I recently realized I’ve been doing this thing called work for 20 years. It started with a snow shovel at the age of 14 and has included roles as a dishwasher, tutor, hotel front desk, video production assistant, director of communications, photographer, and art buyer/producer.
In stints both short and long, I’ve learned a handful of things on my journey that I’d like to share.
1) Always carry a pen
You can thank me later.
2) Expect challenges
Your project will never go according to plan. You can bank on it. But when you expect the unexpected you’ll be more prepared when challenging circumstances do occur. The challenges themselves will be less likely to throw you off.
The sooner you can think clearly, the faster you’ll start brainstorming how to overcome those new challenges.
“I always expect unexpected challenges. Boxing is not an easy sport.” — Sugar Ray Leonard
3) Ask how you can help
It’s important to lend your support, energy, and enthusiam to the other people on your team. One of the best ways to show support is to simply ask, “How can I help?”
Questions may need answers or someone might be hungry but on a tight deadline. Go find the answers, pickup lunch, and support them in anyway possible.
“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” — Albert Schweitzer
4) Don’t make assumptions
Assumptions will cause you unnecessary anxiety and kill your performance. If you have questions or concerns, ask. Otherwise, just do the work.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” — Charles Spurgeon
5) Keep learning
Read books, blogs, and newsletters. Watch Youtube tutorials, enroll in Skillshare classes, experiment with new software, and follow some of the best thinkers and doers on Twitter. Today you can learn anything online.
For example, an interesting tweet can point to a captivating TED Talk where the speaker references a great book. In that book the author has taken decades of experience and powerfully summarizes the lessons she has learned. In less than two minutes I can buy that book on Amazon.com and start reading. Amazing.
IMPORTANT: No one is going to push you to learn; there has to be a drive from within. In order to remain relevant to your work, you need to remain interested and invested in learning. The notion that one can earn a college degree, coast at work for 40 years, and then retire is dead.
“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer
6) Admit your mistakes
I make mistakes daily and the sooner I realize and admit my mistakes, the sooner I can make a fix and the team can move on.
Imagine a leader who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) admit their mistakes. Eventually, the team would lose confidence in them because either the leader is blind to their mistakes or too full of pride. Either is a dangerous situation.
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” — Bruce Lee
7) Take notes
Obsessively keep track about how to improve your process and output the next time. Consult those notes often. Evernote has been the best option for me to keep all my notes accessible and searchable.
“I gotta take notes when things occur to me.”— Jeff Bridges
8) Stay present
When focused and in the moment, you work smarter. When distracted by the past or future, you limit the brain power available to you for the present moment, which handicaps you from making the best decisions now.
Don’t spend your time and energy obsessing over the past or future.Why? Because you can’t do a damn thing about it.
“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” — Eckhart Tolle
9) Over deliver
Gain a reputation as someone who over delivers on every project. If you only do the minimum, don’t expect better opportunities.
“The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” — Thomas Edison
10) Check your web links constantly
Almost daily I find people and companies I highly respect using dead or outdated links. Did you try blogging but gave it up three years ago? Then remove the link from your website. I’d rather not see a blog than a rarely updated one.
Randomly test a few links every day on your personal and company websites and social accounts. If you spot something that doesn’t look right, speak up.