20 lessons from 20 years: Part 1
Prince had ushered in the new millennium with his final performance of the song "1999." The then-St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans to win Super Bowl XXXIV. Venus Williams took home her first Wimbledon title. Gladiator dominated the summer box office, and the Grammy for Best New Artist went to a 19-year-old Christina Aguilera.
The year was 2000 — the same year I joined a small-but-spunky consulting firm in San Francisco named Primitive Logic, now a Logic20/20 company.
As I look back on two decades with the people who have become family to me, I'm struck by the depth and breadth of lessons I've been privileged to learn along the way. So to celebrate this 20-year milestone, I'd like to share 20 of those lessons with you, in a four-part monthly series.
In each edition, I'll share 5 lessons grounded in a specific theme, and this month we focus on the SELF. You've probably heard the quote "Wherever you go, there you are," which I've heard attributed to sources ranging from Confucius to Jon Kabat-Zinn to the 80s film Buckaroo Bonzai. Regardless of who said it first, it's something we must all keep in mind, especially as consultants. No matter which client you're working for, what project you're working on, or what role you're playing, the common denominator is you. Our thoughts, our words, and our actions are the only things we have absolute control over, and if we use that control wisely, we set ourselves up for success.
Lesson 1: Be humble
One of the earliest lessons I learned in consulting is that it’s not about "you" — it’s about making the client successful and being humble along the way. Think about what we all do as children in school: we put our names at the top of our homework and on the front of our book reports. But in our work with clients, it’s not my name that’s important. What's important is that as a team and as a company, we provide solutions that put our client’s name forward.
Lesson 2: Be confident
Building self-regard over the years has entailed respecting my abilities — my limitations as well as my strengths — while being confident and satisfied in that growth. Having confidence to admit mistakes or unfamiliarity with a situation is so key in consulting and in leadership. Even at times when I felt nervous or unsure of next steps, I forced myself to clearly define my purpose, to show the client and my team that I’m there to be of service, and to reassure them all that we would figure it out.
Lesson 3: Stay positive
I feel that empathy, optimism, and a positive attitude are at the heart of all effective work relationships and situations. As Kahlil Gibran stated, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you, as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you, as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” The attitude we bring to our consulting projects is what determines the overall result.
Lesson 4: Be curious
Curiosity is my favorite word, and lifelong learning is my mission. Listening is so important in all that we do — in working with clients and within our own teams, in leadership, and in all aspects of our lives. If we don’t really listen, we’ll end up with the “tree swing” cartoon that I had posted on my door:
Lesson 5: Embrace the balance
There is a balance in all that we do at work — the fun, exciting, new stuff and the boring, tedious, difficult stuff. What stands out to me is when a colleague brings his or her whole self and embraces that balance, even kindly and patiently making copies, doing dishes, taking notes, cleaning out desks, watering plants, or helping with tasks we would all rather avoid. When I’m in that situation, I take a breath, tell myself it’s part of the overall balance, and mindfully find meaning in that "icky" chore.
Update: Click here to read lessons 6 through 10, on the topic of CLIENTS.
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