Tips I Wish I’d Had 30 Years Ago

Kevin Garrett |

On December 15, 1985, a little over 31 years ago, I left the relative safety and security of college life and started my first corporate job. On that day as I contemplated what my boss would be like and what work I would be given. I don't think I would have imagined the journey that lay ahead of me. After thirty plus years, multiple bosses, three moves to new cities across the country, and a journey that has spanned experiences across many different businesses and countries, I look back and say "wow, what a journey!" Did I ever imagine I'd be working in the corporate sector for 17 years before working for myself and clients the last 14? To be honest, no, but back then a time horizon of a couple of years was long-term thinking. As I think back to that twenty-two-year-old me sitting in the reception, waiting for the designated HR person to come and get me, if I had the chance, what would I say to him? More importantly to the 3 great young humans in my life today ranging from 11-to 17, what advice than I provide to them? I’d probably start like this… 1. Congratulations on getting your dream job! Enjoy the moment and the feeling of freedom that comes with starting your career. Just keep in the back of your mind that one day you'll realize that true freedom comes with being able to walk away from something you once coveted, instead of sticking to it at any cost. 2. I realized that our identity does not come from the titles we have at our jobs but what inspires us, what makes us feel alive. Today I hold many titles that are not all related to my business: Dad, Partner, Mentor….those identities don't take away from my day job, but in fact help me bring my full, authentic self to it, and be better at it. 3. If money and material items are what you chase, the finish line will keep moving on you...dig deeper for what really matters to you. 4. If you find yourself thinking long meetings where people debate endlessly are a waste of time, you're right. Fifteen years into those meetings, I still found them to be a waste of time. So don't feel guilty about daydreaming…or better, to start challenging the future you on what will make you feel more fulfilled. 5. You learn as much, if not more, from the "bad" bosses as the "good" ones. You'll have bosses whom you adore and those whom you wish you could somehow make disappear. Complain about them, but remember, you have a lot to learn from them, even if all you learn is what you will not do when you are in their shoes. Speaking of shoes, put yourself in their shoes once in a while, and you may realize that they are not quite the devils you imagine them to be, just people trying to do their job the best they can, perhaps very differently from how you'd want them to. 6. One day you will be a “devil” of a boss to someone. (see point 5) and try to remember… 7. Eventually you will find yourself questioning many things in your company. Certainly don't go with the flow because it's the easy, or "politically correct" thing to do. But remember to not just volunteer your opinion about something that is broken, also offer your time and suggestions to fix them. 8. Office coffee will always suck. Deal with it, or switch to tea as I finally did. 9. Social networks will give you thousands of "friends," but believe me, your closest friends will be those two or three you meet early and hang out with. Do a better job of staying in touch with more of them than I did back then. 10. Lots of opportunities will come your way. Don't start by asking about the title and salary as I did when I was your age. Ask about the culture and the people you'll work with. That is what will really matter. 11. Don't work too late. The ROI of those hours are bad. It took me way too long to figure that out. 12. Volunteer for something and help people out. The world is a big place-- much bigger than your job and friends, full of people who aren't as lucky as you are. 13. There will always be someone "better" than you; someone who will be promoted faster, be smarter, richer, better looking or just plain luckier. Get over it. Ultimately, the race is to be the best 'you' possible. 14. Pay attention to your health…without it, everything tends to either stop or go out of control. Start your healthy habits earlier than I started mine. 15. One day your parents will leave you, permanently. Sure, independence is great, but remember Mom and Dad won't be there forever. Take the time to be with them. 16. And while we are the topics of parents, don’t be too hard on them. One day, if you are extremely lucky and blessed, you will be a parent and every time you screw up, you'll empathize with your parents and realize that being a good parent is a really hard thing to do. 17. One day, a voice will tell you that a person you just met is "the one." Listen to it, but don’t force things. Let things happen as the universe allows. 18. It'll all be ok. You'll screw up, you'll be hurt, you'll have bad days but you know what, nobody owes you a happy life. You need to find things and people that make you happy. Is everything perfect in my life? Not even close. Have I got regrets and sadness from actions and decisions that I have made? Of course I do. But on balance, I think I've made more of a positive difference to those around me than not, and that's what you'll discover ultimately matters. Good luck with the next thirty years.