What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Career (Part Two)

In yesterday's post, I shared eight things I know now, that I wish I had known when I had started my career.

Today, I am sharing seven more:

Be Interested in What’s Right, Not Who’s Right

I’ve seen too many talented people along the way focus their energy in all the wrong places, most commonly by obsessing over winning arguments. Intellectual Integrity is much more important than perceived Intellectual Prowess – which by the way is not automatically prescribed to the winner of an argument. Be interested in what the right thing is, then do that right thing. That’s energy well spent.

The Biggest Risk You Can Take is Not Taking Any Risk

The Navy’s first female Rear Admiral, Grace Murray Hopper, once said “Ships in port are safe. But that’s not what ships are made for.” Wayne Gretzky once said “I guarantee you’ll miss 100% of the shots you never take." Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” The biggest difference I’ve seen between mediocre and magnificent leaders comes down to their willingness to take risks, learn from them, and keep moving forward. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Be Resilient and Relentless

Fortune favors the flexible and the fervent. Being agile and ready to bend and adapt to changing circumstances is an absolutely vital skill set to develop if you want to have a career that’s as frustration free as possible. The same holds true for maintaining an unbending commitment to keep trying, no matter the conditions. The fortitude to do both of these things is quite often the difference between success and failure. If there’s one set of undeniable truths that I’ve seen over and over in my career, it’s that perseverance pays and resiliency rewards.

Don’t Run for Office When You’re Already Elected

I have zero patience for office politics as the way to get ahead, and you should too. Think about it this way – along your career you will be placed in a position many times because someone has already “voted” you in; they already believe you to be worthy. You don’t need to politic any further than that. Do your job to the best of your ability and leave the politics for those with less ability. Sometimes, yes, politics will pay off for someone else in their career. But not over the long run. And do you want to advance in that fashion anyway?

Get the Right People on the Bus, and the People on the Bus Right

As you progress in your career, you’ll eventually have opportunities to select who will be on your team through hiring or staffing decisions. That’s good. It’s important to learn the skill of getting and keeping a great team to surround you. But too often I’ve seen a manager focused on getting the right people on the bus, but not investing enough in the people who already had a seat. It’s all too easy to choose not to invest in those who might not be your first choice or might not be the obvious superstars. But everyone has talents just waiting to be brought out – if only you’d take the time to invest.

Integrity Can Have No Breach – Ever

I’ve never seen anyone in the real world of professionalism truly recover from a major breach in integrity. Wear yours on your sleeve and never compromise it. Sadly, in today’s world of organizations like Enron and Lehman Brothers, being stoic in your integrity is often quietly noted and can actually draw admiration.

Leave a legacy

You’re never too young to start thinking about what you want your mark to be. It’s a mathematical fact that we all have a “born on” and “end” date in life, and in each job we’re currently in or are going to. What do you want that time in between to say about you as a person? What do you want it to say about what you accomplished or whose life you touched? We can only hope that in the end we carved our names on hearts and minds, not just on tombstones. And we can only hope that we lived in avoidance of what poet Oliver Wendell Holmes called the greatest human regret – “to have gone to our graves with our music still inside of us."  None of us wants that, of course. So start now with a mindset of leaving a legacy behind in each and every role you take on in your career. Same goes with how you live your life each day. The daily little impressions we leave can add up to a huge permanent impression.

To repeat my wishes from yesterday: All the best as you accelerate your own careers. May each of these lessons looking back help you in moving forward.

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