What I Wish I Knew Then: Arnie Thomas

Posted September 5, 2013 at 10:30am

“If you want someone who never made a mistake, ask a prophet.”

Today’s “What I Wish I Knew Then” is with Arnie Thomas, president & CEO of the A Thomas Group LLC. Previously, he served as senior vice president at CQ Roll Call and as the director of LEGI-SLATE at The Washington Post.

Q. What was one of your earliest professional experiences that shaped your current outlook?
A. Teaching 5th and 6th grades at Shepherd Elementary School in D.C. I locked the regular reading textbooks in the closet and bought “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm” and taught how to think, in addition to how to read.

Q. Best advice given to you?
A. It was from a 95-year-old man. I brought 10 teenagers to a nursing home to interact with seniors, and his advice had two parts.

One teen asked him, did he ever do anything he was not proud of. He answered, “Yes, I cheated on my wife and had an affair. If you want someone who never made a mistake, ask a prophet. But you came to me for wisdom and that wisdom came from my mistakes. My wife and I worked it out and we lived a great and honest life together from that point forward.”

Later he added, “Everything in my life now makes sense and all the pieces of the puzzle fits together. My only regret is that the puzzle isn’t larger. If I can’t sleep, it’s because of what I didn’t risk.”

Q. What I didn’t know then but I do know now:
A. That my personal world of reality is only mine. I thought that first everyone saw the world as I did, but then I understood that my worldview was based on my own past experiences, thoughts, beliefs.

Q. What pays off in the long run?
A. Authenticity and Integrity. To be authentic, you will never need to take off your masks and reinvent yourself. It takes so much time and energy to put the masks on and so much drama to take them off. Integrity defines you as person of trust, and trust will continue to open the doors to opportunities.

Q. Fill in the blanks in this sentence:
A. Don’t waste your energy: trying to fool others, but do put the extra effort into: not fooling yourself.