Just like mountain-climbing, getting started in one of your first jobs after college is exciting, but sometimes it can be scary to look up and see how far you have to climb. There you are, just figuring out how to use the copy machine, and everyone around you already knows what they’re doing.
But try to calm down. Every highly successful person has walked in your shoes. Apple fired Steve Jobs in the 1980s, only to see him return and lead the company to the top of the technology world a few years later. He’s just one of many who succeeded despite failure along the way.
Here are words of advice from some of them:
TV Exec: Life is Cyclical
“You’re never as good as your best review, and never as bad as your worst. I was given this advice by a former boss and it has since stuck with me as a guide for getting through the best of times and the worst of times.
“Looking back on my career and all of the places I’ve been, there have been incredible highs and lows at each point along the way. What I’ve come to learn is that life is cyclical and the best way to stay focused is to ignore the swings and instead focus on the long run.”
Vivian Schiller, Chief Digital Officer at NBC News, former CEO of NPR
CMO at GE: Don’t Be a Workhorse
“Moving fast and being organized were my strong suits. The more there was to do, the more I felt alive.
“Who better than me, then, to land a plum assignment working for Jack Welch, Mr. Speed and Simplicity? Imagine my surprise when he called me into his office that day and admonished me for being too efficient. My zeal to do everything on my to-do list — along with my reserved, even shy nature — made me come across as abrupt and cold. I started every meeting by jumping right in and left with every action under control.
“‘You have to wallow in it,’ he said. ‘Take time to get to know people. Understand where they are coming from, what is important to them. Make sure they are with you.’ I heard Jack loud and clear. But honestly, it took a long time for the impact of his words to sink in, and even longer to change my behavior. After all, those same attributes had led to my being in the role in the first place.”
Beth Comstock, CMO at GE
CEO: Be a Friend
“My father-in-law, the Honorable Steven W. Fisher … taught me this essential business paradox: When you want something from someone, give them something instead, with no strings attached or expectations. Ask how you can be of service. Act like a true friend, even before you’ve established a friendship. Are you guaranteed to be able to leverage this later? Absolutely not. But that’s not the point. The point is that when you act unselfishly – when you behave as you would to a great friend – trustworthy and trusting, respectful and kind – then more often than not, good things will come in the relationship.”
Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local
And, finally, a little bit of advice from Mr. Jobs himself:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”