Originally published at www.myloudspeaker.ca on October 23, 2013
The Top 8 Things I’ve Learned (and am Still Learning) from Business
It’s been over 4 years since I started my career, and I can say wholeheartedly, that without support from mentors, friends, and family, I’d be as lost as the day I graduated. Most things on this list are learned from this support network, and some through my own mistakes and failures. I hope this is as helpful to you as it has been to me.
1. THE MOST IMPORTANT INVESTMENT YOU EVER MAKE IS IN YOURSELF.
I didn’t invite anyone to my University graduation. My family found out and attended the event, but when it was over, I couldn’t a find a way out of there fast enough. I didn’t want to talk to my friends or fellow graduates and their families, because I didn’t feel I was worthy of a degree. I had taken the easiest route out — majoring in something I was inherently good at — but not even remotely passionate about. I wasted my time there and I had always thought it was the University’s fault. The truth is, I didn’t value investing in myself back then. I take night and online classes now — learning all I can about leadership and marketing. I’m trying to make up for all the time I had lost before. If I had known this earlier, I’d be able to spend my week nights relaxing instead of doing homework. The thing is, you can’t control the world around you. Shit happens — sometimes you get laid off or you lose all your clients and you have to shut down your business. Sometimes you have to re-locate or restart your career due to family or relationship reasons. If any of this happens, you’re only left with yourself, so invest in you before anything else.
2. ASK QUESTIONS WITH THE INTENTION OF LISTENING. THE BEST NUGGETS OF HONESTY TEND TO COME AFTER THE LONG PAUSES.
It’s difficult to learn how to be a good listener. I was god-awful at it not too long ago, and I’m still learning now. However, whenever I’ve focused on listening first, the conversations have always become more memorable (and valuable). Try this next time; ask someone a question which has an open-ended answer, and wait for them to respond instinctively. Continue to nod without saying anything. After a couple of seconds, a more honest answer will usually spill out.
3. DON’T JUST READ AND INGEST INFORMATION — PRACTICE AND TEST TOO.
As you probably know already, there’s an abundance of information on the web — to the point where it’s completely overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up ingesting all this information and feeling like you’re learning as you read articles or watch videos. However, I would suggest putting things into practice and really recognizing all the intangibles that are inexplicable until you try something.
4. TRY NOT TO BURN BRIDGES. BUT IF YOU REALLY HAVE TO, BURN IT WITH A SMALL ENOUGH FIRE SO IT DOESN’T GET ON THE NEWS.
I used to be very confrontational. It’s led me to a place where I’ve regretted every single bridge I’ve burnt. Sometimes it went so far as to draw attention from other people — which is the worst scenario. I often think about how I could have handled relationships better and whether or not I’m still able to revive them. More often than not, I can’t. Nowadays, if I have an issue with someone, I don’t light a match.
5. BE KIND TO YOUR COMPETITION. THERE’S ENOUGH ROOM FOR EVERYONE.
The ad agency competition in Vancouver is fierce. There are many agencies — most of which are very talented — all vying for limited projects. At the same time, Vancouver is also incredibly tight-knit, so if you position yourself as an adversary to your competition, you’re not going to have many friends. The same thing can be said about other industries.
6. IF YOU’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING, DO IT THE BEST YOU CAN.
Everything you put your name on speaks about you and your character. You get what you put in, so why wouldn’t you put in your best work? Sometimes, an issue creeps up on me that I can’t provide my best work on side projects because I’m swamped with other commitments. I’m still learning how to say “no” when I know I can’t provide my full attention to something, but it’s a work-in-progress at best.
7. SOMETIMES MASTERING THE OLD THING IS MORE VALUABLE THAN LEARNING THE NEW THING
We work in an industry where “new” is often touted as more important and valuable than the old. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype — it’s more exciting — but “more exciting” doesn’t necessarily mean “more valuable”.
8. LEAVE TIME FOR SELF-REFLECTION
When I say “leave time” for it, I mean actually put it into your schedule. Frequently refreshing and reminding yourself of who you are and what you’re doing is not a waste of time. Sometimes you’ll realize that you’ve really embodied a lesson that was taught to you, and sometimes you’ll re-learn something and realize that you hadn’t been putting it to practice enough (see #3). Self-reflection also helps increase your self-awareness, allows you to rejuvenate, and gives you time to actually slow down and appreciate the journey.