4 Lessons I Wish Someone Taught Me Early in My Career

It wasn't long ago when I thought people like me were old, out of touch, not with it. At least it doesn't feel like long ago.


This week I had the privilege of presenting to a dozen or so bright-eyed, eager, ambitious college students about their budding careers. As I talked (more like preached) to them about a variety of things, I'm sure they looked at me like I used to look at guys like me.

Thoughts like:
- OK old man.
- Why are you so animated about this stuff?
- Have you lost your mind?

Many of them said very kind things to me after our time together, so maybe I'm wrong with my assumptions.

I was asked to "explain how you got here". I think they wanted me to explain how I got to the specific role I'm in professionally but I took "explain how you got here" as an invitation to tell my story.

So these up-and-comers got my story. Whether they asked for it or not.

As I was sharing with them (about things like marriage, raising five kids, moving cities for career opportunities, struggles in life), I had the urge to discuss four specific points as they consider their own career path. Things I wish someone would have told me as I sat bright-eyed, eager and ambitious. And perhaps slightly judgmental of the old guy.


Here is what I told them:

1. Love - this isn't a word you hear a ton in the workplace. But when you encounter it, you recognize it immediately. Love is different than passion. When someone loves their work, loves the people around them, and loves the process, things are simply better. For too long we've celebrated the cutting and the cynical. Today's culture is begging for more love.

2. Be Curious - want to advance in your career? Want to stand out from among your peers? Want to impress the hell out of a potential client? Want to make a bunch of money? Well then ask a ton of questions. Be innately curious. Not annoyingly curious but innately curious. When things are given to you at face-value, ask clarifying questions. Challenge the status quo. Ask questions to understand intent, motivation and purpose.

3. Serve - it's far easier to be served. Or expect to be served. But when you serve, when you give yourself away for someone else's benefit, it actually has a tremendous positive outcome in your career as well. The ladder is full of people that stepped on someone else or pushed them aside on the way up. Why don't you offer to hold someone else's ladder while they climb instead?

4. Give a Damn - too simple? Maybe. But it's incredibly sad how many employees of companies are showing up, clocking in, doing mediocre work, and praying for Friday at 5pm. What a boring, uneventful life. Give a damn. Give a lot of damns. Give more damns than anyone around you. Take ownership of your work and display that by your attitude.

Go ahead young, eager ones. Trust me, it won't be long until you're the old guy. Make these early years count.