My father had a very specific aspiration for me—to be a musician. One small problem: While my father was naturally talented, I was not. I knew I would never be happy doing something as intense as music without the right aptitude. I
needed to find my strong suit; so I did the most logical thing possible: After college, I moved from Kansas to New York City to immerse myself in a place full of options.
My first job led me down the path to a marketing career. But that was not the end of my adventures. One of the most important lessons I have learned is to keep yourself open to new opportunities.
While we can attempt to plan our career progression, it is important to be open to a new challenge. There are few experiences that build confidence more than taking on a challenge you were not sure you could tackle—and then succeeding. It not only boosts your confidence but also demonstrates to others what you are capable of doing. That, in turn, opens up the door for new, more exciting assignments. If you are beginning to feel comfortable in your current position, it’s time to move on.
Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots, but I also believe that you cannot overestimate the value of hard work. That is, digging into a project or problem deep enough to understand and learn from it. There is simply no shortcut worth taking when it comes to establishing your knowledge, depth and credibility.
Developing leadership skills through managing teams is essential to be successful. To borrow a phrase: “It takes a village” to achieve many of our ambitious and complex goals. Therefore, knowing how to lead a team and be a good team member is critical. The only sure way of knowing, is doing. This is where experience is the best and only real teacher. That being said, observe those who are good at it.
In the end, it is not just about you, but also about the people who surround you. I believe that building a strong team and organization is the only real legacy. This includes helping others along the way through mentoring or coaching. None of us got where we are based on sheer will. We had a lot of advice and encouragement along the way. Remember to pass that along.