Lessons I’ve learned.

Even from the early stages of my career I fought the idea of building one out of being average. I wanted to make an impact, to make my mark. I didn’t want to be a number on a piece of paper.

I started on my path with strong beliefs:

  • do what you love,
  • impossible is not an option,
  • treat others like you want to be treated,
  • do the work.

When faced with a decision, I always went for the bigger challenge. Most of the times I didn’t do what I was supposed to according to the norm. I chose the start-up instead of the safer job. Left a well-paid one because I felt trapped in a toxic environment. Stayed when everyone else was walking away. And I did do the work. Everything became about deadlines, reaching the target, setting the strategy for the new goal.

I wore more hats that I could’ve imagined I would, I pushed my limits and learned a lot. But somehow, I lost myself on the way. One day I realized that I live for the Fridays. I only see the reasons why a project won’t succeed, can’t find the meaning anymore and my creative ideas are gone. And although my work was producing results, I was miserable. The joy wasn’t there. How could that be? Did I stopped loving it? And when? I felt like I was going in circle, like a hamster running on his little wheel.

That was my wake-up call. The moment when I decided to slow down a bit, take a breath and a step back to be able to put things in perspective. And started the process:

  •  took the layers off,
  • reminded myself of the impact I did have on the projects I managed,
  • dwelled a bit on the inspiring brainstorms,
  • remembered the laughter and the amazing people I had the honor to meet & work with,
  • visualized the routine tasks, the small projects and the bigger ones.

What I perceived as average, proved to be the necessary steps that shaped my character and work ethic.

If I were to turn back time, I would tell my younger self to:

1. Trust that you are enough

Please don’t let your own insecurities hold you back. Stop caring about what others think about you or your actions. You are good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, prepared enough. You have the strength. You need to believe it. You can learn the skills and start over at any age, in any moment of your life. Take the constructive, honest feedback and learn from it. Disregard the one coming from pure judgment, since that one isn’t about you.

2. Listen to understand

Don’t assume you know and don’t judge. Make sure you take the time to understand:

  • the other’s perspective,
  • where’s the behavior coming from,
  • why that particular approach on the project,
  • what does he/ she actually wants or needs.

You’ll still hate meetings 20 years from now and, as you will be stuck attending a lot of them, take the time to listen. Don’t be in a rush to say your opinion first or to dismiss the others. Let their ideas sunk in and ask enough questions until you understand. Take all the necessary steps to listen to your customers. Learn what they like and dislike about your product or service. Find out what are their expectations. Do this with your audience too. All with one goal in mind: to understand, not to judge.

 3. Have patience

Prepare for a marathon! Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it required laying a brick hour after hour. Life isn’t always filled with Evrica moments at every step or with standup ovations. With some training anyone can lay a brick. And yet it’s not a memorable event and for sure won’t get you tons of likes & shares. But do that day after day, month after month, year after year and you’ll build your own Rome.

These are the moments that make the journey extraordinary. Enjoy them. While you do that hold the door for your neighbor, say hi to the nice lady that cleans your office, thank the person serving you water, ask your colleague about his day. Don’t hurry to the top, trying to cut corners. You’ll miss what matters the most.

4. Embrace failure

Some of your ideas won’t get the deserved credit. That amazing project will be sitting in the drawer. Your campaign will fail, you won’t get the funding, you will lose your job, the start-up will close. Failure happens. It’s part of life. You can’t control everything and don’t pretend that you can. And it doesn’t mean you are a failure, so don’t judge yourself. Process it, acknowledge your emotions, take your insights and get back up again. It will be a challenge, but you can do it. Surround yourself with positive people. Keep your optimism, stay open and get out of your thoughts going round and round like a carousel. You will be stronger and more mature after the experience.  

5. Don’t let an almond tell you what to do

The amygdala isn’t going away anytime soon. You’ll be bullied by your boss, a colleague or a competitor. You’ll hear that your presentation sucks. Your product will get its share of criticism. You’ll believe that if you don’t fit in the predefined system or don’t play by the rules of the organization you’ll get fired. Fear will take over and will make you hold back. Don’t give in to fear, instead run towards it. Draw your own treasure map. Be the one that sees that broken rule and address it. See things from a different perspective and come up with another solution. Connect with that difficult customer that everyone avoids. Chose to overcome the fear.

Nothing new, isn’t it? I’m sure you heard it before or even read about it this morning. I’ve heard it too, many times. I remember someone telling me that when facing a goal, I’m like a cat chasing the mouse. I only see the mouse and I don’t give up until I catch it. At that time, I didn’t understand the meaning and for sure didn’t see the reverse of the coin. Now, 8 years later I finally get it.

It’s not enough to have the drive, the passion and the willingness to do the work. The emotional rollercoaster can do serious damage and slow you down. But that doesn’t mean that when you are aware of the things that hold you back, it’s all sorted out. It’s only the beginning. You need to work on it. It’s an ongoing process. All worth it by the way!