10 years ago this week, I started a new job at NATIONAL, stopped being a Canadian expat, settled in a new city, and began a new career. 10 years before that I did the same thing—minus the young family, and as a new immigrant to the United States.
I’ve worked in two startups, in a government agency, a boutique, a behemoth, built teams, spent years wrestling with code and then many more years wrestling with words. Been a consultant to probably hundreds of organizations, been a mentor, a mentee, a doer, a maker, a thinker, a right hand, a leader, a talker, a listener, a learner. I’m so grateful for all of this experience and for loving the work.
Since a decade marks a milestone and two decades are doubly so, here are 10 short reflections on 20 years of working life.
- Work with people you can truly laugh with. A lot if you can. Don’t take yourself too seriously, or others. Find lightness.
- Multiply and bring forward strengths in others. Enrich. Build up. Accentuate. Encourage. Be a multiplier. Multipliers make multipliers.
- The hardest things can be the best things, and the stories you tell other people years later. Work hard at work.
- Curiosity makes everything fascinating, and when everything is fascinating, you never get bored. It is also deeply infectious. People feel it.
- Play to strengths—in you, in your teams, in your people—especially if those strengths are passions that drive a culture of curiosity and ideas. Diversity of people, orientation, perspective is the most valuable strength that a team can have.
- Imposter syndrome is crippling, real, and common. It is worth taking on and fighting against. Hubris is also crippling, yet often admired. A perspective without humility is unbalanced.
- When in doubt, go to principles and foundational thinking. What is true. What is right. What you know. What you believe. Break it down and build it back up.
- Teaching a concept, a task, an idea—presenting, explaining to a room, understanding if others understand—is the best way to learn anything.
- Toggling mindset and picking up new thinking, a new perspective, to unwind and wind back up quickly, to jump between ideas—these are superpowers. I don’t know if this can be learned or taught, but it can be modelled. Look for it in others. Cultivate it as a strength in yourself.
- An accomplished, admired, unequivocally whip smart expert and business leader once looked me dead in the eye outside a tense conference room and said: “I have no idea what I’m doing in there.” She believed fully in this declaration, yet she was the lead, the smartest person in the room, completely on top of her game. This lesson in leadership, vulnerability, and duality has given me confidence, humility, and courage in difficult unknowable situations for over 15 years.
I’m grateful for a career thus far full of all of the above—lessons, joy, growth, curiosity, challenge, reward, thinking, and working with brilliant people. Particularly grateful in 2020.
Onward to the next 10.