It’s still hasn’t sunk in that I started RockStar Consulting fifteen years ago. I’d like to think that I had a master plan when I hung a shingle and decided that I was going to be a professional coach and speaker (“author”, “podcaster”, “thought-leader” weren’t even on the radar). But no, looking back, I just couldn’t find a job that seemed like a good fit.
So I’ve been making up my job for the last decade and a half. It’s been a pretty amazing way to pay the bills. I’ve had the opportunity to help thousands of professionals on all the continents (still waiting for a speaking gig at McMurdo Station). I’ve met lots of wonderful people and get to call many of them my friends.
And while it sounds like a cop-out, I truly feel that I’m just in the beginning of figuring this whole thing out. Over the years, I’ve had some successes and lots of failures. But I’ve at least tried to learn along the way so that I have more of the former and less of the later.
15 Lessons for 15 Years
In honor of my 15-year anniversary out on my own, I wanted to share 15 ideas that I’ve picked up along the way:
- This is your life, your one and only life, don’t waste it. A big chunk of your life is spent working, so don’t waste that time either. What is wasting it? Only you can define that.
- You don’t have control over almost any of the forces that affect your professional life. All you can choose is your response. When you put your ego to the side for a moment it becomes pretty obvious. You save a lot of energy when you stop fighting back (which can then be used to respond more effectively).
- Whether you call it luck, randomness, or uncertainty, the unknown and ineffable plays a central role in what will happen to you. Sometimes it is hidden, sometimes it’s obvious. It can be frustrating as all get-out. Don’t begrudge others when randomness falls in their favor or pity them when it doesn’t. And don’t take your good or bad luck as a reflection of your worth.
- Don’t get cocky. And don’t suffer fools.
- There is no inherent honor or sexiness to running your own business. It’s a good path for some, and not for others. It doesn’t say much about the person either way.
- There is no secret to success in business that is known only to a select few. There’s no secret to success in life, either. If someone says they have that special secret, they are trying to sell you their expensive coaching course.
- People will tell you who they are right away if you listen and pay attention. How they behave when you first meet them is how they’re going to behave, period.
- Don’t be impressed by big social media follower counts. Some of the most followed people online are assholes and idiots. And some of the most followed people are genuine and brilliant. There’s not a causal relationship.
- I’m biased, but networking and meeting new people is an important part of your career success. The people you surround yourself determine the direction and elevation of your career. And really, life is short (see #1). Why waste it around douchebags?
- Sitting on the beach, drinking tropical beverages is great for vacation. But not as a lifestyle. We aren’t here to be consumers. Go make something.
- Business relationships really start to flower after the 5-year mark, and really kick in after ten years. Plant seeds and cultivate your connections now with an eye to the long-term. If you try to harvest too early, you’ll get less than you expect.
- Attention is precious. When someone gives you even a little bit of theirs, be grateful. And don’t waste it. On the flip side, your attention to each moment as it goes by is your most valuable resource, don’t squander it.
- What you are good at, do more of. Be honest that you aren’t good at as much as you’d like.
- Most people don’t want to change. And don’t want advice. They just want validation that whatever they are doing is the right thing to do. Don’t fight that tendency, even if you are in the advice-giving business. (Unless it’s internal. Then you should fight that complacency as hard as possible.)
- All aphorisms apply only part of the time. The trick is to figure out when to ignore them.