Six Career Beliefs That I Got Wrong

Six Career Beliefs That I Got Wrong - Brass Tack ThinkingIf you’re doing life right, your perspective changes all the time.

What you learn, think, feel and value shifts with your experiences and the information and intelligence you gather over the years. Some of it is work, some of it is life, and the blend of those things is what gives you a place to stand in your current world.

Want an interesting exercise? Sit down and think of some of the things you used to believe, but that you don’t anymore. Then consider what happened to change your mind. I was recently giving this some thought as it related to things I’ve learned and felt throughout my career, so I scribbled a few down. I’d love for you to write a post and share yours. It’s really amazing to think about the convictions we keep, and the ones that change along with us.

So here goes.

1. Working all hours is a sign of dedication and follow through.

This one is a lot more visible on the internet, too, and thick in the world of entrepreneurship. You hear people talking about their endless 80-hour weeks, lack of weekends, projects that carry over until all hours of the morning, all the time. Startup life is no doubt demanding and difficult, as is the life of a working parent (or a nonworking parent) and the people who have demanding jobs. I’ve done all of those things – except the non-working parent part – so I can absolutely say I’ve worked the 14 hour day on a deadline, or answered an unreasonable request on a Sunday because my boss or I didn’t plan well. Some of that stuff you simply can’t avoid.

But the pattern? No. We are not superheroes, superhuman, or super stupid. I used to think that if my boss saw me in the office until 8pm, he would know just how dedicated I was. You know what it actually showed him? That work was my priority, so he should keep giving me more of it. That I would always be the one to meet the outrageous expectation, so he’d keep sending those requests to me, knowing that I’d make it happen (this is usually called the competence curse, though I think it’s more accurately dubbed the willingness curse).

I’m not saving lives here, working in the trauma unit of a major hospital. Working myself to exhaustion doesn’t make me valiant, it makes me stupid, and it means my priorities are way the hell out of whack. I’m a consultant. Which means that if I don’t set boundaries for myself, it becomes clear that I won’t set them for anyone else either, whether they be clients or partners or friends. That’s not the standard I want to set. If Sheryl Sandberg can go home at 5:30, I can manage my time, prioritize, and readjust when the extraordinary expectations become the rule rather than the exception.

2. All communication worth starting is worth finishing.

Ever start a discussion and realize it’s getting you nowhere?

I used to think that if something was worth bringing up – in a meeting, in a conversation – it was worth seeing through to the bitter, bitter end. To what point, I’m not actually sure. In the last year, I’ve learned that sometimes, a discussion isn’t worth carrying on. Maybe it’s a stalemate, maybe you change your mind halfway through, maybe the discussion itself ends up creating more problems or confusion than it solves.

I wish I could tell you the magic formula for knowing which is which, but I can’t. Just know that not every discussion is worth having, or even starting. Sometimes you just have to shut your mouth, walk away, be willing to bow out of the discussion (no matter whether you feel you’re “right”) and move on.

3. Hard work trumps everything.

When it comes to things like continuously railing on whether or not someone calls themselves an “expert” or a “guru”, I have zero patience for that conversation. People have been self-labeling as all sorts of things from psychics to magicians to the purveyors of amazing hair tonics since the dawn of business. I don’t care what they call themselves, someday they’re going to have to prove the value to someone who pays them money. If they don’t get paid money, they’ll move on to the next thing. So I won’t waste my energy there.

But let’s presume you’re reasonably good at what you do, and you’re devoted to it. You work your tail off, figuring that eventually, someone will notice and give you the credit, authority, and recognition you deserve.

Reality check: no. As cynical as it sounds, hard work isn’t enough. Hard work is essential, but if you don’t learn at least a little bit to establish the value of your own work in other people’s eyes, no one is going to spend the time to find it out for themselves. Business is not a democracy nor is it always altruistic so learning to play the game and advocate for yourself is part of being a professional.

The line between savvy and jackwad is indeed a fine one, but if you hope to grow your platform and your career, you have to find where yours is.

4. Bad management is solely the responsibility of the bad manager.

When I was younger, it was easy to blame “bad management” for everything from broken process to office culture to unrealistic expectations of deadlines and deliverables. I also spent many years in management, and it’s still easy to point the finger elsewhere when the organization isn’t performing the way you’d like it to.

