No Shortcuts - Advice for My 20 Year Old Self

I was on a panel this week for a class at University of Cincinnati.  It was a career discussion where we provided career advice.  We covered a bunch of topics and many I wished I heard when I was an undergrad.  It could have made my career in my 20's more focused on enjoyable.  ha.  

You live and learn though.  Below were the biggest pieces of advice. 

Be Open:  When you're 20 years old you are young and don't have as many serious attachments (significant other, children, mortgage, etc).  You have more freedom to explore ideas and take more risks.  I had 3 jobs in the insurance industry in my 20's as I tried to find a good fit for myself in the industry.  I couldn't find it and decided to go to business school in my late 20's.  It felt like I kept on moving from job to job, but that was the time to do it. 

Careful Following Others:  It's really easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and feel like you're missing something.  When I was at Wharton everyone was headed to investment banking in NYC.  It paid well, was well respected and it felt like you were a dumbass for not pursuing it.  Even though I was horrible in finance, didn't really like the culture and couldn't imagine working 90+ hours a week I shifted totally away from my passion in marketing and went for financial services.  I was the lemming following all the other lemmings off the cliff.  My heart was in marketing.  My skillset was in marketing.  I didn't take one marketing class outside of the required 101.  Thankfully I was able to find my way back to marketing.....7 years later!

Find What You Are Amazing at....and Like:  Lean into your strengths.  Find what really gets you excited.  If you really love what you do you will work harder, be more curious and have way more positive energy for it.  All of that improves your likelihood of success.  When you attain that success you will likely enjoy what you are doing even more.  It's a  flywheel.  I like the concept of Ikigai.  It's an old Japanese concept that says that you should find the intersection of 4 things:  What you love.  What you are good at.  What pays you.  What the world needs.  If you hit that sweet spot you will succeed.  

I have a lot more pieces of advice, but those were the top 3.  We are living in a rapidly changing time, so I see a ton of opportunity for young people.  You have to play your cards right though.  Don't get content and not push for greatness. 


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No Shortcuts - Does Meditation Actually Help?

I've been meditating off and on for years.  My dad used to be very into it when I was growing up, so was exposed to it......and felt like it was super weird for a long time.  Something that the Berkeley people would do while wearing odd colored robes and chanting.  Meditation is has become more and more mainstream over the years and I've been doing it off and on for 10+ years. 

I recently read that book about how an ABC news host went all in on meditation after having multiple panic attacks.  His book is called 10% Happier and that's exactly how much he thinks meditation helps.  When I think about my experience with meditation I have to agree.  

I took a class in business school called Fostering Creativity and we meditated in a circle to start every class.  It was at first super awkward and then I came to look forward to it.  The premise of the class is that everyone wants to be creative, but can rarely achieve it because life gets in the way.  Traffic.  Work stress.  Long hours.  Lack of sleep.  Too much screen time.  Running the kids around.  Lack of exercise.  Poor food choices.  How can you clear your mind to be creative when that is your every waking minute??

That struck a chord with me because I like to stay busy.  I like to be running around all the time, but really WANT to be creative.  If you can't take 10 minutes to chill out, then how do you expect your brain to spit out breakthrough ideas?  

I read another book recently called Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris.  He talks with 100+ extremely successful people across all industries.  My biggest takeaway was LOTS of successful people meditate.  And many do transcendental meditation, which is 20+ minutes of deep meditation a day.  There is something to meditation if that many insanely successful do it daily!

Here are the benefits that I have gotten from meditation.  

Just Slow Down!  If you are just getting started you will find it almost impossible to sit and breath for 5 minutes.  It'll feel like hours.  You'll get frustrated, but also realize that it is crazy that you can't still for 5 min.  You want to check your phone.  You'll think you're getting nothing out of it.  Stay strong and keep trying it.  The practice will soon click and you'll sit there calm.  You'll appreciate the quiet and stillness. 

Clear the Monkey Mind.  Your mind is all over the place.  Constantly thinking.  It's overwhelmed.  It's running a marathon not running a straight line.  It's zig- zagging and often in an all out sprint.  Stressed about a work project.  Wondering when you can pick up the dry cleaning.  Upset about the tone of voice someone used with you.  Stressed because you're stuck in traffic.  Can the mind just switch to a nice walk?   Meditation allows your mind to just TRY to think about one thing.  Your breath.   

Prevent Getting Overwhelmed.  I remember I had a really hard time at work for a year.  I looked at my Calm app streak and I did it every single day for a year.  I felt like I needed to just rest my mind because all I was thinking about was this work drama.  Mad at what someone did to me.  Wondering if I was smart enough to make it.  Thinking about whether I needed to find another job.  What would that job be?  Where would it be?  What would that mean for the relationship I was in?  My mind was snowballing a bad incident and it was getting out of control.  Stopping to just calm my mind helped me from going crazy. 

Meditation is not a miracle maker.  It helps though.  I think showing your commitment and control over your mind also gives you some confidence.  If you can calm your mind for 10 minutes, then what else can you do?   Workout?  Read more?  It's 10 minutes a day and makes you 10% happier.  It's worth the investment!

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No Shortcuts - Are You Getting Out-Worked?

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill.  I will not be out-worked, period.....But if we get on the treadmill together, there's two things: You're getting off first, or I'm going to die.

- Will Smith 

I love this quote.  People think Will Smith is just a naturally born talent and everything comes easy for him.  Good looking.  Funny.  Musically talented.  Actor.  Caring.  Charismatic.  Rich.  And then you see this quote and it's clear he has had to work his ass off to get where he is.  

