We’ve all had the thought “If I’d only known what I know now when I was in my 20’s”. It’s now an old cliché. Given the wisdom we accumulate with age is not new and was certainly available when I was in my 20’s (see quotes below), I think a more apt statement is “If only I’d listened”. I know that in my 20’s I thought I knew better than everyone else and consequently, didn’t search out the wisdom available to me and didn’t listen to it when others tried to contribute their wisdom. So it’s taken me 56 years to accumulate what I know now, some of which required that amount of time, and a lot that didn’t.
So having forewarned you, here are 5 lessons I’ve learnt along the way that work for me and are foundational in the work that I do with my clients.
1. Take on the journey of self-awareness. Find a mentor, not someone who will tell you what to do, but someone who will help you ask the right questions about yourself. The more you know and understand yourself, the more you can create beyond your boundaries.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
2. Determine what is important to you (your values). Now live consistent with those values. To begin with, it will require some evolution as you sort out what is, and what is not important, but you will sort it out. Values are the signposts that guide you and provide the pathway required to fulfil on your purpose in life. “Your values become your destiny” – Mahatma Gandhi
3. Walk the talk, do what you say you are going to do, keep your promises and commitments, turn up on time! Nothing builds trust and credibility more effectively and without these attributes, you will never achieve what you are capable of achieving. “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall” – Proverbs 28:18
4. Don’t be a victim i.e. blame something other than yourself for your circumstances. It robs you of the power to deal powerfully with what life dishes out. Always start with how you have contributed to why it is the way it is before you start to point the finger. This is a responsible perspective and will have you be proactive, not reactive. “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Winston S. Churchill
5. Value your relationships and manage the quality of your relationships over time. Your career will be a function of the relationships you create and manage over time. Ensure that you provide value as well as receive value and don’t be afraid to ask people “What’s important to you in this relationship?’ because you will then know how to provide value for them.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” African Proverb
Reading the above 5 points will make no difference in your career unless you act on them in some way. So my parting piece of wisdom is to translate your thoughts into actions, any action to start with will make a bigger difference than no action. What actions can you take based on the 5 points outlined above?