The truth is that good management is as much supported from the ground up as it is developed from the top down. Our example in #1 about time management? If your manager’s deadline expectations are consistently unreasonable or if you don’t have the tools and resources to do the job, it’s partially your responsibility to manage up by initiating a conversation about the problem and then – here’s the important part – coming prepared with some proposed solutions of your own.

Yes, there are such things as terrible managers and yes, it’s the responsibility of leadership to guide them and hold them accountable. But managers can’t succeed without the support of their teams, either. Culture is as much formed and realized in the ranks of an organization as it is in the executive boardroom. If your default is to say you have an awful management team when something goes sideways, a long hard look in the mirror can give you some perspective and accounability. It did me.

5. Being aggressive is the way to show your strength.

Aggressiveness is a popular shield against insecurity, and bravado is a poor man’s facade of power.

We all have things that intimidate us (and those who say they fear nothing are liars). I once wore my aggressiveness like armor, making sure I got people’s attention by making a show of my strength and fearlessness, and making up for my own discomfort or frustration by ensuring that my voice was heard, and that people knew I meant business.

Truth? Sometimes you’re being strong. Sometimes you’re being an ass. Doing the latter doesn’t earn you respect, it makes people question your temperance and your ability to keep a cool head in complex situations, or to deal with a business situation maturely and dispassionately. You don’t want to be the volatile person by making everything a confrontation.

A display of strength can have a great impact in the right moment, but make it your everyday M.O. and not only does it lose its oomph, it makes you into the person that no one wants to work or deal with.

6. I need to be the nice guy.

By contrast, being a milquetoast doesn’t work either.

I learned my lesson about the “everything is a confrontation” thing, and I continue to work on that throughout my career. But I had to learn another truth about myself that wasn’t easy to swallow all the time: I’m not “nice”.

That’s not to say I’m not kind, or friendly, or that I can’t be compassionate or gentle. My closest friends know I can be those things even to a fault. But in general, I’m not cuddly. It takes me while to warm up to people, and I have a really hard time masking my emotions when something doesn’t sit right with me. That was a torturous thing over the years, thinking that there was something wrong with me because I’m pretty introverted, and because I keep most people at arm’s length.

I have opinions and sometimes they’re passionate ones. I’m not afraid to say no, to have high standards for the people I work with, or to stand up for what I think. I can be tenacious and even stubborn. I’m not the one that’s going to join the office book club or remember to send everyone flowers on their birthday.

Do those things make me a bad person? I used to wonder. Now, as I creep into a fourth life decade, I don’t think so anymore. I’m getting comfortable in my skin.

I will make mistakes, I will hurt people’s feelings, and for those things I will always find value in reflection and yes, even being okay with evaluating what I should have done instead if I had it to do over again. I’ll own what I do and when those things negatively impact other people. But I’m less and less inclined for apologizing for who I am.

Oddly enough, the more you settle into who you are instead of who you think you’re supposed to be, the more the rest starts to make sense.

Your Turn

Reflecting on what you do, who you are and what you believe is a good thing. I believe that.

I also believe that while your precious time shouldn’t be spent lamenting things you can’t change, you can and should use your experiences and evolving perspective to use understanding as a path to improvement, learning, understanding…or simply peace.

Tell me what you once believed that you think differently about today. It’s fascinating if not always easy, and I appreciate in advance your openness to sharing it with all of us.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Jan Highgainco

    Great blog….keep up the good work!  Jan

    • Amber Naslund

      Thank you, Jan!

  • Karen Douglas

    The belief that I would say that I got wrong (that others might get wrong too) is that career has to always be one of the few ’big rocks’ in the jar of life. Career is a part of life – absolutely – but too often, we mindlessly (thoughtlessly?) put it in a place of importance that it may or may not deserve. We place it as a rock and everything else has to be the pebbles and sand and water that fit around it. We do this without thinking because that is a societal expectation.

    For me, right now career is still a rock, but it isn’t a very big rock. Career really isn’t important except as a means to an end.  I need an income and the very mindless job that I have is awesome. I am over-qualified for it and everyone seems to be mystified that I am still in the job. But it fits for where I am in life.

    • Amber Naslund

      Hi Karen, I think that’s a matter of perspective, too. I was just chatting with a former colleague yesterday and his career is a big rock in the jar because he WANTS it to be. It’s something he loves, and he works hard to balance it with life and family but his work is something he enjoys doing.

