Lessons Learned

There’s more to life than just keeping busy.

I don’t want to come across as a “know it all” about the workplace. However if you are considering a New Year’s resolution you may want to think (at my expense) about a few of these “lessons learned” from working in some very aggressive organizations and positions. While you may have heard others offer these same concepts, I’d like to offer some of my personal experiences.

Happiness is not the destination nor is it the target, it’s all about the journey.

Don’t wait for your situation to determine your happiness, you may never experience it. Don’t try and stock pile things, (i.e., a relationship, a weight loss, a job, that raise and so on). You’ll not be any happier when you achieve it. Happiness is a choice. If you approach the challenge you’ll find success right around the corner and make an impression on those around you.

Failure is not a bad word.

Growing up, from time-to-time my great grandfather would ask me if I failed at anything today. One day, I took the risk and responded with “Yes!” “And what did you learn?” he asked. It took me a long time to realize what he was trying to teach me. But as time went by, I started understanding that I may have failed at that, but I was using that lesson learned many times over in life. If you give up at your failures, you’ll never learn anything. Instead, look at failures as a bag of tools that you can recall to use in any situation. If you do, you’re much more likely to try again and succeed the next time.

chalkboard and laptopNever stop learning.

Formerly, I have a high school education. Over the years, I have taken several add on courses. I have been told that if I would make the effort to combine them I would have a BS degree. I’ve not done that and it hasn’t stopped my upward mobility of being a senior leader for three large credit card companies (i.e., Citibank, General Electric and Electronic Data Systems) and a National/Cyber Security advisor to five US presidential administrations. Many a time, I would get in over my head in a project or position. I would either take a class teaching me what I needed-to-know or just jump in and learn as I went. I also worked for some incredible leaders that took me under their wing as a mentor. If you decide that you are “done” learning, you will be left behind within a matter two years, if not sooner. I’m now sixty seven years old and as an “old dog”, I’m still learning new tricks. You will never regret investing your life in learning new things.

Life is not long enough.

You’ll learn as eternity sneaks up on you that life is very short. It’s not your responsibility to put up with a job you hate, a demeaning boss, or an organization that is not loyal to you and has no soul. The truth is none of us knows how long we have on this earth, and spending too much of it in a bad situation will only make you miserable and regretful. Now, what I am not saying is to try and find out ways to get out of persecution. I am saying is if you’re in a bad situation, take that step today toward a better situation. When you see the signs (we’ll talk about that in another blog) don’t wait for the pink slip.

Diversify.

People have told me that I am a jack of all trades but a master of none (something I learned about myself over the years). Don’t find yourself getting stuck in a dead end position. Always ask the question; “Where do I go from here?” Don’t only do what you know, or what you are good at or you’ll find yourself going nowhere except doing the only good one thing the rest of your life. Doesn’t that sound fun? Become a nimble agent and interest yourself in many different areas. You could become like the taxi Uber driver or the customer service person replaced by a chatbot. All of us are replaceable when we become single threaded.

team meeting in the workplace

You can go fast alone, but you can go farther and it’s more fun to go together.

Learning to work in teams is not an option, its vital! Big ideas need a team to make it happen! The number one skill that has helped me “climb the ladder” more than anything else is learning how to take advantage of a team environment. One would think that if two of people know the same thing, the boss doesn’t need one of them. Not true. Make it your life aim to teach someone else to eventually take your place. I promise you that one of two things will happen, 1) After the initiative is over, a smart manager will find something else for you to do, or 2) It’s time to work for someone else who appreciates you more.

Sacrificing your health or longevity of life for success or wealth isn’t worth it.

Many driven, successful people have difficulty balancing work/life and eventually end up with sickness, and/or serious health problems. One needs to look no further than Mr. Howard Hughes to see the results of that. Whatever your health is today, don’t abuse it. Do whatever you need to do to mitigate stress, eat healthy, ‘mend broken relationships quickly, (friend and foe) and leave room for some fun. You’ll save yourself a lot of problems later in life.

Worrying doesn’t achieve anything.

My antidote for anxiety is quick action. Asking your manager or team member for help is always a great way finding the answer to a problem rather than wasting time. No empty seats . . . pursue the idea, speak up, don’t worry what others might think of you. You won’t get ahead that way. Push through your problem or worry and fear and take action. Wrong action is better than no action at all. It’s easier to turn a moving battleship, than one standing still. And most of the time, you’ll learn that your worry will dissipate.

Social networks DO matter.

I’m not just talking about those thousands of close intimate friends you have connected to on a www social network. I’m referring to those people you see face-to-face (i.e., coworkers, lunch buddies, parties, group meetings or meetings at the water cooler). You may not realize it, but people want to help you. Don’t consider yourself a natural introvert or a boring speaker. Many studies have concluded that social networks are extremely necessary to your success. I could tell of story after story of long ago global acquaintances that that have gone out of their way to help me with something only because of a touching moment I had with them. Most successful people maintain diverse networks. The more you put into fostering your network, the more successful you are likely to be. Also, reciprocating your friendship to others is extremely important.

None of the best moments of your life will take place staring into the screen of a piece of technology.

In our connected world, it’s tempting to let all the little screens we have access to dictate our lives. You’ll never reach eternity’s door wishing you’d spent more time checking email, texting or connecting someone on technology. Disconnect regularly from the virtual world and experience someone in real life.

Now it’s your turn. Respond to these lessons learned or share some of your own lessons learned. We’d love to hear them.