Three Timeless Truths Needed to Build a Great Career

Years ago I wrote a career development book. I’ve often told my kids I’d pay them $10 if they read it. My 9 year old recently decided to take me up on the offer. 

After reading it, he had a book report and needed to write 20 facts from the book. This picture is the list. He put it together 100% on his own and it cracked me up. 😂 

Some of them are funny. Yes, I did get called stupid. Yes, I had a blackberry (remember how cool those were?). Yes, Mike Robertson and I did carry a mattress on our head down Broadway for 20 blocks during our NYC internship. No comment on #13. 🤷

Others facts are timeless truths and I hope they stick with him:
1) Learning doesn’t stop when school ends
2) Networking is an important skill
3) Mentors can help you find a job and grow your career

What key lessons have you learned in your career? How are you sharing those with others?

Don’t Manage Your Time, Manage Your Energy

We focus so much on managing our TIME but we rarely focus on managing our ENERGY. Some work drains us and leaves us exhausted. Other work actually energizes and sustains us. 

Here’s a three step exercise to optimize your energy.

1) Make a list of all the activities you do in a typical week. For each one, note whether the work drains you or energizes you. 

2) Take the items that DRAIN you and ask yourself:

  • Can I stop doing this entirely?
  • Can I delegate this to someone who would be energized by doing it?
  • If I’m the only one who can get it done, when’s the best time to do it? Can I change HOW I do this work?

3) Take the items that ENERGIZE you and rank them by priority (i.e. how important they are to your success).

  • For items of high priority ask yourself, how can I spend more time doing this work?
  • For items of low priority ask yourself, should I be doing this work? If so, when? (Note: often we spend time doing work that energizes us even if it’s not important)

We can’t always control the work that needs to get done, but the better we understand ourselves and what energizes us, the more effectively we can operate. 

I’d love your feedback. How do you manage your energy?

Show up. Then Keep Showing Up.

I’ll let you in on a secret. One I’ve learned from studying and working closely with high performers over the years.

What’s the biggest difference between those who succeed and those who don’t? Two simple words.

Show up.

That’s it. Show up today. Show up tomorrow. Then keep showing up every day. Some level of talent is required of course, but your drive is the differentiator.

I’ve been reading the Iron Cowboy’s biography. He’s the guy who completed 50 Ironman triathlons in 50 states in 50 days. 🤯 It’s an insane accomplishment. One that was thought impossible until he proved it wasn’t. In his words:

All you need to do is just keep showing up.
The more you show up, the more you learn.
The more you learn, the more you evolve as a human being.
The more you evolve, more becomes possible for you.
Just keep showing up.

Want to be successful? Show up. Put in the work. Learn what it takes to get better. Work smart AND hard.

Show up. Then keep showing up.

Service Creates Sanctuaries of Belonging

Too often I fall in the selfish camp, but I’ve found that the best way to forget my worries and struggles is to set them aside and find someone I can serve.

In the words of Neal Maxwell:

So often what people need is to be enveloped in the raiment of real response.

So often what people need is to be sheltered from the storms of life in the sanctuary of belonging. Such a service cannot be rendered by selfish people, however, because the response of the selfish will always be that there is no room in the inn. Chronic self-concern means that the “No Vacancy” sign is always posted.

Often the best “self care” is to forget ourselves and focus on serving someone else. This doesn’t need to be through a service project or a grand display of charity. It can simply be accomplished by finding someone who’s struggling and being a light to them. A smile. An act of kindness. A helping hand.

We can all become sanctuaries of belonging.

The Single Most Important Career Decision I’ve Made

At a recent lunch with friends, the question came up: what’s the most important decision you’ve made in your career? 

After thinking about it for a few minutes, my mind went back to spring 2006. I was a sophomore in college, unsure what I wanted to do with my career. One night I attended an investment banking club event and learned of a professor who’d be taking students to Wall Street a few weeks later. After a few days of internal debate, I went for it. I felt pulled to go. 

During that trip my eyes were opened to career paths I didn’t know existed. I met interesting, talented people who’d go on to become mentors. Walking the streets of New York, surrounded by skyscrapers, I felt alive. An energy pulsed through me. Those few days in New York made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to. 

The saddest thing is, I almost didn’t go. I had to pay my own way and between flights and hotel it was going to cost me $500. That was a TON of money for me. Also, at the time I held a “just study hard, get good grades, and everything will work out” mindset that limited my perspective. How could I justify the financial cost and time away from school? 

That trip led to a relationship that turned into an unpaid internship which turned into a paid internship which turned into a full time job (which later turned into the largest bankruptcy in US history and a spot in the unemployment line but that’s a story for another day 🤷😂). 

That Wall Street trip was a small but critical step in becoming the person I wanted to be. While I ultimately left the finance world entirely, deciding to go to New York changed how I viewed myself. It changed the trajectory of my career. And I almost missed out on it for a few hundred bucks.  

Invest in yourself. Put yourself out there. Experiment. Don’t let school get in the way of your education. 

Invest in yourself. Explore. Dream. Even if you fail, you haven’t actually failed because you’ll learn more about yourself and grow through the process. 

Invest in yourself.

How to Neutralize Anger in Others (Episode 13)

Back in Episode 8, I shared a simple tool to control your own anger. But what do you do if others are mad at you? How can you neutralize that anger and get them to a more rational state of mind so that you can solve the problem?

In this episode, I share how you can do just that. 

A few years back I had a meeting with an employee that I was dreading. I’ll spare the details, but he was frustrated about his compensation and felt like he had been wronged. He had spoken about this with his manager and HR business partner on multiple occasions. Still not satisfied, he reached out to me over Slack. 

I walked him through the situation, the various factors at play, and why we made the decision we did. And I told him that we would not be revisiting that decision. I thought that would be sufficient, but, undeterred, he asked if we could meet in person.

Given that I had little to lose in this meeting (he was likely going to be angry at me regardless of what I said), I tried an approach I learned while reading Chris Voss’ book, Never Split the Difference. Voss taught that you can neutralize angry people by identifying the worst things the other party could say about you and say those things before the other person can. These accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, so speaking them will encourage the other person to claim that quite the opposite is true.

So, back to this employee meeting… I walk into the conference room and he’s already there, waiting for me. I can tell that he’s heated. Before he could say anything I blurted out, “Listen, I know you’re pissed off about this situation and how you’ve been treated. You must think I’m a total jerk.” His whole demeanor shifted. He responded by saying Oh no, I’m not mad, I just want to understand why you made the compensation decision. His anger was diffused and we were both now ready to discuss the problem. I walked through the rationale for the decision and after a few minutes the conversation came to an amicable close. 

I think one of the reasons this approach is effective is that it shows the other person that you know what they’re experiencing. Acknowledging how they may be feeling shows empathy. It makes them feel listened to. It makes them feel heard. 

But be careful. I’ve seen this approach used ineffectively. I’ve seen it blow up. It’s critical that you do this authentically and that you actually show empathy. If this approach is done flippantly or used excessively, it will lack authenticity and may make the other person even angrier.

Thank you so much for listening! If you like this episode, please subscribe to “The Not Your Parents’ Workplace Show” and rate and review wherever you get your podcasts.