7 Things I Wish I Had Known at 25

 

work-advice-known-25-ftrWe’ve all had transformative moments.

You know what I’m talking about: those brief instances when you find yourself reflecting on lessons you’ve learned over the years. They may come professionally or personally. Sometimes they’re huge life lessons that really shake things up. Other times, they’re small things that are easily forgotten if not put to use.

I’m a firm believer that no one’s born a leader or expert. It’s the experiences we encounter that help transform us into better, brighter, and more successful versions of ourselves. For me, I started out as an entrepreneur, a move made with little thought at the nontraditional age of 16. Today, my experiences as a serial entrepreneur, CEO, leader, father, and husband have taught me a lot.

But imagine if you could bundle up the key lessons you’ve learned in your professional years and hand them to those just starting out. I want to do just that.

Here are seven things I’ve learned professionally that I was fortunate to gain, but wish I had known when I was just starting out:

1. Proactivity is a secret weapon. There’s this general stereotype I want to put an end to immediately: Jobs aren’t about waiting around and doing things as they’re assigned. Far too many people—even those with passion to spare—fall into this trap.

Begin building your proactive habits as soon as possible by seeking out ways to go above and beyond your role every day. This could mean kicking your projects to the next level, finding new ways to impact your company, or even just improving internal processes to make things run smoother. Proactivity is a crucial part of advancing your career.

2. Perfection isn’t attainable. Being a perfectionist and micromanaging others—even if they aren’t your direct reports—can be damaging. These are two things I personally struggled with early on. I learned quickly that people don’t like being told what to do, and good leadership and management don’t come from tweaking things to perfection. Instead, I learned to live by the 80/20 rule and ask questions to derive answers when it comes to managing others.

3. Great public speaking skills create influence. When I was just starting out, I had a mentor who took me under his wing. Tom Antion was a successful entrepreneur and great public speaker, but I never thought much of it until the time came for me to really dive into public speaking.

It’s important to understand that those who can speak well, be it in a company meeting or at a presentation, typically become trusted leaders. Never stop improving as a public speaker, even if it’s something you initially fear. If you have a strong voice and show confidence, authority will follow.

4. Work isn’t just about cashing your paycheck. If you’re in it for the money alone, you’re probably not going to get very far. Work is truly about passion—finding and doing what you love. Being driven by passion is an insanely beneficial motivator.

So, if you’re not passionate about the job you’re doing today, what can you do to find your passion? Would it be a new job? What about a new role within your company? Whatever it takes, find and pursue your passion sooner rather than later.

5. Seek out a mentor. As I stated above, I was fortunate enough to have started and fueled my career due to the guidance of a great mentor. If you don’t already have a mentor, it’s time to go out and find one.

You may find a mentor in someone within your company or a person you look up to in your industry. If you don’t already know of someone who would make a great mentor, there are plenty of websites, organizations, conferences and networking events that can hook you up with someone who shares your professional vision and can offer helpful advice.

6. Know what makes you better than the rest. The days of fitting into a professional mold are dead and gone.

Today, knowing what sets you apart from the crowd professionally is the way to build your career. Knowing your top skills and using them to establish your personal brand will catch the eye of employers and maybe even lead you to starting a business of your own.

7. Always risk it. We all know that risks and rewards go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t open to taking the occasional risk, you’re likely to get stuck in a flow that you can’t break from. This doesn’t always mean starting your own business or quitting your job for something less conventional. Taking risks often means overcoming your fears and reaching for opportunities you may have overlooked with more thinking.

I wish I had known these seven lessons when I was 25, but I’m thankful to be able to share them regardless. One thing’s for certain: there is never any time to stop learning and growing as a professional. -Ilya Pozin

What do you wish you had known professionally in your 20s?

21 Awesome Things to Say to Yourself

businessman-looking-in-mirror-bkt_12170  Self-talk works for some people but not for me. Looking in the mirror and saying, “I am awesome, I am awesome, I am awesome…” is a waste of time since a louder voice in my head is always shouting, “No you’re not! No you’re not!”

But I do like self-talk that results from something I’ve done. Because I’ve earned it, the doubting voice in my head goes silent.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. For the next seven days, put aside your standard to-do list and do what it takes to ensure you can say these things to yourself:

1. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Make the call no one will make. Help the person no one will help. Volunteer for the task everyone else avoids.  Instantly you will be a little different from the rest of the pack. But why stop? Keep going. Every day do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year you’ll be incredible. You won’t be like anyone else.

You’ll be you.

2. “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought…” The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) But nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you think. Plus it’s exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that, “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, a feeling you may not have experienced for a long time. (And you may find that feeling is addictive, but in a good way.)

3. “It’s totally my fault.” People make mistakes. So we blame them for our problems. But we are almost always to blame, too. Maybe we didn’t provide enough training. Maybe we didn’t foresee a potential problem. Maybe we asked too much, too soon. Maybe we did or did not do something we could or should have. Take responsibility instead: Not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Take responsibility and then focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative next time.

4. “I finally got started!” You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stops me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step.

The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

5. “You’re great.” No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then… and maybe a little more impact because you still remember what happened a year later.

Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

6. “I’ll show you, –hole.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me (or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I’m justified in feeling that way or not.) Whether I’m justified in feeling slighted or angry is not the point: I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more importantly, achieve what I want to achieve.  Call it manufactured anger. Call it artificial competition. Call it, shoot, childish and immature. I don’t care — it works for me. And it can work for you.

