There are times we can learn from the experiences and insights of others. But some lessons must come from firsthand experience. Whether a simple encounter or enrolling in the School of Hard Knocks, the lessons we tend to remember are the ones that were hardest to learn.
If I ask 100 people to tell me the top five career lessons they have learned, I likely will get 100 different lists. I am going to share seven of my most valuable lessons. Here they are:
Learning to deal with difficult people is imperative. I have spoken and written about this before. When I learned to manage difficult personalities, I learned a life lesson. In most cases, their personality was a shield for something deeper. When I learned to stop focusing on the other person as a road block and view myself as a path to efficiency, I started to win. There always will be difficult people and circumstances. Until l learned to conquer them, they kept showing up in the form of someone or something else.
Don’t take it personal. This can be a challenge. The truth is most of the things I have ever taken personal had little to do with me. There are countless reasons why business decisions are made and communicated the way they are. Putting myself in the middle of the road only set me up to be hit by a bus. Staying focused on broader objectives has worked wonders for my emotional stability and professional success.
Being resolution-oriented goes a long way. Anybody can point out a problem. It takes a certain type of person to provide a viable suggestion to resolve one. That is the person I want on my team.
I must stay out of the way. If anyone can over-analyze a situation, it is me. Early on in my career, there were times I found myself considering what others thought of me. These were not things they told me. It was my interpretation of what I felt their observations of me might be. Am I too young to be in management? Am I strategic enough? How are my ideas perceived? I had way too much going on in my head. Finally I matured to a point where I could sit down those bags. Now I do the best I can. That is more than enough.
Honesty really is the best policy. That is all I have to say about that.
I had to learn my own voice. This is especially helpful for young professionals. To build confidence and sound judgment, I had to test and hear my voice. Sitting silent in a meeting or not communicating my thoughts did me no good. Have you ever refrained from giving a recommendation and someone else says exactly what you were thinking? Speak up! It may or may not resonate. Either way, you will be just fine.
The only work worth doing is work I am passionate about. This was the lesson I knew all along yet took me the longest to learn. There is no difference between who I am and what I want to do. I instinctually knew this as a teenager. Even today, as the CEO of a wonderful communications organization, there are other things I want to do. This includes writing, coaching and motivating. Whether I have an audience of one or 10,000, I am committed to doing the work I feel most compelled to do. I now live in a space that is aligned with my purpose. The rent is worth it and the view is marvelous!