      The flipside of the expectation is the *desire* that some people have to centralize their careers, and I don’t judge them one lick for it, because I don’t live their life, and I sure dislike it when people try to dictate to me how much priority my career should take in my world.

      I think it’s a very personal choice, and I’m so very very glad that you’ve found the role and place for work in your life that fits you. Many struggle endlessly to find that place.

  • Tab Bourguignon

    I believed that being a “good mom” meant being with my children every minute of every day. For some women, this may very well be true; for me, it’s not. I need the time away from them to be a good parent – realizing this has made me a much, much better mom. I used to feel guilty to go to work – now I know that I’m being the best me I can be, which in turn means I’m happier and a better mom to them.

    • Deb Ng

      And by that same token, you’re shouldn’t be accused of not being a team player for taking time to go to kids recitals, or to want to be home in time for dinner each night. Being a team player has nothing to do with hours worked. It has to do with what you do with those hours worked.

      • Amber Naslund

        You know I agree with this one. I’m happy that I get to do things like parent helper days with my kid at school, and doing that doesn’t make me any less devoted to my work.

    • Amber Naslund

      That’s a wonderful point, Tab, and I’ve realized that too. I’m a better mom and more present for my kid when I balance that with time alone, time working, and time with friends. 

  • Betsy A. Decillis

    I used to believe that my career could make me happy and if I wasn’t happy it was because I wasn’t working hard enough. Let’s talk about naive…

    • Amber Naslund

      Ah, I think we’ve all fallen in that trap once or twice. The quest for happiness is a very human condition, so it’s totally normal to reach for the things closest and most obvious to us to find it (money, career, relationships). I’m only now – barely – starting to figure out that happiness has nothing to do with any of those whatsoever.

  • Deb Ng

    I made enough mistakes to fill a series of books, and I think it’s the way I made and didn’t admit to my mistakes is what I got wrong. Because it was more important to me to be competitive and “perfect” it was better to make excuses than admit to the things I got wrong. Now I realize it’s better to just own up to my mistakes or bad judgement.

     Once I used mistakes as tools for learning, growing and setting things right  - even if I might have looked bad at first – I became a better person both personally and professionally.

    • Amber Naslund

      Owning mistakes is hard and takes courage and maturity. But I’m with you. I still don’t always get it right, but being on the right side of my mistakes always always ends up the better choice. Thanks for sharing that wisdom.

  • Karin

    Great list Amber. I would add to #4 that it helps to know when it *is* the manager that is the source of the problem so you don’t waste your energy trying to manage up. Sometimes bad management needs to be walked away from. It takes at least trying to figure it out but know when to walk.

    I think the most difficult lesson I learned (among the many I have and am still working on) is assuming that everyone else around me was either monumentally smarter or alternately not making an effort. Recognizing that we each have different strengths and how to leverage them in a team or collaborative effort was an eye opener. Pretty much put my independent (or stubborn as my mother once said) streak firmly in to it’s rightful place.

    • Malinda Johnson

      Ah! I know exactly where you are coming from when it comes to knowing when to be and not be stubborn. I have learned that lesson myself.

    • Rebekah King

      Also, when dealing with a crummy situation, know who to go to for de-crummy-fication. If you have a bad manager, go to the HR department, or their boss. All things can be resolved through communication; throwing your hands up and walking away can be a cop-out just as often as a solution.

      • Amber Naslund

        I think taking steps to try and resolve things is awesome and warranted. But I’d hesitate to say “all” things can be resolved with communication. Some things just need to be left as they are.

        • Rebekah King

          Ah, but sometimes the communication is goodbye.

          ——– Original message ——–
          Subject: [brasstackthinking] Re: Six Career Beliefs That I Got Wrong

    • Amber Naslund

      Sure, that’s a fair alternative. I’ve certainly been in untenable situations myself. I tend to find that more people than not dodge the situation before taking any steps to try and improve it, but there’s no denying that there are toxic situations that no “management” can correct.

      Collaboration is a big one. I’m a control freak and while I love working with other people, I struggle to surrender the reins sometimes. Good lesson to learn.

