Monday, August 1, 2016

Lessons Learned

One of the great benefits of getting older is you actually learn stuff. Here are a few suggestions I made to a younger friend when she was frustrated in her job. I think they hold up pretty well.

Start every day by listing the things you’re thankful for. No matter how bad your situation, it always contains blessings. Find and acknowledge them. (Try the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. Each day, list something you are grateful for. It’s a good way to start the day.)

Start your conversations with everyone at work by thanking them for something—verbally if possible, mentally if not. Don’t be fake about it, but each time you see someone, try to think of one thing you like about them, one thing they have done for you, one thing they’ve helped you with. Then say it—or at least think it. Take the time to do this before rushing into other conversation. It will change your perception as well as theirs.

Continue to pursue doing what you love—whether where you are now or not. What is your real passion? If this is the most important thing to you, you shouldn't have to hunt for time to do it. You’d make the time, and the work itself would renew and refresh you.
Let me repeat: NO job is perfect. You’ll enjoy some more than others, but EVERY job has its issues. No boss is perfect either.

I vividly remember wanting to be a Department Head or VP early in my career. By the time I reached my early thirties, however, spending my days doing something I enjoyed made far more sense.

Everyone needs balance in their lives. Even if you have to put it on your calendar, start setting aside time to spend with friends. What is play for you? DO IT.

At least twice during my performance reviews I was told to lighten up. I was so intense and driven I made the people around me uncomfortable. I never expected as much from anyone else as I did from myself, but I didn’t suffer fools lightly—and it sometimes included the boss. I didn’t think I was conveying this, but I had to have been. Work became much more enjoyable when I really got to know the others around me as people. I recommend it.
Work is a bargain between you and your employer. No one in the organization is obligated to help you in any way. If some do, consider it a bonus. But don’t carry any false expectations about how far or how much they can or will do. They are each fighting for their own positions. Particularly in a failing department or division, those from the top down are fearful for their own spots. And they probably know quite a bit more about what’s going on behind the scenes than they can or will tell you.

Get your expectations in check. Do the best job you can, given the resources and authority you are allowed. YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE. Others are. And they make the decisions. Work as well as you can within those parameters.

Do what you are asked to do, and do it well. But don’t take on responsibility or expect to receive kudos for stepping on toes to take on more. Always try to make your boss look better, even if she is a real jerk. It will pay off in the long run.

Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God” has haunted me for years. I am woefully short on patience. I want to act and get things done NOW. The truth is control is an illusion. We can only do what is in our sphere to do. But we can’t control the outcome.

It’s a hard lesson and one I don’t always totally embrace. (I’m getting better about waiting, but I still don’t like it.)

Maybe your next position isn’t even available yet. Maybe you have to be at the nadir in order to accept the next offer. And it won’t be perfect either.

I can promise you this. Ten or twenty years from now, you will look back at your current place and say, “Oh, now I get it. This was what I needed to learn.” Or “I can see now I was being prepared for something better.”

What life lessons have you learned? Can they be helpful to others?


  1. Thank you, Lorna! Everything here is so true. I hope you have reached many people who needed to hear this today. Especially "control is an illusion." So many people have been raised with the bywords, "You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to." The parents and teachers didn't mean to make the students think that all it takes is a bit of effort or stating you want something and it falls into your lap. No! Sometimes you have given you all, and you still don't have any influence over the outcome. "Be still and know that I AM God" is good solace for these sorts of times.

    1. Glad you understand the points. The young lady in question was in her twenties and idealistic. This is a good quality unless it leads you to unrealistic expectations.