Whether just starting out or a seasoned professional, advice and encouragement is to be expected throughout your career. No matter the profession you choose or the level of success you achieve, you’ve likely heard these phrases of encouragement numerous times along the way:
- Give 110 percent.
- Follow your dreams and passions.
- Just do it.
There’s nothing wrong with words of encouragement like these, but they aren’t enough. Those who lead well (whether for themselves or for another organization) benefit most from specific advice that comes from real experiences and lessons learned. Oftentimes, advice from those who’ve journeyed before us is the most invaluable resource of information we can acquire.
As you journey down your own career path, here’s a look at some of the best advice from leaders of long-standing brands:
Confidently stand alone
“There’s a lot of pressure to look like the last company that was successful,” said Ben Silbermann, co-founder and CEO of Pinterest.
Silbermann understands that concept firsthand. When building his social platform, he could have created the next-best Facebook or Twitter. But instead, he left the world scratching its head and launched a photo bookmarking social platform, designed for people to share a collection of things they loved. Fortunately he didn’t let the doubt of others creep in. Today Pinterest is valued at $12.3 billion.
Innovation and breakthroughs don’t happen by replicating what’s already been done. Oftentimes, the most innovative ideas bring the greatest concerns and questions to the table. Think about the initial perspectives the world gave to brands like Uber and AirBnB, but that’s what made them innovators. New discoveries don’t happen when we look to the left or the right. New discoveries are birthed from those who are willing to ask questions, expand their minds and create solutions others have yet to consider.
Keep an open door that welcomes failure
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default,” said J.K. Rowling.
If anyone understands what it means to overcome failure, it’s Rowling, the author and mind behind Harry Potter. Before becoming one of the wealthiest women in the world, Rowling had gone through a divorce, was living right above London’s poverty level and had been rejected by numerous literary agents. But the difference for Rowling came down to the way in which she viewed failure. Rather than a marker of defeat, failure can be seen as progress toward the next opportunity. In business, our goals are never achieved through perfection; they come from wrong turns made right.
Balance is better than burnout
“Everyone knows the exact battery life remaining on our cellphones, but how many of us are self-aware enough to know when our own battery life is getting low,” said Arianna Huffington, who was forced to reevaluate the meaning of success when she found herself with a broken cheek bone after collapsing from exhaustion.
Society has trained us to believe that burning out is to be expected if success is to be achieved. And with that mentality, sacrifices from what’s most important — family, friends and our personal health — are made. Huffington, who founded the Huffington Post and Thrive Global, encourages leaders chasing after success to commit to a life of balance, rather than burnout. By unplugging, recharging and sleeping, leaders can become more effective decision makers because the individual self is working from a state of optimal performance.
But what’s most important to remember, is that maintaining balance increases in difficulty the higher you move up the corporate ladder. So, do your part now, change your perspective and discontinue pushing your body beyond the natural human limitations.
Commit to creating high-impact experiences
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job everyday to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
In business, it can be easy to focus inwardly. There’s always so much to be done internally in an organization, areas of the business that need improvement and elements of a product that need expansion to survive in the marketplace. But even the most innovative, forward-thinking brands cannot succeed without maintaining a meticulous eye on its customers. Be purposeful to follow and understand your customers and the experience they have with your brand.
Certainly there is more great advice from great leaders to be shared and learned from. What advice have you heard over the years, that you’ve tried to retain and act on in your own career?