The Top 20 Lessons I've Learned in My Career

Image by Tyler Rayburn/Flickr

1.) Careers do not come with instructions. There are no "hard and fast" rules, no simple formulas for success. This is because you will work for - and with - other human beings, and people are complex and confusing creatures.

2.) Your job is to work well with other people. Yes, they may be confusing, but figuring out how to interact with people is your #1 one career challenge. It's tempting to think your job is to be an accountant or a brand manager, but it's not. 

3.) Develop a skill that other people value enough to pay for it. If you lack such a skill, do nothing else until you master one.

4.) Don't depend on one skill. Once you have a valuable skill, people will want you to use it again and again and again. If you keep doing this, you will eventually get bored and you will never increase your value in the marketplace. So after you master one skill, learn another skill on the side, until people are willing to pay you more to use that one.

5.) There are other forms of payment besides money. You can also work for satisfaction, pride, ego, fame, mastery, enjoyment and intellectual challenge.

6.) Don't undermine your own value. If you love your job so much you would gladly do it for free, it is best to not mention this to your boss.

7.) Work two jobs. Your first job is to help other people. Your second is your actual job. The better you are at #1, the easier #2 becomes.

8.) Without confidence, most of your competence will be wasted. Do whatever it takes to build self-confidence, even if it means confronting your worst fears.

9.) Never lose perspective. Your worst fears are nothing compared to what some people face each day just to find clean drinking water and enough food. Toughen up.

10.) Without competence, self-confidence is a self-delusion. Don't stop working until you deliver actual results.

11.) Confidence + competence = career success. This is the killer combination, the closest thing to a sure-fire ticket to everything you ever wanted.

12.) Failure is temporary, if you never give up.

13.) 13 is a lucky number. If you insist on believing in luck, believe in good luck.

14.) Retreat, then charge again. "Giving up" for a weekend or a week can be a good way to realize you're not ready to give up.

15.) Be prepared for your moment of truth. There's no way to schedule (in advance) your big break. Wake up every morning with the understanding that lightning could strike, in a good way.

16.) Pay attention. The more often you are "present," the higher your chances of spotting opportunities and minimizing risk.

17.) Dismiss trivia. 90% of the stuff that drives you crazy does not matter at all.

18.) You can change your reality. Nearly everyone feels stuck in the middle, even the people at the top. You're not stuck because you're in the middle; you're stuck because you're waiting for someone else to initiate change. Don't wait; do it yourself.

19.) Be grateful. Gratitude is a far more effective strategy than criticism.

20.) Be clear and truthful. The clearer you are at saying what you want, the more likely you are to get it.


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