I had a love/hate relationship with the corporate world for nearly 12 years before bidding it farewell to pursue a life of passion. During my time in corporate America, I never thought it would be the training ground for most of my personal growth. It helped me gain new perspectives on how I want to live my life today, transforming my experiences into life lessons.
Here are the top 10 life lessons I learned from my years in corporate America:
1. Don’t be so serious. I once had a boss who discouraged laughter in the office and it created a hostile and energy-sucking environment. While there is always a proper time and place for hearty laughs, do make room for light-hearted fun wherever possible. After all, laughter is one of the secret weapons to overcoming grown-up stresses. Laugh, it will keep the heart young!
2. Ask for help. As much as I thought I had everything figured out, I didn’t. I discovered even seasoned executives didn’t always have the answers. The secret to their success, I found, is their ability to reach out for help, no matter their position. Success transpires when you recognize your limitations and have the courage to seek the collaboration and knowledge from others.
3. Travel as much as possible. The latter part of my corporate career flew me all over the world and those were some of the best memories I have. The personal growth and newfound friendships that come with experiencing adventures away from your home base will open your eyes to a whole new world. So use up the vacation time and set out to see new places and new faces!
4. Never compromise your health. I’ve had my fair share of 12-18 hour days with the week days and weekends blending together. We all have to put in our time, but be mindful that our wellness – mind, body, and spirit – also require ample rest to keep up with the stresses of our environment. Listen to your body and make time for exercise and meditation.
5. Everyone is a network. Not everyone you work with will be your best friend. In fact, some of them might make you cringe and run for the hills! The world is actually a very small place.The Universe connects and reunites people again for a reason we might never understand. In the end, the person you once avoided might be one of your strongest advocates later in life. So be courteous. Be kind. Be empathetic. And don’t burn any bridges!
6. There is no rewind button. I missed the opportunity to attend two of my good friend’s weddings and countless family gatherings all due to a work deadline. Sometimes work demands us to be away, but recognize that some things can’t be relived later. Don’t disappear from life’s many celebrations. Prioritize and make time for family, friends, and special gatherings. These are memories that you (and they) will always remember and cherish.
7. Money isn’t everything. It really isn’t! I spent years chasing after the next promotion, the next big payout. Yes, we all strive for financial stability. However, zooming in on money alone while neglecting to attend to the other facts of life won’t bring you happiness. And that’s the bottom line. Be ambitious but do occasionally take a self-assessment to make sure it isn’t coming at the expense of your own happiness.
8. Keep your options open. Nobody said you had to do the same thing forever. Expand the tunnel vision and peel your eyes open to unexplored possibilities. Doing so is not an act of disloyalty, but it’s a normal (and expected) part of your personal evolution as you meander and expand your footprint in this world. Let the wonders of new opportunities surprise you. It might just take your breath away!
9. Be yourself. Oftentimes the cultural tone – or “collective ego” – set by any corporate environment will seem to dictate how we should or should not behave. While it is important to be aligned with the company’s mission statement, it is even more imperative to not lose yourself in the process. One of the mysteries of the human race is our gift for being unique individuals. That’s what makes us so valuable. Bring your authentic self to the conference table and accept others for who they are, too.
10. Don’t give up on childhood dreams. What once made your heart sing as a child may just find its way back in your adult life. Mine was creative and artistic freedom. Being a CPA left little room for that but my passion never died. Keep checking in on that childhood voice of yours, remember #8 above, and soon you might be journeying into a brand-new path that makes you happier and more satisfied!
“Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci