My eldest son graduated from college earlier this month. The commencement speaker was Michael Higgins, 9th President of Ireland, an Indiana University graduate, himself. I was unable to understand a few portions of his speech as they were academically over my head. Other portions were in an ancient Irish dialect. I did take away one big concept, which is pretty good for any speech.
Higgins spoke of the importance of “challenging false inevitabilities”. I took this to mean, “It is what it is, might not be what it is… or it is at least not what it might or could become”. You have the ability to create an amazing outcome, one that might be far different from what others might accept it must be. This is a powerful concept for thought, action and success. This mindset can be the foundation of an amazing future.
This got me thinking of what wisdom I might offer up was I invited to speak to graduates. I put a few ideas together and realized they were relevant to many more than just grads.
Below I offer up five timely strategies for work, for life and for success in all endeavors.
Slow down – There is no need to panic. Few of us engage in anything on a daily basis that is life threatening. In the grand scheme of things what we do does not impact the grand scheme of things. Yet, in many ways, what we do can have huge impact on our lives and the lives of those we touch. Your impact can be significant enough so that getting it right really matters. Take the time to gather all the information you need to make decisions. Early information is most often mostly wrong. Decisions made in the fog of war are usually bad decisions. Study the situation. Gather the facts. Take a deep breath. Then act.
Take Responsibility – Put your name on it. Own it. If it goes well, take the credit. If it goes badly, take the credit. It is O.K. to own a failure. It is o.k. to own a bunch of them. The more willing you take ownership and responsibility the more responsibility people will be comfortable handing you. Relax, you cannot get them all wrong. Even a broken watch is correct twice a day. Friends and fans will celebrate your successes. Enemies will attempt to capitalize on your failures. This says more about your enemies than it does about you or the failures. Failure taken with responsibility equals a form of success.
Taking responsibility takes practice. It is not easy at first. You will get better at it. It will become more comfortable the more you do it. So much so that as you rise in position and stature you will not realize the size and scope of the responsibility others have placed with you. It is a slow, creeping thing. One day you discover everyone is looking to you.
100% Honesty, 100% of the time – There is no other option. We live in an age of total transparency. Everyone has access to everything all the time. Anything less than 100% honest will come back and bite you, hard. It will bite you publically. The bite will cost you more than the honesty would have cost in the first place.
Play positive – If you have to say it, say it in a positive way. Put the positive face on all you do. It sets a tone and sets an example. It puts customers, co-workers and competitors in a position of having to meet positivity with positivity. You reap what you sow. Sow good things and good things come to you. Everything you do, say, print and share should be able to be framed in a positive way. A “no smoking” sign can read, “smoking is permitted outside”. Same message. Positive framing. Big difference.
Do it now – Do not postpone the inevitable. If it needs to happen, make it happen now. If it has to happen, get it done now. If you are going to fire an employee, fire them now. Putting it off is bad for you, bad for them and bad for business. If you must incur an expense, incur it as soon as possible. Whatever it is it will be more costly later. Decisiveness in your actions sets an example and a standard. Put your big boy pants on and bite the bullet. In life we regret more the things we did not do than the things we did. Use the four points above to guide decisions and actions. Take your time. Take responsibility. Take the truth. Take it positive. Take action, now.