A younger friend of mine asked if he could come over to ‘pick my brain’ as he put it. As I had done well in my career he was seeking some advice in advancing his own. He has a wife and young children and as most would like to eventually get free of corporate life and work for himself. I have often thought of writing a summary of practices that I have used over the years in both my life and my career and this provided me the opportunity to do so. Much of it is personal leadership practices that I have come to teach to graduate students, business, and foster children to whom I donate time. We had a good discussion and perhaps the following will be useful to others as well.
You are your own best investment. Invest in yourself. Continually build your background and skills. Jobs may come and go, but no one can take away your talents, skills and value. Things are changing too rapidly to take security in any one occupation. Your best security lies with yourself.
Education is not about securing a job. It is about developing skill sets that allow you skin your interests. Use education as a tool, not a means to an end.
Develop a keen vision of who and what you want to be and where you want to go. Write it down. Once that vision is in place it is simply a matter of managing your way there. I recommend Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Develop, define and live your priorities. My priorities are health, family and career, in that order. If you lose your health you lose all. Regarding family and career, I can assure you that you will remember the time you spend with your family more so than the day to day activities on the job that just seem to meld together over time. You will spend most of your time on your career and it is too easy to get lost in it – therefore it is important each week to plan the time for both health and family.
Emerson said that no great thing was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. Use it and embrace it. Be passionate about what you do and others will take interest in you and what you do.
Money is simply a consequence of what we do. If we are passionate about our work it becomes our avocation rather than our job and we will do it better than most. The money will follow. But you must keep your eyes open for opportunities – they do not simply fall into one’s lap.
Live and save on your salary and sock away the bonuses. Do not spend your money on widgets and trinkets that depreciate as soon as you buy them. Rather, with your bonuses, buy assets that appreciate over time and produce income such as securities and property. Heeding the advice of Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad), create and grow income streams that will secure your independence.
Make yourself invaluable on the job. Always look for opportunities to step forward and help out taking on assignments that others will not. Become your business’s best friend. When the time comes to make decisions about who will go or stay, or where the bonus and raises will go, you will be viewed as being invaluable.
Problems are opportunities. Another person’s problem becomes your opportunity. You do not need to have prior experience to take on a problem, just the knowledge and conviction that you will deliver.
There is no easy road to success. Alexander Hamilton said that when he had a subject before him he studied it profoundly, it was before him day and night and he explored it in all its bearings. And when he took an action it was not an act of genius, simply the result of thought and labor.
No one will care as much about your financial affairs as you will. After all, you were the one who put in the sweat and effort to make the money. You owe it to yourself to gain competency in financial matters rather than rely on someone you will pay for such service.
And finally, it is better to try and fail than not try at all. One of my favorite motivational quotes comes from president Theodore Roosevelt:
IT IS NOT THE CRITIC WHO COUNTS; NOT THE MAN WHO POINTS OUT HOW THE STRONG MAN STUMBLES OR WHERE THE DOER OF DEEDS COULD HAVE DONE BETTER. THE CREDIT BELONGS TO THE MAN WHO IS ACTUALLY IN THE ARENA, WHOSE FACE IS MARRED BY DUST AND SWEAT AND BLOOD; WHO STRIVES VALIANTLY; WHO ERRS AND COMES UP SHORT AGAIN AND AGAIN; WHO KNOWS THE GREAT ENTHUSIASMS, THE GREAT DEVOTIONS; WHO SPENDS HIMSELF IN A WORTHY CAUSE; WHO AT THE BEST, KNOWS IN THE END THE TRIUMPH OF HIGH ACHIEVEMENT, AND WHO, AT THE WORST, IF HE FAILS, AT LEAST FAILS WHILE DARING GREATLY, SO THAT HIS PLACE SHALL NEVER BE WITH THOSE TIMID SOULS WHO KNEW NEITHER VICTORY OR DEFEAT.