Steople Group

12 Leadership/Life Tenets I Wish I Had Known in the First 5 Years of My Career

For me, the month of May is filled with graduations, weddings, and big family events.  One of the highlights will be our son, Ethan, graduating from my college alma mater next week and moving away for an awesome marketing job at The Integer Group in Denver, Colorado.  Time to celebrate his success!

As I was working through the party guest list, food, drinks, and entertainment for the big upcoming weekend I thought I might pause to create something for him integrating some leadership wisdom into a bit of graduate wisdom.   He will be just starting out and I know that the habits built during those first years can shape a career.

Ethan, these are a dozen things I hope you find helpful as you transition into a new, exciting phase of your life.  Remember that the trajectory of your launch is very important!

1.  Find your “why” in life.  If there is one thing you remember from this list it is to find what your core purpose in life is.  Finding out “why” you do what you do will inspire you every day.  I want you to be so engaged and passionate about what you are doing that you are surprised that you are actually getting paid to have so much fun.

2. Never be cheap.  The world enjoys a generous person, and there’s no better way to start practicing that than by being a 20 percent-er with every service person you encounter. It shows that generosity is more important than actual money since you’re so willing to share with people who helped you. Apply this same principle to friends, co-workers, and family.

3. It is less important to have more friends and more important to have good friends.  We are born into a family and have a natural, genetic connection with them. However, luckily, we get to choose who we are friends with.  Early in life, you may want more quantity of friends, but soon most of us realize that those deep friends you have with people who are like-minded and you can trust are ones you will never want to let go of.

4. Continually practice gratitude and kindness. Gratitude comes from the knowledge that we are not perfect and that we have to extend grace to others and ourselves.  There is beauty in imperfection – and showing compassion and kindness to people you come in contact with will allow you to see the world through a positive lens.

5. Take care of your body and soul.  Nourish your body with good whole foods and be active…my mom who is health guru taught me that at an early age.  Additionally, love that soul of yours too – take time for quiet reflection, consistently practice a spiritual life, do the things that make you happy and surround yourself with good people and beautiful nature.

6. Don’t buy “stuff” –  Buy experiences and document them in pictures.  I believe that while you may get tired of new “gadgets”,  the things you truly value are the memories of amazing experiences and trips you imprint on your brain.  Taking pictures will automatically take you back to that amazing point in time.   Additionally, all of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences will make you have a higher cultural IQ.

7. Run your own race.  Keep your eye on the ball…don’t compare yourself to others.  In a marathon, if you look at who is passing you then you aren’t focusing on your own goals.  You are probably comparing yourself to the cream of the crop anyway so it is wasted energy – remember, more than likely there will always be someone ahead of you in some capacity.

8. Life is a movie, not a photo exhibit.  Liberate yourself by letting go of painful memories, fears, doubts, regrets, and grudges.  Everything that has happened to you in life makes you who you are today…you are exactly where you are supposed to be.  Letting go of the past will open up space in your life to experience life more fully.

9. Do things that “scare the *&%$!*” out of you.  Believe me, you don’t want to get bored…you always have to push the envelope – you’ve got to find your edges.  Be a dreamer and resist the status quo.  If you aren’t uncomfortable, that means you aren’t pushing hard enough.

10. Slow Down and Take the Extra Step.  I know you won’t always be able to do this, but when you can…hold the door open for an extra 30 seconds, offer the umbrella to someone who needs it, take time for a handwritten thank you note, and call your friend on his or her birthday instead of posting to Facebook.  The little things, the extra steps…they can make all the difference.

11. Only drink good wine.  Of course, I feel strongly about good wine…but it goes beyond that.  Never settle…quality trumps quantity.  Buy one pair of good shoes, not two cheap ones.  Have one good employee, not two mediocre ones.  If you are going to invest in something, whether it is real estate, relationships, or wine just make sure you are making a good quality choice – or go without.

12. You are not just “you.” This sounds like something meant to prep you for your first philosophy class in college, but it’s far simpler than that. You are somebody’s child. You are somebody’s sibling. You are somebody’s friend. In short, you are the sum of all our parts. And there’s never a moment when you won’t be surrounded by people who care about you, even if you don’t always see them.

Letting Go is Hard, but I’ve Always Got Your Back
Ethan, I am so proud that you got to this amazing place in your life, but at the same time, why it is so hard to let go?  I will miss you dropping by the house, giving me a huge hug and telling me you love me, sneaking in your laundry, being delighted by any food I cook, laughing at crazy YouTube videos, and those long talks about the future.

Ethan, my strong, silent boy – what is it about your presence that so fills a room with sunshine?  I knew the day would come when you would leave, but I just never imagined that time could fly by so quickly.  But, in the end, I am your fiercely protective Mom who…was the bane of a bad teacher’s existence, might holler at unfair basketball calls, was always up for a pile of boys to spend the night, and would give you a hug and a pep talk when your heart was broken in two.  Always remember…

You are Loved.  You are Loved.  You are Loved.
No matter what life path you choose, no matter where you live, no matter, your job, who you love or the dreams you follow…you will always be loved by me and so many others in your life.  Always.

So for all of you with graduations or other significant events in your life this month, think about taking the extra time to share your heart and wisdom…hopefully, those around you will realize what a gift it is.  We would love to hear those foundational leadership lessons you have picked up over the years – after all the most important role we take on as a leader is to help that next generation along in their journey!