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Seven lessons from a 35-year business journey

A business owner learns a great number of lessons over the span of their journey; from the need to be open to opportunities to not taking things too personally. One 35-year veteran is sharing the seven most important lessons she’s learnt over her many years in the workforce.

Having been in the workforce for more than 35 years, there are many lessons I have learnt. Some have been easy and others have been tough, but they all taught me something of value. Everyone has their own journey, but sharing your successes and failures with others can help them to learn something that they can use in their own life.

So what have I learnt? Here are my top seven lessons.

1. Do something you are passionate about

No one is ever going to feel 100 percent positive about their job all of the time, but you are setting yourself up for a greater feeling of success if you love your field of work. And whatever career you choose, it needs to align with your values.

Your career should make you feel enriched, engaged and good about getting out of bed in the morning. Building a business has not been easy but ten years since I started the IEC journey, I still feel passionate about the world of executive coaching and what it can do for others to help them achieve their goals.

2. Find the grains of sand

Pearls are made by irritants; grains of sand rubbing against the side of a shell, creating something beautiful. In your own life, look for your grains of sand. This could be your clients, your boss or other people in your life acting as ‘irritants’ (or providing challenges). How can you turn these around and make your own “pearl” grow? Don’t give up at the first sign of an obstacle; instead, make it work for you.

3. It’s not how hard you fall but how well you bounce that counts

In life there are always going to be things that go wrong, and it is how you deal with them that matters in the end. Dealing with problems face-on and not shying away from them helps you to build resilience

As a part of your personal growth you need to be aware of what gives you energy and what detracts from your energy. If your job or career choice continually drains you, walk away. Find a new environment that invigorates you. If you feel overwhelmed during a particularly busy period or on a certain project, try doing your favourite exercise, go for a walk or do some meditation or simple breathing exercises. Just taking a short period away from the stress will reinvigorate you and will also help you come back to the task with a fresh perspective

4. Be open to opportunities

Five years ago, many jobs that are available today didn’t exist. Organisations now have social media managers, innovation specialists and areas such as communication and sustainability are constantly evolving. The fields of medical research, nano technology and science are opening up and becoming more and more specialised. Many people now have at least seven career changes during their working life.

Career planning is a great way to reach your goals but don’t plan too far ahead.  If you become too focused on one goal, you may miss other opportunities that open up around you. Don’t limit yourself to only what you think you can achieve in life; be open to all possibilities. 

5. Be clear on what success means for you

For some it may be achieving work/life balance and others may feel they are successful only when they reach the position of CEO. Let your own meaning and values guide you. Don’t compare yourself to others or measure your achievements against what others have achieved. As clichéd as it may sound, it’s important to follow your own dreams and do what makes you happy.

6. Be courageous

Do things that frighten you. If you only do the things you are good at or that are inside your comfort zone, how will you grow? No one is going to create change and challenge for you; you have to make the decision to challenge yourself and have the determination to see things through. As Einstein said “A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

7. Don’t self-sabotage

Become aware of your own negative self-talk. Next time you are in a difficult situation, don’t go into it with the mentality that you ‘can’t do this’ or aren’t ‘good enough’ because you will probably end up believing yourself. Give more airtime to the positive champion voices inside your head, than the negative saboteur’s voice.

It’s also important not to take things personally; to succeed you must be tough. If you aren’t invited to a meeting or consulted about a project think about why this may be, rather than assuming it’s because everything thinks you’re bad at your job and are out to get you fired.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it has been of some use to you. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

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Julie Parkinson

Julie Parkinson

Julie has over 20 years experience as a business leader in the UK, Asia and Australia. The Institute of Executive Coaching (IEC) is an established centre for excellence in coaching, coach training and leader development in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

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