First a quote: “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” ― Oprah Winfrey
Many moons ago, in a faraway place, I launched the first chapter of my career as a professional photographer. It was an exciting time. I had moved away from my home and family in rural Iowa to Chicago, the third largest city in the country. Everything was new, big, exciting and a bit scary.
My first real job was taking pictures of pots, pans, vacuum cleaners and other household items to be sold via catalog for a direct-to-the-home retailer. If was a fun job. It didn’t pay very well, and I worked very long hours; however, that job served as the launching pad for my career.
Approximately three years into that chapter of my career, the senior vice president I supported invited me to lunch. He wanted to discuss my career goals and explore my interest in a management trainee program offered by the company. I’m embarrassed to say now that I didn’t have career goals back then, nor did I have any interest in becoming a manager. I was after all, a professional photographer.
When I questioned why he would consider promoting a photographer with no management experience into a managerial position, he offered two pieces of advice I have never forgotten and often share with others:
- Never let your definition of who you are today, limit who you might become tomorrow! All of us have untapped potential and most of us will never realize our full potential. In some ways, we’re like a ten-speed bicycle, we have gears we never use. Why? Perhaps we have allowed others to define who we are or should be. Often it is because of our own personal set of self-limiting beliefs. In my mind, I was “a photographer”. Certainly nothing wrong with being a photographer; many of my classmates went on to have wonderful careers in the field. In my case, I never imagined, or explored, other dreams, options or possibilities.
- Always do your best! He also said, “Bryan, your photography degree made it possible for you to get your first job here at this company; but it is the way you performed in that job that helped create additional opportunities. By always doing your best, you’re putting yourself in the best position for what might be next.”
You also don’t have to let your education define your career. Think about how many people you know who are in careers which are only remotely connected to their education. The mentor I describe above had a degree in animal husbandry. (I was born and raised in farm country and I didn’t even know there was such a degree.) When I worked with him, he was a Vice President of Marketing and Sales Promotion at a large corporate conglomerate.
It doesn’t really matter at what point you start, by always doing your best, you’re putting yourself in the best position for what might come next. Your actions help create options and open doors.
In one lunchtime conversation, my mentor forever changed the trajectory of my career. Some 30+ years later, I am forever grateful he saw more potential in me than I saw in myself. He helped me believe in me. I want to help you believe in you. Or even better, help you help others believe in themselves. Leaders don’t develop followers; true leadership is about growing other leaders.
What about the people on your team? Do you see them for who they are today or, do see the untapped potential for what, and who, they might yet become with a little guidance and mentoring?
Here is a suggested assignment. Pick one person on your team to take to lunch in the next couple of days; lunch not in your budget… no problem, a cup of coffee or a can of soda will be more than enough. Ask them about their career goals. Help them see their untapped potential. Help them use the additional gears on their bicycle.
Maybe, just maybe, thirty years from now, someone will be telling a story about how you changed the trajectory of their career.
Today’s bonus quotes:
“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” – Agha Hason Abedi
“Life is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.” – Jose Ortegay Gasset
How will you lead differently, or better, this week?
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All the best! Give your best. Do your best. Be your best and the best shall be returned to you in full. I promise.
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”