Thoughts for grads

I gave a talk on Organizational Zen tonight to a college class. The talk got me thinking about things I wish I had known before I entered the business world. Our focus tonight stayed on organizational issues so I’ll share my ideas here about “If I had only known…”

  • It’s never wrong to be kind.
  • Have real conversations. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. And know that sometimes the answers you get aren’t obvious and aren’t always what you expect.
  • Make networking a daily practice – everyone has a story. Ask!
  • Be helpful. What can you do today to make someone’s life better?
  • Be curious. If you hear about something you don’t know anything about, check into it.
  • If you’re working on a team, respect the individuality of each person on the team. Everyone gets to talk. And everyone gets to listen.
  • It’s okay to make things up as you go along. No one has all the answers. And you can’t always see the path until you’re on it.
  • Have a plan but be flexible. The goal is to speed walk – not cliff dive.
  • Find other people who are doing what you want to do and try to meet them.
  • Think with your gut. Have an open, kind, generous heart. Develop a clear, honest voice. Try to see what’s in front of you. Channel the energy of the Universe.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do – no excuses.
  • Look for things that need to be done and do them even if they’re not your responsibility.
  • Don’t expect praise – just do good work and know that it matters.
  • Don’t expect your company to love you.
  • Be a life-long learner – education doesn’t end with school. Read, be observant and ask questions.
  • If your work isn’t fun, find something else to do. If you’re having fun, you’re usually doing a good job and visa versa.
  • Life is a game. Test out new concepts; try new things.
  • The Internet and shared community concepts open doors to so many opportunities. The largest hospitality group, AirBnB doesn’t own any properties. The largest transportation company, Uber, owns no vehicles. The largest retailer, Amazon, is only now opening stores. The largest content provider, Facebook, owns no content. You don’t have to own anything to have a thriving business.
  • You are a brand. What you do for work and play defines you along with what type of car you drive, how you dress, what you read, and how you choose to spend your time and money.
  • Build a stable network of friends, family, work and fun. A stable net will catch you when you fall.
  • Whatever you choose to do, be present. Stay focused.
  • Go where your energy leads you.
  • Be yourself. Deny the critics – including you own self-critic.
  • Do interesting things.
  • Be choosy about what you work on. Choose things that make you happy and lift your energy. And finish what you start – don’t waste time.
  • Watch out for Crazy Makers in your life. And don’t be a Crazy Maker!
  • Take time to get good at something.
  • Spend some time alone each day.
  • Pay attention to the weird coincidences in your life.
  • Make your life as simple as possible.
  • Complaining is not a strategy.

I’ll close with a poem Maryellen Carew gave me last year. Here’s Lucky by Kristen Dierking:

All this time

the life you were

suppose to live

has been rising around you

like the walls of a house

designed with warm

harmonious lines.

As if you had

stacked up bricks

at random,

and built by mistake

a lucky star.

Here’s a bit of art from the streets of Atlanta where “tiny doors” are all the rage. Each one is about 6″ high and most are painted at the base of plain old walls. Fun 🙂 

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I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future posts!



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