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My top 10 career (and life) tips

It’s Equilibrium’s 21st birthday this year and at the end of year team briefing our Founder, Colin Lawson, gave a fantastic talk about his journey into entrepreneurship and the ups and downs of the business to date. His eloquent speech was punctuated with the 21 lessons he has learned along the way and it got me thinking about my career. What have I learned? Do I have any pearls of wisdom?

I have learned a lot - across three countries - and maybe I do have some wise words. So here goes...

1. Be a problem solver not a complainer

I’ve been both. It’s easy to point out the flaws, what’s wrong, why it could be better. It takes effort to look for solutions, the upside, to be positive. It’s not always easy but I’ve chosen to focus on solutions and to take action to make things better. And anyway, no likes a complainer - they end up very lonely people.

2. Get out of your own way

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Mouthing off when we should be quiet, being petulant when we’ve been asked to do something, leaving things to the last minute and missing deadlines. If there are negative consequences due to what you are doing then you need to ask yourself why. Why did I say that? Why was I defensive? Why am I always late? Be introspective and most importantly be honest. You can’t change something if you aren’t truly honest about why you did it in the first place.

3. Identify people you admire and learn from them

In my late teens I lived in the US as a nanny, and got to experience the joys of daytime TV, not! However, there was one show that I learned a lot from, Oprah. Not just from Oprah herself, but the real life guests and experts she had on her show. For years my opening gambit on life’s lessons was ‘well, I was watching Oprah’. My list has evolved since then but I’m always on the lookout for great people, with great attitudes and great ideas to learn from.

4. Keep on truckin’

Sometimes life sucks. No two ways about it, it’s just rubbish! You can either let circumstance grind you to a halt, or keep moving and do something, anything. When you decide on a plan or what to do next it’s easier to get going from a slow start than a standing start. Rollin’, rollin’ rollin’.
(Don’t be a victim, don’t let life happen to you. You can always do something).

5. Minutes for money and money for minutes

Early in my career I was eager to make more money, to progress. In order to do that I needed more experience and the easiest way to do that was to put in the hours. More hours worked, more work done, more experience gained, more responsibility given, more money made. I gave up my ‘personal’ minutes for extra money.

Then I got older, wiser and had a family. My ‘personal’ minutes have become very precious. So rather than do laundry or clean I spend money to get some of my ‘personal’ minutes back. Whilst people don’t seem to have a problem understanding the first premise, it’s just as important to remember the reverse.

6. Create value first, then expect rewards/opportunity

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I worked at Strategic Coach in Canada for quite a few years and it was my epiphany around this concept that transformed my life. There is more detail about my experience in one of the chapters in the book Laws of Lifetime Growth by Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura. In essence, it’s about proactively finding ways to contribute rather than sitting around waiting for things to fall into your lap.

7. Be fair, be kind, be compassionate, but don’t take any shit!

Everyone makes mistakes. People have things going on in their lives that can be hard and detract from who they really are. So be kind, understanding and patient, treat them fairly. But when reasons become excuses, if behaviour spirals downwards, if they start to take advantage, take a stand and put your foot down (and just occasionally that may mean you have to shout).

8. Trust your ‘spidey’ sense

That’s when you can’t put your finger on it, but something doesn’t feel right. It’s your subconscious giving you a warning sign, listen to it… particularly when it comes to people.

9. Do things that push you out of your comfort zone

It’s the same as when you were a kid, there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride when you push yourself to do something scary. How can you know what you are capable of and how do you find out what you are good at it if you don’t try new things? There is always something new to learn, to experience, at any age.

10. Find your tribe

I’ve lived in the UK, I’ve lived in the US, I’ve lived in Canada. I’ve always kind of felt like I was a North American living in an English person’s body so when I got to live overseas I felt like I was home. The attitudes, drive, philosophy of those people resonated with me and it was easier to be me, to be motivated, to be inspired rather than feeling like I was going against the herd. Obviously, you can’t always move to another country but you can have your radar on for ‘your kind of people’. Find them, make friends with them, and for sure only ever hire them.

So, as your mum might say…‘Do as I say and not as I do’.


If you enjoyed this blog, you might enjoy Colin’s blog ‘21 lessons in business’.