Who cares how old you are? Business changes so rapidly we have to constantly relearn everything anyway. Despite all of that, here are 10 takeaways from my experiences in corporate America so far.
1. Even in business, everything happens for a reason
Still to this day I believe my career began back at my local church at the age of twelve. Back then, I started a newsletter to engage teens on relevant topics and interests. That’s when I realized I could put something worth sharing on paper. Later on, I wrote for the school newspaper and represented my school in art, making murals, winning awards, and drawing the attention of large crowds. Eventually, I understood my gift was communication through art.
Everything I learned early on had a purpose, and just like the great, Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking backwards.” So when deals don’t close like we want them to or when interesting opportunities come up, there’s a bigger reason behind them.
2. Experience puts you in a box. Work to get out of the box
I’ve noticed this over and over again. We want to compare everything to something we’ve seen, tasted, touched, smelled, or experienced. Sometimes this can be good. But for me, it blocks my view of the bigger picture. Starting fresh with no point of reference is where true innovation and self-discovery occurs. I’ve had a few epiphanies regarding this point when traveling to some of the most unique places around the world. Comparing fascinating cities to something you’ve seen before, limits your ability to appreciate the details that make the city special. Now I enter new experiences with an open mind, not having any expectation for what I’m about to encounter.
After taking in the raw goodness of something different, I think it’s okay to compare and adjust. But for the most part, I’m most successful when I’m out of my comfort zone; free from the chains of the past and open to the possibilities of the future.
3. Consider the impact you have on other people
I was very self-centered in my early 20’s. I thought I knew it all, and that I was in full control of my surroundings and my destiny. Boy, was I wrong. None of us are in real control. We only have an idea of where we want to go, while our decision-making steers us into positive or negative outcomes. But, in general, I’ve noticed it’s not about us. It’s really about how we impact other people’s lives; whether it’s our employees, clients, partners, or direct circle of influence. The moment we can pinpoint our impact on other people’s lives, we can understand the value we bring to the table. That’s why I’m convinced that the purpose of—good—business is to improve the quality of life—in general. Companies that can align their mission with this philosophy are the ones that obtain longevity.
4. Always ask yourself why something is the way it is
I read every day for obvious reasons, but I also watch documentaries, TED talks, intelligent blogs, and follow some of the more breaking artists around the world. I do it to stay sharp. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what the hell is going on around you, when you’re trying to effect change. Staying in touch with my surroundings helps me understand the issues threatening our society and how I fit into the equation. Not only does it help me grasp complex problems, but it also brings me to a place where I can distinguish the cause and effect relationships of decisions we’ve made as humans. In business, this kind of thinking helps me make better strategic decisions for myself and my clients.
5. Find new ways to look at the world
The moment you feel threatened by someone, use fresh ideas to inspire and connect on a deeper level. By asking questions that trigger thought, I’ve noticed we can control or influence how others perceive us. The cool thing about this tactic, is that people will always see something unique, and irreplaceable simply because you think originally. That’s competing through differentiation. My motto: “Always compel and never rebel.”
6. Education gives you confidence
I was always the youngest one in the room; not to mention, the only Hispanic to sit in many strategic conversations. Now that I’m 30 it’s not like that anymore. But, I noticed when I was the youngest person in the room, I had somewhat of a disadvantage because my ideas were “too green” to those who were “too ripe.” Earning an education gave me a license to sell my ideas with credibility, while demanding respect. In addition, I found that education doesn’t have to be formal. Simply reading, following trends, or having a mentor to mold you is sometimes worth more than anything an MBA could yield. I also found that tuning into philosophy brings a whole new meaning to business conversations. So feel free to explore things outside of business to compel those who claim to know everything there is to know about business.
7. Work should never consume your life
I’ll never forget when I worked on a big rebranding project in preparation for a product launch. All of the details behind the rebranding really took a toll on me because I let it define me. As soon as something affects your sleep, stop and reassess what the hell is happening. For me, I realized when my dreams were about all about work that something needed to change. At one time, my entire dream was a gif file of me trying to find a glitch in some HTML code. Now, that’s what you call a nightmare. When things like this happen, take a step back, take a deep breath, and tap into your passion to finish the project. Your passion will always come to the rescue when you’re lost in the rubbish of something that really doesn’t define you.
8. It’s up to us to change the world.
As someone who has even managed celebrity brands, I’ve seen that all of us go through ups and downs. But challenge should never shy us away from using our skills and experience to bring about change. This is something I’ll be focusing on in my 30’s to bring positive change to issues most important to me and those around me. In essence, I’m redefining my life’s mission and vision to really effect change around me in through better investments and decision-making. Innovation is not only a business concepts.
9. There’s always someone smarter, more interesting
Accepting this puts you in a position to learn from even the most unexpected individuals. This alone, can be a competitive advantage if you open up to what others have to say. Every person has input representing a unique perspective worth considering. Yet, thinking that somehow you’re more gifted or intelligent will take you to a dead end- I don’t care how many books you’ve read. When you reject other people’s contributions, you reject the world’s most treasured surprises: perspectives. No one has it all together, so you should appear to have it all squared away either. Opening up will invite new, more interesting people, who could bring your business into a totally new, more profitable direction. Always note that narcissism will bring you bad luck and make you less fit to address your own problems.
10. Never lose yourself
Amid everything, be in touch with yourself… Specifically, your needs. Consider them closely and work on helping other meet theirs. Interestingly enough, your needs will be satisfied when you follow the golden rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” This rule is one that will improve your relationship with employees, partners, customers, or anyone who will pay you to satisfy their own needs. That’s how you can create long-term value and sustainability.