So don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary — in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or angry — because that will help shake you out of your same thing different day rut.

7. “Can you help me?” Asking someone for help instantly recognizes their skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone for help — the fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

8. “Can I help you?” Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes, can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life–and you’ll take a solid step towards creating a connection with that person.

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” Most of the time you should worry, at least a little, about what other people think… but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried people might think you’re crazy, F ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, F ’em. If you really want to start working out but you’re afraid people at the gym will think you’re fat or out of shape, F ’em.  Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think — and just go do it.

It’s your life. Live it. F ’em.

10. “They’re no different than me.” Incredibly successful people don’t necessarily succeed because they’re smarter or more talented or somehow genetically gifted. The only thing that makes them different from you is the fact they have done what you haven’t done… yet. Find someone successful to talk to; you’ll come away realizing what they have done, you can do too.

You’ll realize you can be them — or, more importantly, you can be better than them.

11. “I’m really sorry.” We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to — the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, “But I was really upset…” or, “I thought you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.

12. “I’m the king of the world!” Maybe Leo was on to something. According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips — will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound freaky, but it works.

13. “Yes.” You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. So say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.”

Trust yourself.

14. “No.” Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once this week — the harder it is to say, the better.

And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people, too.

15. “You’re fired.” Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back and let them go.

16. “It’s not perfect… and that’s okay.” Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers or your boss will tell you what needs to be improved — which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter.

You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really accomplish anything until you let go.

17. “That’s not my job… but who cares?” Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring.

The next time you see something that needs to be done, do it.

18. “Maybe I should do it that way.” Sure, we’re all individuals. (Okay, I’m not.) We should always set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish, and follow that path.

One time, don’t try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

19. “Jeez, that was stupid. We should do it again!” Sometimes the dumbest things result in our fondest memories: The time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and another employee drove all night so you could arrive at the customer’s warehouse first thing the next morning to sort defective product; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm, sleeping on cots and eating vending machine food and cranking out product… All those happened years ago but the memories are surprisingly vivid.

Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while it’s happening, but the result will be doing something cool and creating a memory that will always make you smile.

20. “Hi, Mom! Hi Dad!” Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They will always be there for you.

They won’t be around forever. Call them.

21. Nothing. Self talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of……look in the mirror, smile, and just nod at the person looking back.

Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgement of achievement and fulfillment. -Inc Magazine

Need a Pep Talk?

need-pep-talkIn speaking with a variety of entrepreneurs on a daily basis, I’ve noticed a surprising theme: a lack of confidence.

From sales to management, there is always something we feel we can do better. And for those just launching their own business, hearing ‘no’ or dealing with mishaps can take an even bigger toll on your self-esteem. You learn very quickly that working for yourself is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.

Ironically, when I first started my PR firm fifteen media, I was filled with self-assurance (or more like arrogance). I thought it would be a piece of cake to build my own business.

As I started to get more clients, my overinflated ego would soon deflate. A combination of dealing with not-so-happy clients and constant rejection from the press, made it hard to maintain confidence in my company. To this day, it can still be a challenge to unwaveringly believe in my abilities.

So while I know the difficulty first hand, I also know what a little burst of confidence can do. Here are some tips for giving your self esteem a boost:

Don’t wallow. A few months ago, a client decided to let me go before my contract was up. Despite all my best efforts, I just wasn’t getting them the results they wanted. It caused me to have a full-on emotional breakdown, and it made me question if I was a good publicist.

From that experience, I learned that if I was going to persevere on, I had to get over these scenarios. I have established a one-hour pity party rule, meaning when things don’t go my way, I only have one hour to dwell on it and then it’s back to business.

When you start to feel sorry for yourself, channel positive energy into your startup — focusing on your other clients, customers, products or what have you.

Seek feedback. I realize asking people to critique you can be scary. However, the only way to create the best business you can is to constantly use feedback to improve. I try to periodically check in with my clients to see how they are feeling about my services.

As an entrepreneur, if you do this often, you help to nip problems in the bud, before they become crises. Also, if you are asking for feedback, it won’t all be negative. Nothing is a better confidence booster than hearing the things you are doing well.

Learn how to cut your losses. The greatest strengths of an entrepreneur are determination and persistence, yet, these qualities can also be her biggest weaknesses. Sometimes you just have to learn how to let go.

There will be times when you have to make the decision to part ways with a client or a vendor. If you two don’t have a synchronized vision or every small detail is an uphill battle, it might be in your interest to say goodbye.

A rocky relationship, centered on all the things you are doing wrong, can be very taxing to your ego. To propel a business forward, you don’t need constant negative energy.

Build a support system. Being an entrepreneur can be an isolating experience, and it is easy to become your own worst enemy. Sometimes, I find myself sitting around obsessing over all the things that aren’t quite right. Why isn’t my company growing faster? Will client X rehire me again? Why can’t I get more placements?

Negative thoughts can be very time consuming and detrimental to your vision, so it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people to snap you back to reality. Having a support system to lean on will make you realize there is a world out there beyond your business, which is essential for your mental health.

As an entrepreneur, confidence is your best asset and will be a critical component to building a successful business. However, it can be hard to maintain confidence when you are constantly dealing with rejection. I never used to believe it when people told me that entrepreneurial confidence comes along with time. Once you have seen your business prove itself, you will see the light. In the meantime, fake it until you make it. -Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. -Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. – Rebekah Epstein

How do you build up your confidence? Let us know in the comment section below.