You never know when you’ll get a great career tip that makes a difference.
Words of wisdom come from unlikely places. We have to have our ears to the ground to hear and learn.
The guest speaker at Olin Business School graduation ceremony at Washington University in St. Louis was not famous. He was not a big actor or politician. He was not a Nobel Award winner. But he was important to the graduates.
This was Joseph Fox’s last graduation at Olin. He is retiring. The students and his colleagues love him so he was asked to share a few words of wisdom with the MBA graduates.
I was not expecting anything. I was wrong.
Even weeks after graduation, Dr. Fox’s words stuck with me. I must share them with you.
Success does not spring from being in the right place at the right time with a positive attitude. It might look that way, but deep below that kind of success, which Dr. Fox calls “serendipity”, is a lot of hard work.
Here are Dr. Fox’s three tips to success:
1. Play confident but prepare scared with great urgency.
Never get too confident in your role or you miss the confidence that comes from preparation. I like to think of the duck. From above the water the duck looks graceful, one smooth character. But below the water she is paddling like crazy to create the momentum that looks so smooth from above.
A professional goes out on the court and makes it look easy. LaBron James has God-given talent that’s for sure but his confidence comes from hours and hours of practice.
What are you doing behind the scenes to be prepared for that important meeting, that critical job interview, or big project? Are you working as hard as that duck? Are you the LaBron James of preparation? You are completely responsible and in control of your preparation even if you are not in control of the outcome.
2. More than seeking immediate feedback, you have to truly believe you make a difference.
Feedback is important. Constructive feedback helps us all grow. Without feedback we operate in a vacuum of our own fantasies. But there is a hollowness in feedback about something that does not matter.
I applaud the graduates at that ceremony who want to make a difference in their world. They want rewards of course and positive feedback (ok maybe constructive feedback too!). But they also want to make a difference in a way that their parents did not.
Truly believing you make a difference gives your work and life meaning in a way that money cannot replace. What are you doing to make a difference? If you are not making a difference in your work, then how can you balance your work with meaningful contributions that make a difference in another part of your life?
3. Serendipity is the bi-product of making human connections.
Serendipity is an outcome of your willingness to say hello, smile and reach out to others to see what happens. Good things DO happen to good people. We just don’t know when or where. For that reason, make connections without considering what is in it for you. Connect to make human connections. Put down your phone and talk to someone. Anyone. You never know what will happen.
When I walk down the street with a smile and look people in the eye, they think I am nice. They want to talk to me. People tell me their inner hopes and dreams at a drop of the hat just because I smile and look at them. Sometimes “serendipity” happens and abundance is returned to me. That is not why I smile and talk to people. I am a shy person. It is actually hard for me. I smile and listen because there might be something I can do to help. Anything else that comes from it is “serendipity”.
What are you doing to make connections? Do you smile and say hello to everyone you meet? Even a shy person can smile and make eye contact. Do you offer to help? Do you include others? Your goal should be to help. Serendipity is often the happy bi-product.
Simple words of wisdom from a respected teacher: prepare hard, make a difference, and make human connections. Put down the phone, smile and say hello. You never know what wonderful energy you can create!
The Interview Doctor’s Career Advancement Tip Sheet can be a handy reminder to these important principles!