Business lessons to my 25 year old self...
There are axiomatic truths we know and are indoctrinated with from birth and which our formative experiences seem to justify. I think we can all admit, we make more mistakes when we are younger, as we are more impetuous and gradually experience imbues better impulses and resulting judgement...
To tell you the truth, I used to be terrified of getting older, though I am now comforted by it as I get more comfortable in my own skin and as I accept my own strengths and development areas. I 'chase' success less, or at least it feels like it because my definition of success becomes more personal to me. I am less defined by external factors as I become more comfortable and confident in my own definition of what success looks like, which includes more philosophical factors like quality of life.
As the title suggests, I would like to take the opportunity to share 5 very basic learnings that resonate with me more now than ever. These are things that I could have superficially asserted, or perhaps regurgitated, based on early learnings and experience. However, these things are probably the hardest to do because they are the hardest to accept. They require self awareness and acceptance of one’s own weaknesses. We talk about identifying our weaknesses when we are younger perhaps, but if you are anything like me, you never quite got there! Linked to this, the more experienced you get, your definition of what’s important becomes far simpler...
Accept your own strengths and weaknesses - Once you’ve done that, build on your strengths and play those cards, invest in becoming better at the things that you have genuine interest in and build on the resulting momentum. Your return on investment will be accelerated, you will be happier, less stressed and feel like you are finding your lane. Finding a way of doing what you are supposed to be doing is the best direction to take. You will know when you have found it.
Delegate accordingly - Wholesale, authentic, unadulterated delegation is a glorious thing. It’s liberating and powerful. It creates psychological hygiene and comes from a place of fully accepting your own limitations, and trusting and engaging those that can do it better. The returns are exponential and essentially the fuel and excitement of building winning teams comes from this process. It also places more emphasis on making better decisions, especially regarding who and how you hire and getting in the right headspace to do this effectively.
Communication, communication, communication - Once you have established your lane and built your confidence, you are then in a great position to engage. There is such a thing as overcommunication and being extroverted is not to be confused with confidence. They are mutually exclusive. However there is always room for good communication, well timed, well crafted and coming from a good place. Once the impulses are better hewn, if you have a desire to engage, and especially if you are passionate about something, you should feel empowered to do it and people should hear. Worry less about the cynics as they have a right not to engage in return, so that is on them. This covers everything from sharing your knowledge and insight to reaching out to that contact to share an idea. There is literally nothing to lose from it and no space for insecurity.
Relationships rule - The point above links entirely to the most load bearing pillar in any business, your relationships and these only happen through communication and the wonderful mutuality of exchanging ideas to build trust; you won’t build anything without it. It’s also important to accept that things can go wrong in business (no they WILL go wrong) and that’s OK as long as you learn from it. It’s important to separate the tactical from the strategic. Your relationships will carry you through as the most sustaining factor of all, so if they are intact, everything else that happens will simply be relegated to its true place in the face of this.
Less is more and all power to the listener - In my early days, I used to think the more you talk, obviously the more you know and the more you have control. Well of course that’s nonsense, but try telling me that 15 years ago! I would have nodded of course, but it wouldn’t have gone in (because I wasn’t truly listening - I hadn’t learnt that yet) and I would have embarked on my next assault of a conversation. Power is expressed through control and control comes from things like dealing with awkward silences or maybe introducing those silences yourself. Power also comes from curiosity and satisfying that curiosity through asking authentic questions you genuinely want to know the answer to. The greatest compliment you can pay someone is to ask for their advice or even help. Taking it to an extreme level, vulnerability is power, because the most compelling way to engage is to remind people you are both inseparably human and not some corporate automaton, which 1990s business cultures drilled into us to become; those times are changing, thankfully.
So there you have it and that’s my personal expose. Anyone that knows me may recognise those weaknesses, which I’m proud to admit. I’m working on them and I'm far from perfect, but being consciously incompetent is the path to competence. The fact is, there is a massive flaw intrinsic to the title of this blog as I am writing this knowing full well my formative self would not have taken on board these lessons, as I have alluded to. Though the light of the end of the tunnel is the redeeming quality of time, experience and, quite frankly, getting older. For all of us, if there’s one thing we can all commit to it’s identifying and addressing our flaws and in doing so work on being a better version of ourselves. We are stuck with our own DNA and resulting personality template, but through self awareness, we can shave off the rough edges at least and perhaps check in on ourselves when we demonstrate our old traits. If nothing else, it can be a basis for a bit of self deprecation, because being able to laugh at yourself from time to time is one of the most liberating things of all. If you can’t do that, then you may have a different problem to solve.