Last year, it was June, and I was in a bad place. I'd been traveling for three years, hadn't felt stability in a long time, had just broken up with someone I deeply loved, and was feeling really lost.
I grabbed a bite to eat with my coworker Shafiq and all the truth started spilling out. I was miserable in every area of my life and I wanted to turn things around. I don't know why I was so forthcoming with Shafiq; maybe it was because he's a few years older and wiser and I felt safe confiding in him, maybe it's because he ran a successful company in the past and I admired his work ethic. Maybe it was because he was genuinely happy, with a kick-ass wife, wonderful kids, and he was fulfilled with his job. Either way, I asked him for advice, and he happily gave it.
That day turned things around for me. I took his advice and ran with it, the most important piece being, "There is always an opportunity to do something good in any company, in any job. Always an opportunity to shine and make a difference. Always!" He was right. It took a while to get there, but now I get excited about my job. I feel fulfilled with my life. And things are good.
I still look at this career advice from time to time, and I would like to share it, in case anyone else also needs some good words to live by. This advice has only led to good things for me.
Visibility is Everything
- Look for opportunities to be highly visible. Work on high-visibility projects (whether this is at your job or if you’re doing personal branding or a side hustle), even better if you own/run those projects. You want people to know what you are capable of.
- Take a step back and look at the key players in your industry who could impact your success the most. Who are they? Do they know who you are?
- I don’t know a single person who made it to the top without being pulled up by someone else.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Plant seeds in many different places, and with many different people. Seek out the superstars and get to know them.
- If you’re at a company, what can you work on that senior brass will notice? Focus on those projects.
- On that note, at least once a quarter, ask someone senior to groom your projects for those that are most impactful.
What to do when you feel Blocked
- When you are feeling blocked in your projects, this is almost always a sign to take a step back and invest in yourself. This could be listening to business podcasts or by talking to new people in your industry, starting a different kind of project, or simply walking away for a bit. But when you’re blocked at work it’s always a sign to work on yourself first.
- At a company, don’t let a dud team or manager stop you from progressing, do what you have to, align yourself with other people who can open doors, and invest your energies in making it in spite of your blockers.
- There is always an opportunity to do something good in any company. Always an opportunity to shine and make a difference. Always!
- You don’t need a title to act like leadership.
Mental Health and Work
- Don’t take your job too seriously! Heck, don’t take anything in life too seriously.
- If you’re hard on yourself, try assuming it’s not your fault. Seriously, if you’re stressed about something that’s not going perfectly at work, assume it’s someone or something else’s that’s a blocker, and move forward. Don’t sweat it. Don’t blame everything on yourself.
- Know what to care about and what not to give a shit about. Even if you have investors or customers or bosses pestering you to get certain things done, if it’s not high-impact, don’t treat it like it is. And when you have a high-impact initiative, make it your #1 priority. Do this long enough and you’ll watch your career transform.
Starting a Company
- When you start a company, the #1 thing is to find something you are passionate about. Because it’s going to get really hard, and things are going to get bleak at many points, and you are going to need that to keep you going.
- Don’t know what to start a business doing? Start by making a list of things that you like! Search for that passion.
- And make deadlines. If you want to come up with an idea, make sure you have a due date. I’ll give myself a due date for a problem that I have no idea how to solve, and every single time, my brain comes up with a solution by the deadline.
- If you have your own venture, focus on what works; spend more time maximizing what is already working and pull your attention away from initiatives that aren’t bringing you ROI.