Then one evening over coffee, my mind started wandering and it settled on time travel…where would I go? What would I see? Who would I talk to? That was when the idea hit me. Instead of looking at it from how I got here, what if I looked at it as if I went back in time to 19-year-old me, sat down with him, and discussed the career ahead and helped him try to avoid the potential pitfalls and mistakes that were headed his way. It was in this frame of mind that I settled on the few key items that I believe will help anyone become a great leader.
Set goals that you are passionate about – The first thing I would say is you must set a goal. Not just any goal, but something you are extremely passionate about. Once you hit that goal, immediately set the next one, then the next one, and so on. As soon as you stop setting goals for yourself, you begin to slide backwards. When I was 19 and working in my first contact center, I decided that one day I wanted to run my own site. From that moment, that goal drove every decision I made. From training and the books I read, to companies I joined, to promotions. Everything was done to get me closer to that goal. It’s not enough to say “one day I’m going to run a marathon” or “one day I’m going to be a CEO of my own company.” You should let this dream fill your every waking moment and only do things that bring you in line with that dream.
Learn from your failures and mistakes – The second piece of advice would be to be fearless but not arrogant. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Not everything works out the way you intended it, but the best thing to do is embrace the fact that you will make a mistake, or something will fall apart. In short, you will fail. But that should be something that you welcome on your journey. It’s not the successes where we learn, grow and develop. It’s truly those moments where we had an idea fail, where we have faltered, or where we have left the bosses office after getting a chewing out, that we truly learn to do better. Unfortunately, far too often people get to this moment and say “it’s too tough” or “it’s not fair” or the worst “I can’t do it.” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I would caution however that you don’t want to be arrogant and make the same mistake more than once. Anyone can make a mistake, but it should only happen once.
Strive to maintain a good work and life balance – The last piece of advice that I would give would be to understand that the job is truly never done and to recognize the balance between work and life. I got caught in this trap too many times to mention. My wife always said to me “work to live, don’t live to work,” but left to my own devices I would do just the opposite. However, she is right, work hard but enjoy life. Focus on your highest priorities when you are at work, ensure they are done with a high degree of quality, but at the end of the day, leave work guilt free and know that tomorrow we will have a new set of challenges to face and overcome. I watched a philosophy video where the teacher comes in and places a jar on a table. He fills the jar with golf balls and asks the class “Is it full?” They answer yes, he then adds a bag of pebbles to the jar and says “Is it full?” Again, the students say yes. Next up was sand, filling the spaces between the rocks. Now the jar looked full, but the teacher pulls out a beer and pours the beer into the jar. He then proceeds to tell the students that the jar is your life and the golf balls are the important things in life: your family, your health, your friends. The pebbles are this: your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. If you start with the sand or the pebbles, you won’t be able to fill the jar with the golf balls. One student asks about the beer and the teacher replies, “That’s to show you that you always have time for a couple beers.” That video was so impactful to my wife and I, that we have the story written out and hanging in our bedroom.