Are you still in touch with your grade school teachers, the ones who taught you the basics and helped you lay the foundation for your life? If you were like me, by the time you reached second grade, you looked down onThe basics of business don't change with success your first grade teacher. It took me decades to realize the wisdom of my grade school teachers. In fact, those unassuming teachers are the wisest people I know.

The secret of life is to never forget the basics.

When we first start out in business, we are careful to pay attention to our clients and provide for all their needs. The key to success is to maintain that attitude even when we outgrow these clients. The basics of business don’t change when we become successful. If anything, they become more important.

A surgeon is filled with reverence the first time she operates on a live patient. The secret to success is to maintain that attitude even after 3,000 surgeries.

This is what I mean when I say “back to basics.” The basics that lay the foundation are the same basics on which our edifice is built. Don’t neglect the basics and destroy the foundation. The whole edifice is liable to crumble.

The Journeys

Standing at the border of Israel, poised to enter, G‑d told Moses to recount all the journeys the children of Israel made since the Exodus from Egypt. The question should be asked, why recount the past when we are poised to enter the future? Of what benefit is it to recall the Exodus at this time?

The answer is that life is a journey that is traveled step by step. We can’t get to Israel without leaving Egypt. And we can’t get to Sinai without departing from Refidim. And we can’t be in Sukkot unless we leave Ramses. And as we move along through these stages, it is important to remember where we came from.

Our teachers and mentors when we were young put us on the path to where we are today. If we lose sight of the stages on that path, we might wander into undesirable territory. The basics we learned at the beginning of our lives and careers are the same basics that ensure our success later on.

There are two ways to journey. One is to pass through the hamlets and cities on our way to our destination without taking note of them. The other is to settle in and learn something new in each location. The former brings us to our destination quickly, but we arrive unequipped. The latter equips us for life. Each lesson builds on what we learned before, coalescing into a guidebook for life.

Life is a chain. If at any point, we forget the past, we break the chain and sever a connection. If we rush through life not stopping to learn its lessons, or worse, learning and discarding the lessons as we move along, we are vulnerable when we need that wisdom the most.

Every person we meet, every moment in time, every experience is a teacher. But they can only be teachers if we become students. Each lesson adds another shade to the tapestry of life, and as we move along, the tapestry fills with color. An image emerges and our personal meaning clarifies.

The positive lessons learned in first grade weren’t just for first grade; they were for life. We can’t graduate high school if we forget the basics we were taught in eighth grade. We can’t earn a degree if we don’t remember the alphabet we learned in kindergarten. We can’t be parents if we forget what it was like to be a child.

If we hold on to each teaching and weave it into the tapestry of teachings we have already learned, we will grow from each encounter. We won’t view any station in life as a place to pass through on our way to our destination. We will view it as a stepping stone that will equip us for what is to come.

Our ancestors did not traverse the desert only to get to the Land of Israel. They traveled through the desert to bring holiness to each of their camp sites. They did not leave any campsite until they achieved what they came to achieve and learned what they came to learn. Then and only then did they depart.

This is why they recounted all their journeys as they were poised to make the final one. This final journey was the product of all previous journeys. Without those experiences, lessons and mistakes, they would not have been equipped to make the final step and enter Israel. You know how we got here? You know how we became what we are today? Through each of our previous journeys.

The Destiny

Back to basics is important, but we can’t get stuck in the basics. Remember that the basics are a foundation on which we are meant toLife is a journey of many little steps build. They are tools to help us grow—grow and grow, and grow some more. Not away from the basics, but as a result of the basics.

Our ancestors did not remain in the desert. They entered Israel and went where they were supposed to go. Life is a journey that we must travel. We can’t afford to luxuriate in reminiscences of the good old days. Those good days are old; we are now in the good new days. We need to parlay the lessons of the good old days, to make these days even better. Grow, grow and grow again.

From beginning to end, remember: life is a journey of many little steps, and each one leads to the next.1