leadership advice for your younger self
“If I only I knew then, what I know now,” Lydia told us. “I would’ve been able to get ahead in my career so much faster, and avoid so much heartache.”
Lydia, of course, is not the first person to utter those words. In fact, most of us at some point in our career have said almost the exact same thing. But, with age and experience, comes an understanding that is not often taught in schools—the true value of building strong relationships, the real definition of leadership, the impact trust can have on business, and the role risk-taking plays in the trajectory of our careers.
Recently the two of us found ourselves in a conversation over lunch asking ourselves why it seems to take so long to understand some of the most fundamental aspects of business and leadership. We laughed at some of our early-career perceptions and mistakes. And, we wished the seasoned versions of ourselves could go back and mentor the young us. Think about it. If you could jump into a time machine, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Curious, we reached out to a handful of leaders we know to reflect on what they’ve learned through their years of experience—their wins, their losses, and their changes in perspective.
1. Value and develop relationships.
The advice Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, would give his younger self is something we all should give more focus—at work and at home. “When I was young, I never had any idea how my career would go, so I always just focused on doing the best in the job at the time,” Bersin told us. “I hardly aspired for leadership or a big job, I just tried to make sure I was performing well, learning, and contributing. Now, later in life, I realize that the relationships I established over 35 years were and are among the most important part of my career, and I would treasure each and every one of them even more.”
2. Live by Ancora Imparo.
We were also interested to hear what advice the CEO at WD-40, Garry Ridge, would share with his younger self—as we assumed the guy in charge of producing a product that has become a staple in nearly every home, would surely say something profound. Well, he did say something profound, but his advice had nothing to do with products. “It’s all about the people,” Ridge told us. “Your success will depend on learning from others, staying humble, asking questions, be caring, candid, respectful and holding yourself accountable, no faking, lying or hiding – live by Ancora Imparo.”
3. Take more chances.
Possibly the most recognized voice on the planet, Susan Bennet, the voice of Siri, told us, “My piece of business advice to my younger self would be the same as my life advice: to take more chances!” It may sound simple, but for some people, throwing caution to the wind, and trying something new, can be crippling.
4. Take counsel from your courage, not your fear.
Startup Funding Expert, and author, Judy Robinett was excited to respond to our question as she has literally built a career around the advice she would give herself. “Take counsel from your courage, not your fear,” said the author of the book How to Be a Power Connector. “Never underestimate fear—realize your thoughts and feelings are not facts. The best cure is always action, but better is being scrappy—smart, strategic action that provides exponential value.”
5. Seek input.
Former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, and now a coach to some of the most recognized CEO’s in the world, Sheldon Harris, said the advice he would give his younger self focuses on leadership as he told us, “Inspiring followership is the result of seeking input from others more than giving it.”
Surely, any of us could benefit from all of these pieces of advice. Of course, maybe some connect with you more today than others depending on your role, the stage of your career, and your goals. However, as research junkies, we like to categorize things. We like to see if there is a common vein. We like to see if there’s anything that ties all of these pieces of advice together. And, in looking at this small sampling, we think there is something that ties every piece of advice together—the intention to improve. Taking risks, asking questions, taking counsel from your courage, honoring relationships, and seeking input from others, may sound like simple hurdles to overcome. But, without the intention to improve ourselves, progress doesn’t exist. Which leads to a sixth piece of advice.
6. Choose yourself.
“Before you can be chosen, you need to choose yourself first,” said Nely Galan, former President of Telemundo, and author of a bestselling book titled Self-Made. Basically, Galan is telling us not to wait for what she calls ‘Prince Charming’ to give us the life we want. We choose the companies we work for, the roles we pursue, and the results we want to achieve.
Although none of us can go back in time, we can all start fresh tomorrow with the intention to improve both ourselves, and the people who surround us. Each of us has to ability to both become great, and influence greatness in others. But, progress only happens when we start sharing advice. So, share the advice you’d give your younger self with us today. Please comment below or send us an email.
This post was originally published on Forbes.