Yesterday I had four coffee meetings with people I had never met before, each reminding me of some valuable life lessons.
My first meeting was with a man who used to be a traditional brand marketer, but a few years back decided it wasn’t for him. He wanted to do what he loved best, and he wanted to spend more time with his young family. So he made a change. Today he’s a successful personal branding expert, career coach, and public speaker. You can tell he loves what he does. And as an entrepreneur who sets his own schedule, he gets to have breakfast with his kids most mornings. The lesson: if you don’t like what you’re doing, don’t settle — make a change.
My third meeting was with a woman who’s currently looking for her next job opportunity. She’s spent her impressive career on the agency side of the business, but rather than looking for another agency job she plans to leverage her tremendous experience to pursue a role in a new field that interests her greatly. The lesson: you can look at change as something to avoid, or as an opportunity for growth — choose the latter.
My fourth meeting was with a very forward-thinking HR leader who’s goal is to get senior leaders everywhere to think differently about the workplace of the future. She’s worked in many of the same traditional work environments most of us have experienced but refuses to believe things can’t be better. The lesson: if you think there’s a better way, work to make it happen.
My second meeting of the day was perhaps the most profound. That meeting was with a man I found sitting on the street, begging for change. I offered to buy him breakfast, and as we sat together while he ate, he told me the story of how he ended up without a home. Contrary to many stereotypes about the homeless, his story didn’t involve drugs, abuse, or mental illness. It ultimately involved one bad decision and a personal family tragedy, each of which had devastating cascading effects. And yet despite his troubles, he remains friendly and hopeful. This man offers us several lessons. Don’t use stereotypes to make determinations about people, get to know their stories. Understand how your choices can impact your future, good and bad. And be grateful for everything you have, and optimistic that tomorrow can be better.
David Pullara is a Chief Marketing Officer, writer, speaker, consultant, and course facilitator for the Schulich Executive Education Center. His career has included roles at Starbucks, Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut), Coca-Cola, and Google. You can read his thoughts on Medium, LinkedIn, and Twitter.