To say I traveled a lot in 2015 would be an understatement. But some of that came with the benefit of fruitfully killing time in the airport. One day when walking through DFW and checking Twitter, I happened across my dear friend Moe’s Twitter/LinkedIn share of a #ThankYourMentor post detailing to “Focus on Your Character, Not Your Career”, inspired by the original author’s parents.
It was pretty serendipitous that Moe shared this post, as he’s been my most influential & prolific mentor to date, so I figured I’d follow up with 3 things here that I learned from him and working with him; things that have helped me be successful every day.
1. Starting out, just say Yes!
This is something so simple, but everyone isn’t always in tune with what this actually means. I’m a very “learn by doing” person, so if I can jump at the chance to work through a project, I will. But if it’s not my area or something I’m responsible for, either in a new area or just starting, I’ll stay with it to find the right person, the right answer, the right solution.
This may not always be the best for my multi-tasking focus, but it has always helped me to learn at an incredible pace, bring teammates up with me, and become a respected advisor for many peers across the IT landscape.
2. Learn to say no, but for practical reasons
Contrasting #1 above, you will eventually need to learn to say no. But not because you don’t want to do it, you don’t know how, or you don’t understand something, but because it’s more beneficial for a team member to accomplish the task for some reason or another. Often in large companies, once you are known for being good at something, you get stuck as the “go to” person for that role. But you may, in fact, have moved on from the role a long time ago. Instead of saying yes, work with all parties involved to make sure the colleagues with needs are connected to the folks that can solve those problems.
This isn’t always apparently clear when you make the switch, and it’s definitely a grey area when you can start, but you’ll eventually know when it feels right and when to be maximizing your potential.
3. Don’t shy away from things you’re not good at. They will be your strength in the future.
This, to me, is the most important thing I’ve learned from Moe. Many times over I have been presented with a project that I just had to figure out - ranging from demos to presentations to keynotes. These are things that just have to get figured out, often because someone who sees much more of what you are capable of than yourself, wants to push you in the right direction. Not every swing is going to be a home run, not every project is going to be a success.
As I said, I learn by doing very well, and running head long into these projects, while often scary, has been the most rewarding part of my career and I can’t thank Moe enough for believing in me.
All of these things I learned first hand from working with Moe and have often relayed them to new colleagues, in both words & action. It’s a strange feeling when you recognize strengths or successes that you hadn’t really ever acknowledged or were aware of, but it is definitely a gratifying feeling and something that makes the hard cross-team work & brain teasers worth it.