  • Sarah M. Manley, MA

    Oh #3….thinking that by working hard, you will be recognized and rewarded financially for your efforts.  I spent time “investing” in a firm, low pay, LOTS of hours and no support.  That was acknowledged in my last review with them, but working hard didn’t really matter…My goal is to now work more efficiently.

    • Rebekah King

      AND have upfront conversations about what you would expect to get out of the time you put in… before that time is put in. It’s silly to be pissed at someone for not doing something, when you never told them you had an expectation at all.  The express contract is you work, you paid. Extra work and extra value has to be discussed and agreed upon by both parties.

      • Michael E. Rubin

        Great advice. Before accepting a position at a previous employer, I remember the last question I asked my would-be boss during the interview: “How do you feel about people who work on Saturdays or 90 hours a week?”

        She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Michael, when it comes time for your review, I’m going to be basing it on your performance, not how many hours you worked.”
        I formally accepted the job two weeks later, but they had me at that moment.

    • Amber Naslund

      I think Rebekah has a strong point below about communicating and outlining expectations at the start, or once you realize the balance is starting to shift. I sure wish I’d had the professionalism and courage to do that a few times before I just hollered about not being valued or appreciated. 

  • jen bryant

    “Working myself to exhaustion doesn’t make me valiant, it makes me stupid, and it means my priorities are way the hell out of whack.”  
    This was me. This was so me three years ago. When I tweeted this article I said it was one of those “I wish I had read this three years ago” pieces, but really, I wouldn’t have believed you. I really thought I was saving the day by neglecting my personal life, living at work, and believing that I “can’t” go home at night on time because whatever it is I’m working on can’t wait. All I learned was the same thing you did– when you clear your plate of whatever silly expectation was there, you’re not caught up. You just get another crazy project to fill its place because you’ve shown the boss that your work is your priority. 

    Most of your lessons here are the ones I’ve learned too, but I’ll have to think of some others and post them here. 

    • Amber Naslund

      Hope you do, Jen, and thanks for sharing your perspective. That one is a particularly hard perspective to correct. Our self worth is so tied to the work we do, isn’t it?

  • Angeline Evans

    Career belief: There is one and only one way to get from where you are to where you want to be, or there is a “right” order in which to do things.

    Um…wrong. While sometimes there are prerequisites to get where you want to be, your personal path is what makes you unique. You just have to help others see the value in your detours (and there is value in detours).

    • Amber Naslund

      If I could like this comment a million times I would. My career pretty much IS a series of detours. Thanks for this, Angeline. 

  • The Redhead

    Ah, the line between savvy and jackwad. Sometimes so blurry. Others, crystalline :)

    One myth I used to believe is that “people just don’t get what I do.” You know, the Saturday Night Live IT Guy approach (move over, I’LL DO IT). Don’t  get me? Eff you.

    It’s the opposite. It’s not a them problem. It’s a messaging problem. Messaging for a business is an ongoing process and if you’re not getting the biz you want, not everybody’s out of step with Johnny. You have to continuously evolve your messaging, targets, and stay in touch with what those audiences need. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter *how* internet famous you are.

    People still aren’t gonna gitcha ’cause ya ain’t talkin’ to ‘em. You’re talkin’ AT ‘em.

    • Amber Naslund

      Or speaking a different language entirely. One of the biggest – and hardest – lessons I learned about managing teams. You can’t just do it “for” them. You have to learn to let go and communicate expectations clearly. Same goes for clients or prospects. You’ve got it right.

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  • Kimberly Crossland

    Great blog! I have heard a number of women say that your point number 5 is particularly difficult for them. Strong women sometimes come across as being an ass instead of just someone speaking up. It takes finesse and experience to learn how to do it right without stepping on any toes.

    • Rebekah King

      I met someone once who said “If you feel it, say it, but say it nicely”. I married him.

    • Amber Naslund

      Ain’t that the truth. I have learned, however, the difference between strength and jackass assertiveness, and the key usually lies with intent. Do I mean to be defensive or posture in order to be sure people know that I’m strong, or am I being assertive because I believe strongly in the value or importance of something?

      Definitely not a perfect science and not one I’m sure I’ll ever get quite right.

  • Dava Stewart

    I’m not sure how to phrase “I had to learn to trust myself” as a past belief that changed. Perhaps I once believed that other people were more qualified to direct the trajectory of my career than I was? In any case, learning that *I* am steering this ship was a mighty big deal for me, and it changed everything. 

