottle

  • Marketing needs to focus on the fundamentals of human behavior.
  • Technology and marketing are connected like a strand of DNA.
  • Personalization has long-tail effects — you just need to be patient.
  • Sharing life experiences with others is what makes life worth living.

Lesson from a Pixel

  • Experts are humble with their work often going unnoticed.
  • The difference between a professional and an amateur is one pixel.
  • Sometimes you need to focus on what you’re not seeing.
  • Quality is a matter of perspective and preference.

Lesson from a Simple Old Key

  • Understand what it is you treasure
  • Know how many “keys” you hold and what they access
  • The easiest way to protect your digital information is to unplug.
  • Movies from the 1980s knew how to tell a great story.

Lesson from a Web Cam

  • It’s easier to hold people accountable to paying attention while on camera.
  • Money can be saved by reducing the cost of travel and meeting through video conferencing.
  • Increase revenue and brand value by reaching larger audiences quicker.
  • People work together better by seeing each others’ eye balls.

Lesson from a Year of Stories

  • Know your writing style and learn to appreciate it
  • Figure out how to apply the advice from your mentors
  • Writing provides a sense of achievement and credibility in your craft
  • Find the right combination of tools and channels that fit you

Lesson from a Pine Cone

  • Many pine cones fall from trees. Only a few make it.
  • Don’t hope to be carried away and transplanted. You may just rot away where you are.
  • Some pine cones will just rot. Don’t worry about them.
  • Invest your money where you invest your time.

Lesson from a Cloud at 37,500 Feet

  • No one one else will care about your data, unless you do.
  • YOU SHOULD CARE about what data is out there about you.
  • YOU SHOULD CARE about the data you put out there about yourself.
  • Thank your technology staff for trying to keep your data safe.
  • We all must be careful and watch out for one another.

Lesson from a Seashell Snail

  • Nature is still the best artist.
  • You need to turn over a lot of shells before you find the one you’ve been looking for.
  • You won’t know it until you see it. Where “it” is something personal.
  • The best defense is actually perfect camouflage.

Lesson from a Dinosaur Fossil

  • Respect the past, but reject the status quo. Constantly change, refine, and improve processes and systems.
  • Think how we can, not why we can’t. Complaining and blaming doesn’t lead to results. Offer solutions not roadblocks.
  • Policies and procedures are not excuses to getting the job done.
  • What is ordinary and simple to one person is not to another.
  • Suck it up and embrace change.

Lesson from a Hand-carved Rock

  • Creativity is common across cultures and boundaries.
  • The imperfection of human skills is where creativity and art begin.
  • Patience and art have an interdependent relationship.
  • Apply honest effort and a personal touch to what you do, and it will be appreciated and shared.

Lesson from a Printed Newspaper

  • Balance will be restored in every occasion, eventually.
  • If you chase money, you will never catch it.
  • The next generation will experience life in ways we cannot imagine.
  • When there is no power and the batteries are dead, you can still read the paper.

Lesson from a Silent Radio

  • Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in your own mind.
  • Reflection of thought leads to confidence and peace.
  • Invest in your own professional development. All the time.
  • Always seek more knowledge.
  • You never know what you will find on the road.

Lesson from a Lego Brick

  • Distract yourself to solve your most difficult problems.
  • Study your customers enough to really understand them.
  • The simplest things in our lives can often be the most complex.
  • You can still learn from your childhood toys as an adult.

Lesson from a Golf Ball

  • Be the “professional” of your own life.
  • Break down the big goal and get your direction set.
  • Work the situation you’re in and set up your next shot.
  • No one is born a professional at anything.
  • Write down your bucket list.

Lesson from a Super Nintendo Controller

  • You never really forget what you practiced many hours doing.
  • Appreciate what got you where you are.
  • Memories are meant to shape who we will become.
  • Sometime, we just need to evolve… or grow up.

Lesson from a Paper

  • Don’t underestimate simple.
  • People will steal your thunder or copy your idea.
  • Good products take years to become great… not days.
  • Even the most basic products have room for improvement.

