If you could go back in time and give yourself some professional advice just as you were stepping into the marketplace, what would it be?
- Be entrepreneurial. I saw the Internet come online. I had plenty of ideas (from an online auction to a better search engine to a comparison shopping engine), but I didn't think I had the entrepreneurial chops to make it happen. That upsets me. It's especially upsetting because I had already done a few non-digital (and successful) entrepreneurial ventures. The real message here? Don't be scared to try something new even if you're not sure about how it will all come together.
- Share your thinking. Nothing has been more powerful for my career than this Blog. It's not just a publishing platform, it's the place where I can experiment with words and share my thinking with the world. That critical thinking coupled with the vulnerability of putting my very deep and personal thoughts online for the world to see has given me an ever-evolving perspective. This sharing of how I feel and think has given me a depth to my experience that I could not get anywhere else.
- Admit when something isn't for you. I've taken jobs for money and it was work that I didn't love/believe in. I've been asked to write pieces for major publications about topics that didn't interest me. I've accepted clients and taken on speaking opportunities for all of the wrong reasons. Don't do it. It's not worth it. Creating an opportunity filter and focusing on the right type of work will lead you down the right path. Money is important (and I won't say it's not everything), but less money and more meaningful work will lead towards more meaningful work and more money.
- Family first. I've heard many people say that it's impossible to do the work that I do and still have a healthy work/life balance. I've written about this before. I don't believe in work/life balance. I believe in life balance - which is a combination of family, friends, work and community. They all need equal attention, but when push comes to shove, it's all about family first. If you don't have a healthy home, it makes everything else volatile and in flux.
- Have confidence. This may shock you, but I'm both an introvert and a very shy individual. Part of it stems from the fact that I never graduated university. I started publishing magazines and figured I would go back to school if it didn't work out... well, it worked out. You would think that success would lead to confidence, but it didn't. I often feel like I'm not as smart or established as my peers because they have some kind of designation from a university. That feeling slowly subsided when I realized how much time I spend self-educating (reading business books, attending conferences, listening to Podcasts, etc...). I wish I had more confidence when I just started out.
- Don't fake experience. My close-quarters combatives coach (Tony Blauer) used to always say that "experience is something you always get shortly after you really need it." I read a lot of Blogs from people who are either just out of university or from people who have a handful of years of professional Marketing experience. It's interesting to see how some of these people have massive followings but the content lacks experience (and, in some instances, professionalism). You can't fake experience. So, it's best to box in your own weight class. No one is going to punish you because you're speaking from your own level of experience versus pretending that you're more experienced than you really are.
- Be yourself. I still love the Oscar Wilde line, "be you, because others are already taken." It's hard to be yourself. It's easy to fall into the ways you think people perceive you instead of the way you truly are. It's a constant battle, but it's worthy to fight yourself to uncover your true self. The more I let go and follow my instinct/heart (from what I wear to how I speak to people) the more things seem to work out for me, professionally. Don't try to fit in. Try to fit into your own self. There is nothing wrong with becoming incompatible.
What would you tell a newbie version of you?