    You are right, it is really interesting to ponder how your thoughts change over time. My children are 18 and 19 years old, and watching them, with all the echoes of my youth in my mind, is fascinating. Great post! 

    • Rebekah King

      Good one! If you don’t chose your path, your boss will chose one for you. Whose path would you prefer?

    • Amber Naslund

      I think that’s a great point, Dava. I know I’ve often tended to think someone else knows better simply because they were more convicted than I was about something. I’m learning! Thanks for contributing that important point.

  • DD

    Oh my gosh, the bit about always being the one to meet the outrageous expectation and being “rewarded” with more work is absolutely me. I lived that life for 10 years and ended up leaving my job. I realized that’s not how I wanted to work any more, after that long, there was just no breaking that expectation with my bosses and our clients. (Especially when they laid off everyone on my team except me because clearly I could do the work of the whole team by myself, right?!)

    I am STILL working out where the line between competence and overachievement lies, and learning to say no without feeling like a huge slacker. Thanks for this post!

    • Amber Naslund

      It’s a really tough balance, no question. If you figure out the secret sauce, please tell us!

  • Angi

    When I started my own business I believed that I needed to be at my desk at 8 a.m., in a suit, to show myself that I was really in the business world. And that I should stay there until 5 p.m. But why? It’s stupid to wait until after 5 p.m. to go to the grocery store when going at 2 p.m. is faster. It’s silly to dress up in a fancy suit for my cats. And if I’m so tired that I’m struggling to get work done, why NOT take said cats to the couch for a nap?

    So naps? Yes. Casual Wednesday? Heck yes. Sitting on the couch drinking coffee until 9 a.m. because I know darn well my audience isn’t on Facebook until 10? Hell to the yes. I started my own business to fill a unique niche – and almost tried to fill it with conventional tools.

    • Amber Naslund

      What an interesting comment, Angi. I think I’ve fallen victim to the same thing myself. I *still* feel guilty when on a day like today I go get my haircut at 2pm because it’s not crowded. I keep waiting for someone to admonish me even though I’m the boss! Adjusting to self employment is an entire post in itself. Maybe one I’ll have to write, inspired in part by you!

    • Karin

      So true Angi. I read this ‘expert’ articles on how to run your own consulting business from home and here is what they say:
      1) dress code: business (even when no one will see you). Me: Uhm, no Thank-you, I will save that for Skype video calls and when I go out to meet people. If dressing up for no one makes you personally feel better go for it but it doesn’t improve my work.
      2) work ‘regular’ business hours no matter what. Me:if I can get personal stuff done faster mid-morning or mid-afternoon I will. Not everyone works M-F : 9-5. In fact, lots of people don’t work those shifts.
      3) be available 24/7 Me: No, Thank-you. The smartest consultants I know have specific hours they work and it isn’t even close to 24/7.
      4) show clients you are willing to work 80-90 hours a week for them. Me: again, No Thank-you. We teach people how to treat us.

  • James Taylor

    It is like you crawled into my head and saw me in an unvarnished way. Thanks for your wisdom in exploring yourself this way!

    • Amber Naslund

      James I think there are more of us with these things in common than you might realize. Thanks so much for the comment, and for reading.

  • Marianne Griebler

    I like to believe that the universe speaks to us through the experiences that give us the most pleasure and pain. Lately the universe has reminded me that a life out of whack is a life that … well, sucks. And when we give our right arm (and left leg and various internal organs) to our job, we don’t have much left over for anyone or anything.

    I can’t thank you enough for this post. The universe is telling me to pay extra attention to #1 and #3. Women know instinctively that we are still at a disadvantage in the workplace. In our efforts to level the playing field we risk overcompensating. I am exploring next steps in my career while trying to be mindful of what I can and cannot control. And learning to set boundaries and say no does not, as a previous poster commented, make me a slacker by any definition of the word.

    • Amber Naslund

      I tend to think it’s not just women that overcompensate, though that’s certainly a factor, but people of a certain personality type. I hope the next steps you take in your career are fulfilling and help you find that all too elusive set of boundaries that give you a sense of accomplishment AND peace.

  • Nate St. Pierre

    I love #2 – that’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned too . . . when to simply drop it and move on.

