When you have the time or more importantly, make the time to sit and look back at your working life it can be a rewarding and enlightening experience.
We are very often living a working life on a rollercoaster of deadlines, day-to-day pressures, constant learning, antagonism, internal highs and lows, frustration and responsibility. Then when we come home at night there are the pressures of family and responsibility. In a perfect world the coming home at night balances the workday pressures to provide us with the fuel to get up and go again the next day.
Not all people have the luxury of a happy and supported work life
Not all people are blessed with a happy and supportive home life, not all people have the luxury of a happy and supported work life so what is it, that we as individuals can do to ground ourselves when one or more of the important life consuming aspects of daily living are not perfect?
About 10 years ago, I was lunching with a colleague in New York while on a business trip and during our conversation he said something that shocked me and caused me to wonder, why I did not see what he saw in me. His comment was, “You are amazing, you have had a meteoric rise to business success, you have done it on your own and yet you really don’t see what it is that you have achieved. Who mentored you to give you such confidence and wisdom?”
Well it is fair to say I was certainly shocked, it was completely unexpected because you see he was right, I did not see what he saw. I was so busy doing what I did, I never took the time to think about where I had come from, what I had achieved or where I was headed. We parted company the next day and both returned to our home states.
Value the life that has led you to where you are today
In the days that followed I could not stop thinking about what had been said to me. I was flattered of course, but strangely uneasy with his statement. Uneasy because, he was right. I had not stopped to think about my path or why I was where I was in my life either personally or professionally. I valued success but I did not at that time, value the life that had led me to that current time.
A few days later I decided to take some time to think in more depth about what he said and to try to discover a little more about me. In order to go back over time and look at my life I found the easiest thing to do was to write a professional and a personal resume. Two documents, I recalled my past in detail and listed all of the highs and lows that had moulded me professionally and personally over the years.
I started with the professional life and went back to my school days and year by year added everything I could think of. Every job, every role and its responsibilities, I then added all the things I did for the first time in each of my positions and defined what the successes were. I looked at what was not necessarily successful and what did I gain from the experience. I questioned myself, have I used the lesson learned in my previous roles or decision making since and has it turned it into a strength for me or do I continue to make the same mistakes.
I looked at who has influenced me in each of my roles and was that influence positive or negative. What did I learn from the positive and what did I learn from the negative influences in my life.
I repeated the analysis for my personal life which was much less complicated but worthwhile nonetheless.
So here is what I learned
WOW! – I have done so much, learned so much, achieved so much. I had never thought about my life in such detail before and I certainly had never valued my professional history or valued it to the depth that I should have. I learned who my greatest mentor was and who my most disappointing boss was and why I put them in these categories.
It was a powerful exercise and one that I now do every year. I just keep adding to my list of professional and personal accomplishments and am constantly surprised at how much I learn and continue to develop every year.
I learned who I am today and who I want to be moving forward, what are my aspirations and my boundaries. I learned that our future success is in our past, you just need to find it, value it and bring it with you.
So I ask you: Who Is Your Greatest Mentor and Why?