Before you plunge ahead, perhaps you should look back

Those are the words I said to one of my clients, an older and accomplished professional who was experiencing some difficulty in deciding what to do next in his career. My question to him?

Where have you enjoyed success in your career?

When he had time to reflect and respond, I explained. I use the word : “enjoyed” in two senses.  First in the sense that you…well… enjoyed it. The moments and circumstances brought a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. The second sense is that of realization, that the experience was not a failure but an overwhelming success.

Most people probably have fewer of those than the other kind, but without doubt it is the enjoyed successes that make things worthwhile. So, why did I ask my client what successes he had enjoyed and more importantly, why should you answer the same question?

First, because if you enjoy success it almost unpredictably indicates a perfect match between your skills, your personality, and the challenge. Most of us can do lots of things but we like to do only a few. Usually we like to do them because we are good at them and we are good at them because we like doing them.

Second, knowing what we like to do and coincidentally what we are good at is critical to more than finding success. It is necessary for continuing success. Therefore if we know what worked for us yesterday we can quite confidently what will work well tomorrow.

Third, decisions become simpler if not easier. It makes no sense to pursue avenues which lead us into places we are poorly-equipped to handle. True enough, we learn daily, but in this consideration we need not try to be all things to all people in all circumstances.

Finally, as leaders we can find others who can do what we cannot or what we would rather not. My client is very smart, brilliant in fact. He could doubtless learn to do more things but why should he? All successful and superlative leaders focus on what they and only they can do in their setting and find others to do everything else.

So, where have you enjoyed success? Why were those times successful? What did you learn about yourself in them? Having learned that, what does it tell you about your future?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of you have written to ask why I have not been posting for a while.  I cannot share details but on October 1st, 2015 a major medical event completely disrupted our household and my attention, time, and efforts have been consumed elsewhere. I am pleased to report that things are on the mend.

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