    I took your advice and spent some time thinking about my own, and wrote a post about it. Here it is: 

    Thanks, Amber!

    • Amber Naslund

      Thanks so much for writing yours! Heading over to read. And #2 has been a toughie for me in both personal and professional worlds. For sure.


    Used to think I could do anything I wanted. That I could thrive in any industry, I would just work through it and figure it out. I disregarded self knowledge of strengths and weaknesses. Once I started recognizing what situations were less than optimal, and just accepted it as something which just may not be right for me rather than thinking there was something actually wrong with having weaknesses it cleared me head enough to find much more optimal situations. Still have to work on weaknesses, to be sure, and part of that is avoiding what you don’t do well. Get help, find the right spot. Focus on *getting better* instead of just *being good*.

    • Amber Naslund

      There’s a lot of wisdom in that comment. We *all* have weaknesses, it’s learning to work *with* them and not pretend they’re not there that’s the trick. Thanks for a very insightful comment.

  • Dan Morrill

    Your job is what you make of it, not what others make of it, if you get bored, that is your issue, not the companies, ask to job shadow, ask for a temporary reassignment, ask, simply ask.

    • Amber Naslund

      Not sure I agree with that 100%, Dan, but I certainly agree that accountability and active involvement in your own career path and professional satisfaction is paramount. No one is going to do it all for you.

  • Karen K

    Great post, Amber. 

    I would add that I used to believe that seeing things through to the end showed tenacity, a positive trait. My husband and I threw our life savings and every waking hour into a struggling company and watched it die. Now I see that it would have been better to pull the plug sooner. 

    I’ve applied that lesson to many things in life. Whether it’s a client relationship that is high-maintenance, or a book that just hasn’t captivated me, I’m okay with acknowledging it’s not a good fit and setting it aside. Life’s too short.

    Thank God for lessons learned through the rear-view mirror, huh?

    • Amber Naslund

      Great comment, Karen. Or as Kenny Rogers would say, knowing when to fold ‘em. :) We look at ending something so often as failing or giving up when sometimes it’s the wisest decision we can make. Thank you so much for sharing that perspective, it’s one that I think a lot of people will find useful.

  • KathyLynnHarris

    Great post. I could relate.

    • Amber Naslund

      Part of the human condition, I think. Nothing I’m learning is all that earth shattering or profound, sometimes it’s just putting it to words.

  • Malinda Johnson

    I’ve gotten over the fact that just because most people do things one way (no matter how hard or cumbersome it might be) that does not mean that I need to do my things in that same way. I’ve learned to trust my own instincts and when I see a new approach that works fine for me, I’m not afraid to go with it, no matter how outrageous it might seem to others. In my third decade, I’ve learned how unique I am, how unique we all are, so it should not surprise me when I find a “weird” way to solve a problem. I’m not normal. Why do my solutions have to be?

    • Rebekah King

      Congratulations, you are an “innovator” :)

    • Amber Naslund

      I really like that perspective, Malinda. And I’m glad there are people out there like you that are willing to break the mold and try something that hasn’t been done before. Keep it up.

  • Kristen Daukas

    I’ve learned that it’s really NOT that big of a deal. My Litmus test is this: Will I remember this event in a year? If the answer is “no” I let it go. I also don’t let what other people think bother me and I don’t get involved in the mindless, time waste of office gossip and people bashing. If you’ve got time to do that, you’ve got time to finish your work and leave by 5 ;)

    • Amber Naslund

      Definitely agree about the time wasting part, though I think learning not to care what other people think overall is much easier said than done. I think there’s a difference between caring what other people think enough to consider their input and opinion (especially if what you’re doing somehow affects them) and lending credence to criticism or vitriol that isn’t constructive in any way.

      • Kristen Daukas

        Yes.. I didn’t mean it as a all-encompassing statement but rather not caring about the negative forces that want to pick apart everything you do as it relates to “gossip”. There are so many people who waste so much time worrying about what others are doing and what they think about them. Really? Just do an amazing job and your work speaks for itself.

  • Marnie Hughes

    Thanks for sharing your personal insights. That really made me reflect. One of the things that I’ve learned is how truly valuable silence can be. I used to think every moment had to be filled with either conversation or activity or planning or SOMETHING. But going on a silent retreat (yes, 2 days of no talking) allowed me to listen. Most spiritual and uplifting exercise of my life.

