By Professor Alan Guinn
If you’re a millennial starting now or engaged in building your management career, you’re just now probably planning on having a long and productive life ahead of you. After all, you may have another—what?—40 years of growth and development ahead of you?
Keep in mind that life sometimes doesn’t work just the way we want it to. The long and productive life you are expecting may turn out to be shorter than you think.
When new hires start out working in the corporate world, they see long years ahead to climb corporate ladders, become strong leaders and managers, and gain additional compensation and benefits.
It’s an old adage, but true…Believe me, the years pass you by faster than you are anticipating. Somewhere along the way, life gets in your way and takes all those years of experience you have gained, and compacts them into a time “window” which, once lost, won’t ever be recovered. This isn’t a pitch for work-life balance, or some such trendy topic; it’s simply a wakeup call from an old dude who’s been around the block a few times. The older you get, the faster time moves.
Have I had help along the way “speeding up my life?” You bet. Being promoted in a growth-oriented corporate role often depends on whom you know as much as what you know, or what you do. If you didn’t learn that fact, or you don’t know it by the time you’re out of whatever schooling you choose, someone isn’t sharing Real World 101 with you. If you love your job, it’s not work. It’s easy to lose track of the time you invest.
I remember the first “corporate management” job I ever held; when we attended training, we anxiously completed the form, which had been used so many times previously, “Anticipated Personal and Professional Growth Assessments.”
I’d list my goals for two years, then five, then ten, then—believe it or not—20 years. 20 years! Think where you were and what you were doing 20 years ago. You better believe that we believed in planning, let me tell you. I never listed “retire.” It wasn’t in my goals to retire at 27.
My goals were to progress to District Management, then Regional Management, then into the Home Office as a Senior Manager. So, I made it into the Home Office in 4 years, not 20. My goal for District Management was to be promoted within four years. I was never a District Manager. No loss to me. Or probably to the company, either.
How Did I Get So Far Ahead So Quickly?
I can honestly say that, in most cases, I did what the company asked of me; regularly exceeded the profit they were seeking, and was never afraid to move to locations the company believed my talents could be best utilized. I didn’t fight the ‘boss.’ The roles were highly competitive with others within the Company. You always had to worry about which other Director might try to sabotage your work. There were individuals who took pleasure in making you look bad. You had your share of fights. I might argue, but tried never to get to the point I alienated those around me. That happened later. But that’s another story for another day.
Balance? Maybe not so much. New locations, new friendships, new opportunities? You bet. And at what cost? Family members occasionally had to have their greeting or Christmas cards forwarded from an old address, because they didn’t have the new one. I had an endless stream of Executive Recruiters who called me, sought me out. Guaranteed me jobs before I even interviewed. My reputation preceded me. Tried to set me up with competitors, with jobs which had little or no connectivity to what I did, even shared no background skill sets. At one point in time, I was asked to interview for three different positions with three different organizations. It was ego-building, but not really required.
“Just Direct Your Movers to a New City…We’ll Worry about the House Later.”
I’ve shared the story in work seminars about the Executive Recruiter who called me as the movers were physically moving packed boxes out of my old house to my next location for work—disconnecting the landline telephone was the last thing you would do on a move out.
She tried to entice me to change the target location for delivery of the boxes—those just being shipped!!-- to a new city, with a new employer; and, by the way, she’d guarantee the job was mine when I arrived there. Yup. Just change the airplane tickets, too. And did I want part of her commission she would make on my placement if I took the job? It was there, just for the asking.
Time is always the constant, Ladies and Gentlemen. Money and the ability to earn it changes, the location for you to earn it changes, the ability to create new opportunities and processes changes, but time is the constant. You can earn money anywhere. Time is always the scalpel in the surgery of our life. Neither of us—you or me—can change that. But here’s the pitch.
Yes, You Are in Control of Your Life. And If You Don’t take it, Someone Else Will.
You’re the big Kahuna in your life. Not your employer, or your creditors, or even your spouse. It’s you. Here is “You 101” if you’ve never studied it previously. You’re the pupil and you’re the Teacher. You’re also the Principal and the Administrator in the School District of your life. You’re the CFO, the CMO, the COO and the CEO—as well as the Chairman of the company-- in “Corporate You.”
It’s easy to say, and difficult to play. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone in this world has a brilliant thought, or idea, or plan. They have a book they need to write. They have alternative pathways to follow. Clients tell me about them all the time. They are committed to make them all work, but…….. It’s just that they won’t, don’t, or shouldn’t--- often because they are afraid to execute. It’s not that they can’t execute. It’s that they won’t.
So What Now? Learn to Live Your Life.
I’ve often said those who live on a commission basis have a more focused view of what they are doing in their lives, and learn to live less fragmented than those that don’t. They understand the importance of taking control and making things happen. And in most cases, do so.
Remember this: Don’t be afraid to live your life. You make your decisions, not others.
Anything you see, feel, touch, or want to possess is not going to be there forever.
Hear this: Embrace the fact that the days you will be doing what you are doing now…they’re numbered.
Be sure the decisions you make are decisions YOU want to make.
Live Your Life with Contentment. Learn to embrace contentment. Follow your dreams.