Of all the twists and turns our lives take as we conquer careers and grow into the true leaders that we were meant to become, nothing is as powerful as the discoveries we make along the way.
So as we celebrate this year’s Fast 15, I thought I would share 15 things I’ve learned since I was a 20-something young professional.
- Manners matter. There is a certain amount of civility that makes the world go round. Regardless of your credentials, your pedigree or the alphabet of letters you’ve accumulated after your name, you’ll be best served to practice graciousness. “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” (Clarence Thomas)
- Pay attention … live in a state of self-awareness. There are moments of insight all around you. You can learn something from everyone if you are paying attention.
- Read, read, read. Read often and from as many genres as possible. There is no monopoly on wisdom.
- Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to seek outside council if your perspective needs an adjustment. Everyone needs help at some point. Everyone.
- Listen more than you talk. You may be the smartest one at the table, but you’re not the only one at the table.
- Practice authenticity. Understand who you are, get comfortable with it and get on down the road. Give yourself permission to be who you are.
- Don’t keep score. There will always be inequalities in the world — life is not fair. Get over it.
- Deliver meaningful feedback. People are starving for feedback. Actually, people are starving for meaningful feedback. There is a difference.
- Practice good stewardship. At some point in your career you will inherit someone else’s mess. Accept it. Fix it. Move on. The cardinal rule of camping is to “leave the campsite better than you found it” by intentionally improving the environment for the next round of campers. It’s a good rule for the environment, and it’s a good rule for business.
- Take the high road. Under-the-bus throwing is overrated. Don’t believe the hype. Go with Karma. “How people treat you is their Karma; how you react is yours.” (Wayne Dyer)
- Ethics. You can’t debate, negotiate, rationalize or intellectualize right or wrong. Right is right; wrong is wrong. No amount of conversation is going to change that. You are who you are when you think no one’s looking.
- Control your time. “If you’re working off your inbox, you’re working off the priorities of others.” (Donald Rumsfeld) Or as the great Wayne Gretzky puts it, “Skate to where the puck is going to be.”
- Get comfortable with conflict. If you can’t manage conflict, you can’t manage accountability. And without accountability, there is no leadership.
- People make choices. Choices make people. When faced with a personal dilemma, remember this: You’re going to have to live with whatever you do (or say) next for the rest of your life. What you choose to do (or say) is crucial, so think very carefully about who you want to be when you look back on this story. Each life moment is part of a larger story — and just about the only thing we are in charge of is who we are in our stories. What would you say if your story had an audience?
- Keep a journal; spend time in reflection. Over the course of your life, take time to write down “stuff.” Capture the messiness of the moment, the clarity of the insight, the pain of the struggle, the joy of the success, the power of a good quote, and the question for which you don’t have an answer — yet. Because one day you too will write an article about “15 things I’ve learned since my 20s.”
Congratulations to the newest inductees into the Fast 15. I wish you much continued success.
Ancora Imparo…. (Still, I am learning).
Stacey Mason is the founder of The Improv Lab, a professional development business in Bentonville. More information is available by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.