    • Amber Naslund

      That must have been fascinating, Marnie. Silence can indeed be a pretty amazing thing.

  • Michael Durwin

    I have 7:

    1) my degree would pay off2) I’d be able to pay off my school loans3) hard work and brains would lead to upward mobility4) awards and client successes would put me in demand5) killing myself for my employer would be rewarded6) the higher up in a company I’d move, the more stable I’d be7) if I helped my clients succeed it would make me valuable to my employer

    • Amber Naslund

      Michael, I don’t want to sound like a downer and sound like hard work counts for nothing, because I don’t believe that either. But it sounds like you’ve particularly had some difficulties that have made you lose faith in some things. Do you believe that all effort is wasted, or that the bare minimum is the only thing that matters? I hope I didn’t convey that because that wasn’t my intent. What are the upsides to the things you’ve experienced?

    • Brandon

      Hey!  These are like mine, too! 
      1. Hard work should be rewarded. 
      2. Saving people lots of time and money should be rewarded. 
      3. Someone who invents new processes to make a business scalable should reap some of those benefits when the business grows. 
      4. Someone who is a top performer should make an above average salary. 
      I have had those beliefs smashed right out of my head.  As for the upside, I’m not convinced there is any for me.  Hard lessons lead to a harder life.  In the 4 1/2 years since I graduated college, I am more disenfranchised with the entire employment paradigm than ever, more dissatisfied with my life, and my perspective on other people has shifted dramatically to the downside.  I guess I’m not doing it right.

    • Bradley

      “1) my degree would pay off”
      Ditto that! One hard and sour lesson to learn. 

  • Douglas Karr

    The belief that people pay their bills on time.

    • Amber Naslund

      HA. That one is a difficult one to get your head around when you’re in business for yourself (or responsible for collections for someone else). Nothing more frustrating on earth.

  • Michael E. Rubin

    The one thing that I used to believe is that “I can win over everyone with my passion.” I’m an emotional person who gets excited about projects and the people I work with. In an argument, I used to always use passion as my guiding principle. What I learned along the way is that there is a very fine line between being being passionate and being a jackass. Sadly, I crossed that line into the latter many more times than I can count.

    Nowadays, I try to bring a little more reason and rationality to the table along with the passion. I’m not saying I’ve turned completely all Spockish, but I’ve learned that you can get further ahead if you bring both the left and right side of the brain to the table. Some people (okay, a LOT of people) will just tune you out if all you bring is amped up energy every single moment of every single day.

    BTW, Amber, I’m right there with you re: hours and time. The whole adage “90 hours a week and loving it” is just plain baloney. It’s not sustainable and in the end, it produces mediocre results. While I regret that I had to learn it the hard way, coming to that realization was the turning point of my career.

  • Steve Bell

    I looked at the list and the first thing that popped into my head is about setting the example or being a role model for your teams. The example that you set will be followed by many.

    #1 Those long hours.. How about working when you are supposed to be on a family vacation. Giving that impression that working on vacation is expected. The first time I had someone do something from vacation. I quickly told everyone that vacations are that – vacations from work. There is no excuse for working when you are supposed to be with your family. My team quickly pointed out that – “I need to follow my words!”

  • startabuzz

    Over the course of the past few years, I have thought much about this notion of changing perspectives.

    I used to think I knew what I wanted, which, of course, was everything. I wanted a family and a nice house and a job that would give me purpose. If I had those things, I would be successful! Yay! Success!

    And then I got those things. And then I lost all of those things. And my perspective changed in a good goddamned hurry.

    I have beautiful kids, but I have come to realize that their needs aren’t things, they simply need me. I had a house that I loved, but it isn’t my house anymore. I was upset about that until I realized that it was just a house. My address had no bearing on who I was as a person.

    I ran a successful business. I was an “entrepreneur”! Ooh! How glamorous does THAT sound? Except it wasn’t. What was important to me, I realized, wasn’t being my own boss or being able to say that I ran my own business. What was important was, simply, that I was happy. So, I changed my perspective and to work with a group of smart, talented people in an environment in which I fit. WELL.

    I’ve found, too, that this changing perspective applies to my personal relationships, too. Some have grown into much more than I ever thought they’d be; some simply aren’t what I thought they were. From my perspective, that’s just life.

