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The top 3 things I would do differently over the last five years

March 25, 2018 - Education, Featured, Professional Development

The last time I wrote was about five years ago.

A LOT has changed in five years. The social media sharing buttons on my blog alone have changed a crazy amount. Connect with me through Google Wave? Pfft, don’t even try. I almost forgot what that even was.

Five years ago, I began my journey to earn an MBA, and I was writing so much otherwise that I took a break from this blog for awhile. And you know how it is with habits. Very hard to build, very easy to break.

But I missed it, and I missed you! So here I am, reflecting on the crazy amount of things that have changed in the last five years. There are so many wonderful events that transpired, that I wouldn’t give up for the world:

  • Being a part of my growing family’s shared life together
  • Selling a house
  • Buying a house
  • Graduating with my MBA in Computer Information Systems
  • Two promotions
  • My parents’ surprise 60th birthday party
  • The advent of public cloud as a viable enterprise option
  • Adoption of our sweet old dog
  • Many, many different bosses
  • Even more soccer games and tournaments, ballet recitals, gymnastics classes, swimming classes, classroom holiday parties, musical theater day camps, and volleyball day camps

…in no particular order.

There are many things I wouldn’t trade no matter the price, but there are also a few things I wish I’d done differently, looking back. And this post is about those things, to save you the frustrating part.

1. Don’t forget what your goal is

In the last five years, I was promoted twice. One promotion I sought out, the next one I didn’t. And during those last two years or so, I came to the realization that my career started to own me, rather than me owning my career. Rather than ensuring I was still working toward my own personal vision of my future, I lost that direction and consequently began to lose a certain sense of purpose to my work.

At about the time I was coming to this realization, Harvard Business Review posted a wonderful article online (as they frequently do) about finding meaning in your work. The author of the article so aptly writes:

“…for most people, purpose is built not found. Working with a sense of purpose day-in and day-out is an act of will that takes thoughtfulness and practice.”
John Coleman

So don’t forget what your personal and professional goals are, and ensure you consciously pursue them, to give your work greater meaning. Stay in control of that for you and no one else.

2. Lean in to crucial conversations

Man, my days sure go a lot easier when everyone is on the same page as me, and there are no hidden agendas, no misunderstood motives, and no highly charged emotional conversations. It’s just work, right?

Wrong. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve had a single day in the past five years where I sail through the day and observe nothing but complete clarity, cohesion, and transparency.

There is a well-known leadership book called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. (It’s a fairly easy read.) It opened my eyes to how often I and others around me shrink back from a tough conversation, because we feel it’s just “not worth it.” But if we challenge ourselves to lean in to difficult situations and be willing to hold deeper, more honest conversations with the people we live with and work with everyday (our family, our friends, our colleagues, our acquaintances), we have the ability to transform the outcome and ultimately the relationships we have with others.

Another amazing book on this topic is Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, written by Kim Scott, an inspirational leader in the tech industry. She provides many stories, tips, and examples of how to coach, guide, and give feedback, remembering that you do those things because you care. We have crucial conversations because we care about the people around us. Even if the conversation may be confrontational or feel negative, by leaning in and having the courage to be respectfully honest, we are building a bond that has the potential to transform people and teams and outcomes and results. And that may be the most important work we do everyday.

3. Stand for something

I’m a very facilitative kind of person. What I mean is, my approach to most problem solving is to bring the best and brightest minds on the particular topic in the company together, and facilitate the collaboration and design required to solve the problem. And yet, that strength also started to become my greatest weakness. I had a tendency to default to that approach so frequently that I began to lose the fire and passion of truly standing for what I personally believe in.

Make sure you know what you stand for, and demonstrate the self-confidence to say and do the things you truly believe in (even if you have to fake it ’til you make it). For me, that’s been one of my biggest learnings over the past several years, and what I believe gives us the energy to make a difference in our teams and our organizations, and the passion to stand out and tell people about it.

It won’t be easy. Nothing important was ever easy. It may mean you’re swimming upstream. But the more you stand for what you believe in, the more you will gain self-confidence even in the face of uncertainty. And only through those battle ribbons, those hard-won lessons, will you build that personal power to be confident in uncertain situations where the right answer isn’t fully clear and the path is riddled with unknowns.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Theodore Roosevelt

And working hard for something you believe in is fun and immensely rewarding.

Not sure where to start? Check out this guide to discovering your personal core values from CEOsage.

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