One Discovery, Two Decisions

The best part of my job is working with, sharing, inspiring and being inspired by passionate, smart people. It turns my crank. I am lucky to have this life. I try to stop and be grateful when as often as I can.

I had one of those moments last week at breakfast with the Design4Change agency, Patricia Derbyshire of Mount Royal University, and Earnest Barbaric the social media strategist. Clarity came while we were talking marketing and career choices.

I believe we all have one discover and two choices we all have to make to gain mastery, be fulfilled, and be engaged in our work and our lives. There are things we all need to do in order to be successful in life, no matter how we define success. Here’s what I think those things are:

Discover What You’re Good At

This is one of those simple but not always easy to carry out concepts. It takes thought, focus, and self-awareness. We all enjoy something, we can all be good at something, we all need to master something. Being good and being recognized by others as being good, is the difference between thriving and merely surviving.

What are you good at? What makes time fly, leaves you energized instead of drained, or is fun for you? If you can’t think of anything, or you don’t get to do it very often, maybe it’s time for a change? Life is too short and hard already to spend it doing something that eats your soul instead of feeding it.

Figure out what that thing is, then  figure out how to make a living at it.

Choose Who You’re Going to Work With

Maslow got it wrong. The “social” need of his hierarchy is just as important as food and shelter.

People matter, and who you surround yourself with matters. Choose your friends and co-workers carefully. The biggest influence on a child’s life? Not their parents, but their friends. Want to raise good kids? Choose their friends  carefully.

Business success depends on the people you choose to hire (or not). Don’t waste your time with somebody who you wouldn’t enthusiastically rehire. It’s not worth it.

Choose to Keep Learning

You can learn and adapt by trial and error, or you can learn from others. Darwin didn’t say that survival would go to the fittest. He said it would go to the most adaptable. Those that learn also adapt and survive.

Get into the habit of reading, learning, and always always always trying to find ways to simplify and do things better. You could do it by trial and error, on your own, but that doesn’t seem very efficient does it?

I believe that these are the simple things that outstanding managers (and successful human beings) do well.

Question for the Comments:
What are the lifetime habits that help you succeed?

Other articles you may find interesting:
Eight Career Rules For My Teenage Daughter
Following Your Passion
Getting the Job You Want by Talking to the Right People

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with

What Makes a Good Leader?

There once was a welder who was very good at his job. He enjoyed welding, his work quality was high, he worked fast. He delivered results, and his bosses were happy.

Because Joe was good at welding, his bosses wanted to reward him for making them money. They figured if he was a good welder, then putting him in charge would make all the other welders good too. They promoted him, made him the shop foreman, gave him more money and more responsibility. This included some other junior welders to work under him.  Instead of doing what he enjoyed (welding), he found himself spending more and more of his time doing paperwork, sorting out problems with his staff, dealing with missed deadlines, anything but actually welding. Joe soon found that he wasn’t enjoying coming to work as much as he used to.  Some days he didn’t even want to go to work. He thought maybe he should quit and find another job. Quit welding altogether.

Joe wasn’t happy, his bosses weren’t happy, and the other welders started wondering when Joe became such a jerk. He wasn’t one of the guys anymore. He wasn’t good at being a shop foreman. He hated not being good at what he did. This made Joe grumpy and short with everybody. Morale in the shop fell dropped. Production and quality fell.

He was still trying to good job, because Joe was a decent guy. Or at least he tried. That’s part of what made him a good welder to begin with, and people had respected him for it. Now he felt all alone, like nobody had his back. He wasn’t doing anything he could be proud of anymore. What he didn’t have were the skills of a good manager of welders.

Being a manager & leader is a skill. Not everybody can be a leader. Not everybody wants to be a leader. But if you need to the skills can be learned. It can be practised. It’s measurable. Joe certainly knew when he was failing, and he didn’t like. His bosses knew when he was failing because turnover went up and productivity and quality went down.

Which brings us to the first characteristic of a successful leader: life-long learning. Striving to do better. Always learning, getting better, making measurable progress and improvement, reading, sharpening our saw.

This life-long learning behaviour has a couple of benefits: learning better ways of doing something more effectively makes us more productive, which means we can do more of it in the same time or something else with the time we have left over. It keeps our brains fresh – like a muscle we must use it or lose it. It allows us to analyze and consider alternatives and at little or no cost. It allows us to avoid others’ mistakes, and to learn from the best practices of others. Sometimes it may seem like we have to run hard to stay in the same place, but if you’re not learning and growing then you’re falling behind.

It’s like the Steven Covey story about sharpening your saw. If you can’t stop long enough to sharpen your saw because you’re too busy cutting down the tree, then you’re never going to cut down the tree because your saw is too dull. Meanwhile the next guy with the sharper saw is cutting down more trees.

Invest in yourself, because the people and projects you lead are worth it. Invest in yourself because you’re worth it. Make it a life-long habit.