  • Riggins Construction

    I’m commenting so you know I read it. I’m thinking…

  • Sara G

    I really appreciate this perspective. And the part about being aggressive really hits home. Earlier in my career I found myself wondering why people think I’m not “nice”. It was my approach. I was confusing aggressive with assertiveness. You don’t have to be bossy to get things accomplished. Being respectful and collaborative goes a lot farther. Thank gawd for maturity. Too bad it took until my 4th decade to come to this realization. 

  • Jeremie Averous

    Hi Amber
    Love this post.
    One thing I have learnt over time is to “let go” It’s painful sometimes to let go of things you’ve invested inordinate amounts of time and energy and sometimes money and don’t work. I learnt to breath deep and let go. Tough but necessary.
    Thanks for the insights!

  • Nikki Little

    Thanks for sharing all this, Amber. It’s really helpful for someone like me who has changed my perspective on life and working as I advance further into my career.

    One belief I’ve changed is that I have to be involved in as many things as possible outside of my job that pertain to my career and/or my passions. Late last year, I realized I wanted to focus on doing a few things really well rather than focusing on having a small part in a lot of different things. I was getting burnt out and I wasn’t giving enough time to the important people in my life. I re-prioritized my commitments and stepped away from the ones that weren’t giving me as much value anymore.

    Now, I only focus on a few things outside of work and have more time to dedicate to those commitments than I did when I was splitting my time between 6 or 7 different things. It was difficult to let go of things I had been involved in for years because they had become a part of me. But, I don’t regret the things I let go, and my mental health and relationships are greatly benefiting from those decisions.

  • Susan

    Great blog.  Wish I had read this when I was thirty.  I’m a mid-career transitioner right now.  I always tell the twentysomethings in my graduate program, ‘don’t forget about the personal life.’  It’s the one thing that matters long term.  It’s been said often but I’ll say it again: resumes don’t hug you back.  I look forward to reading more.

  • Jen Homann

    I’m still fairly young in my career – so I recognize how naive this sounds … but the biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past couple of years is that not everyone has good intentions. I came into my career thinking that everyone on the team was going to be working towards the same goal – when, in reality, there are far too many people working solely for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I definitely recognized a few thing I got wrong too.

  • Charity Sapphire

    I don’t have much perspective as of yet to add to this thread, but maybe it will be nostalgic to see someone just embarking on the path so many of you have treaded!  

    As a career rookie, I’m really working on the “management” problem. In the past year, it’s started to feel like every boss I get soon becomes my living nightmare. I have tried looking at the problem internally and partially believe it stems from a deep-rooted problem with authority that I’ve always had, but the things my previous bosses did/didn’t do totally made my departures justifiable (one paid me, but didn’t let me work unless he approved every little action–with no report ever that I had done anything wrong), and the other didn’t pay me until a month after I left. Both situations were in start ups. As a marketing & PR person, I feel like it’s a really difficult battle to find decent employment where the bosses are professional, the pay is fair, and the time they expect you to put in matches both the position and the role.As a marketing intern (at the company who didn’t pay me for a long while), I was working nearly fifty hours a week when they had advertised part-time. I was fine to work the extra hours… but what I eventually realized is that (because I was overqualified) I was putting in far more value than the job originally asked for, but at the same pay rate. I learned from that to never take a position that requires fewer skills than I possess. Once they hire you for a more lowly role and agree to a pay rate, they’re not going to pay you more just because they realize you can do more. I’ve started looking for jobs that are in my zone or just outside it, because I know I’m a fast learner and would rather bust my butt and be challenged than *think* I will coast along in an easier job. I always give 110% so it’s just not worth it to take a job that isn’t going to compensate me and appreciate how much more value I can bring to the company. Maybe that’s the one thing I can really add:

    Never ever take a job that is below your qualifications unless you have the discipline to not try and make the role more than what it is. That is a good step to not getting used and abused.
    Maybe there is a boss *somewhere* out there who would be appreciative that his/her new employee is learning so quickly and advancing, but make sure they’re not selfish jerks before bumping yourself up a notch in work level without first settling the pay rate.

  • FacebookLikes

    I like the way you illustrate the strength( ” Being aggressive is the way to show your strength.”)
    that need to maintain and weakness(” Bad management is solely the responsibility of the bad manager.”) that need to enhance! Great Job!

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