I see in this quote that Smith feels like there are people just as talented as him.  Maybe even more talented.  They just aren't willing to put in the work to be great.  That is so powerful in this day when people seem to want things to come easily.  That's at least how it looks on social media.  

Hard work is often the differentiator.  It can be easily hidden that you don't even see what's going on though.  Here are a few examples.  

You and another person are working on different projects.  She seems to be having an easier time getting things done though.  Things are just working out.  Her team likes her.  The actions she is taking are making immediate impacts.  She's seen by leadership as super effective and high potential.  Now what does she have that you don't????

What You Don't See: 

- She reads books while you are watching TV.  Those books make her a better leader, a better strategic thinker, a better public speaker and a better influencer.  

- She goes home when you do, but gets back on the computer at night to handle work when it's quiet versus taking 4X longer doing it during the day with all the distractions.  

- She prioritized learning and took multiple classes over the year in areas that sharpened her skills.  You were too busy with the day to day to take classes.  

Those are just a few examples of what's happening outside of your view.  Someone is out-working you and you don't even realize it.  In business this happens slowly.  It's not a 100 yard dash that's over quickly. It's weeks, months and years.  You don't necessarily see what your competition is doing because it's often happening imperceptibly. 

If you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you can work harder, then I would figure out how to get on the right track.  The job market is incredibly tight right now and companies are going to continue to look for efficiencies.  They want the hardest working people that are making things happen. 

Be Will Smith.  Your competition will give up or you'll die trying.   

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No Shortcuts - How to Own Your Superpowers

In order to succeed in today's economy you need to be able to leverage your super powers.  You have to stand out from everyone else.  When you are using your super powers you are energized, willing to work harder (because you like what you're doing!) and stand out from others as you leverage what you're better than other people at. 

As jobs are cut, companies look to automate work and we shift more to a technological revolution (and out of the industrial revolution) it's critical you find your super powers and OWN them.  When working in a factory or an office job that acts like a factory you are essentially a commodity.  Do this.  Do that.  Come back tomorrow and do it over again.  The world is shifting away from this type of and you need to strive to NOT be perceived as a commodity.  You must be different. 

There is a transition going on because schools are still setup more to prepare people to work in factories.  You are taught standard skills.  The exams are literally called "Standardized Tests".  You are not tested on creativity.  You are not tested on ingenuity.  You are not tested on your leadership.  You must break out of what school has taught you and realize the "Real World" is now different. 

Here is a step by step guide to find your superpower(s) and a path to ensure you leverage them in your career. 

What do you Naturally Like Doing?  

What did you do as a kid for fun?  Build things?  Organize friends to do stuff?  Draw?  Work with electronics?  I know when I was a kid I used to go to the corner market to buy candy for 50 cents and then walk to the playground and sell it to my friends for $1.  I liked finding opportunities and making the most of them.  Makes sense that I am in business and also like doing entrepreneurial things.  You can often find a seed of what you intrinsically enjoy doing by looking at what you enjoyed doing as a kid.

Figure Out How to Turn That Into a Career

So this is the hard part.  It can be solved though.  The key is to be open minded about how to transition what you like to do and are good at into a more formal career.  The biggest challenge here is coming to the realization that not EVERYTHING you do in your career will be fun and there are often things you need to do to prepare yourself to be successful at that career.  For example, if you really had a passion for building things as a kid, then you might need to go to engineering school to become an expert at doing that.  For me, I went to business school......twice!  You have to learn the trade and become an expert in that space, which takes time.  Often it takes many years.  Most people give up along the way to do something easier.  The key is figuring out the path you need to take and then sticking to it.  

When You Are on the Path You Stick With It and Share Your Vision 

People get on the right path and then see shiny objects.  More money.  A promotion to management.  A new company that wants to stretch you.  You think to yourself that these are opportunities that you can't pass up, but you then get away from your true superpowers.  Is managing people your super power or is building a new device your super power?  You then are in the industry where you COULD stand out, but you are no longer in the right role.  

Another trap is not sharing your superpowers with your management.  It might be a little different from what is standard for the company, so you just keep rowing doing what is expected.  No need to rock the boat.  Sharing what you REALLY want to do could be risky because management would think about you differently.  It takes a lot of courage to do this and you also need to understand the lay of the land.  If you are a consultant and tell management you want to play professional soccer, then that's not going to go well.  If you are a consultant in the manufacturing space but have a deep passion for technology, then it's not too crazy to ask to be transferred to the technology group.  Many people don't make that request though because everything is "fine".  You need to push for more than "fine". 

At P&G I was in a traditional business for 7 years learning the core skills of brand building.  I have a passion for digital, innovation and entrepreneurship though.  I did some of that in my traditional role, but I wanted to do way more of it.  I was worried that if I asked for it, then I would then be removed from the traditional group and I'd be on an island by myself.  Would they not want me around anymore?  Would I be seen as less than?  I ended up telling them that's what I wanted and my career has taken a totally different trajectory. 

I was moved to a digital group that was not seen as highly as people in the traditional business.  I learned SO MUCH though in this new group.  I took hundreds of hours of digital classes and soon became a digital expert.  That opened the door for me to move to the P&G Ventures group where I am starting new businesses.  EXACTLY what I wanted to be doing. 

All situations are different, so you definitely need to think about what you really want and the best path for you.  If you feel good about that path you have to go for it.  You spend too much time at work to just be "fine".  There is a better way.  That way does require hard work and courage though! 





t did you do 

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