Lesson from a Seahorse

  • Small details define professionalism and drive preservation
  • Nothing is insignificant
  • Don’t take what you have for granted
  • You can sell anything with the right knowledge and tactic

Lesson from a Train Set Diorama

  • Patience is a skill that is hard to master.
  • Authenticity is appreciated more than trying to fake it.
  • Where there’s passion, there is likely a niche of people that share it. Find them.
  • Speak highly of other people’s work, especially if it’s something you know they put a lot of time into putting together.

Lesson from a Morning Frost

  • Pause and look at things up close once in a while.
  • Don’t underestimate what you cannot see.
  • What took a long time to make can be destroyed in seconds.
  • Preparation keeps one from freezing.

Lesson from a 20-sided Die

  • Symmetry, consistency, and parallel construction create solid building blocks for strategy and planning.
  • Stop, and move on. Thorough testing is needed for a successful outcome; however, the value return diminishes to nil eventually.
  • The human mind is infatuated with chance and unpredictable outcomes.
  • Something may not seem perfect at first… not until you study it in-depth. Then, you realize, what you are looking at or have… is perfect.
  • Risk can only be reduced; never avoided, if you want to play the game.

Lesson from the Cassette Tape

  • Capture moments while you can with what you have.
  • Rewind every once in a while. The past can teach us about the future.
  • Preserve files by updating the format, or they may be gone forever.
  • Create memorable experiences. You’ll remember what you did more than what you owned.

Lesson from a 1974 Hot Wheels Car

  • Stop doing things half-ass.
  • Use the right tools, processes, and frameworks to do the job.
  • Build things to last. Period. Can you live with yourself if you build things that fail or are designed to fail?
  • Your reputation is on the line. Do what is right for the customer, and your bottom line will respond accordingly.
  • Be proud of your work. If you’re not proud, you’re in the wrong job or industry.

Lesson from a Mangled Tree

  • Don’t just “set it and forget it.” Plan to maintain what you started or kill off what you don’t need anymore. It’ll cost more in the long run to keep something on life support.
  • Think long-term not short-term. Short-term thinking may work at first, but it’ll catch up with us eventually.
  • Be true with your intentions from the beginning.
  • Nature has a way of overcoming.

Lesson from a 20MM Bullet Casing

  • What happened in the past does not have to be forgotten.
  • We should respect what it takes (or took) to defeat our enemies and demons.
  • Be proud, display, and share your stories.
  • Stand up for what you believe in.
  • Give thanks to God.

Lesson from a Pumpkin Seed

  • Don’t give up. Seeds need cultivating and nurturing to grow.
  • The odds of winning increase with every attempt.
  • Determination and planning make all the difference.
  • It really is a numbers game. Keep trying and perfecting your talent.
  • Something that looks like a mess, is gross and slimy, and doesn’t look like it has a chance, may be the greatest victory waiting to happen.

Lesson from Mouse Ball

  • Becoming obsolete in inevitable.
  • Respect the past, but reject the status quo. Always question how something could be done better.
  • Always seek to change, refine, and improve processes and systems.
  • The future is built upon the struggles of our past.

Lesson from a Cabinet Above the Fridge

  • Build things that are useful and accessible.
  • When initiatives or projects stall, rediscover their original purpose.
  • Use living tools to accomplish tasks. I’m reminded of the project/task management software, Trello, or a wiki as great examples.
  • Being practical opens the door to opportunity.
  • Don’t be afraid to revisit an old or rejected idea.

Lesson from a Pawpaw Tree

  • Just because something looks dead doesn’t mean it is.
  • Start small and grow your plans, projects, and initiatives to the size you want them to be. Risk of failure is still there, but it the risk will be lower.
  • Taking too big of a first step will lead to failure, even with big dreams
  • Breaking or cutting the “tap root” or source of passion will kill momentum and growth
  • It’s hard to tell if something is still worth pursuing by just looking at it

Lesson from a Keyboard Key

  • Blogging and story writing should be thought about differently.
  • Write “like nobody is watching.” Do it for yourself.
  • People remember stories, especially the person who wrote them.
  • Write to learn and share knowledge with others. It’s why we exist.
  • It takes time to see that the answer may actually lie in the gap.

Written by Shaun Holloway.



Shaun Holloway
Lessons from Ordinary

Lessons from Ordinary. Business and life learning from everyday objects and common questions. http://www.srholloway.com