When I was 25, I had graduated from college, launched my career and found my passion. I worked in a nonprofit, which rapidly grew under a CEO who became my first significant mentor. If I could sit down with that young, ambitious woman today, here are 25 things I would tell her.
(1) Make a list of the five things you want most in the world and think about why you want them — then ask if the job you have is going to help you get any of them.
(2) Ask for help.
(3) Be persistent.
(4) Listen with your ears and your eyes — you’re more likely to get the whole picture.
(5) Learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Just because you are done with school does not mean that you’re finished learning.
(6) You will be most successful if you learn how to write and speak well — even better if you can speak in public and learn to enjoy it.
(7) Put yourself first. Eat right, exercise, take time off to have fun — no one will ever be able to do that for you. Don’t put it off.
(8) Don’t confuse what you do for a living for who you are as a person. Never wear your job title like a cloak.
(9) Success never happens by doing something all alone — it’s impossible. Really. Nurture the friendships that you make when you are 25 — you will be surprised to find out how many of those people will still be in your life and able to help you 25 years later. Rejoice in their success as much as you do your own.
(10) Make plenty of time for your family, especially your parents and grandparents — they won’t be around forever and they have a lot of support and experience to share. I planned on having my own mother around until she was in her late 80s, thought I had plenty of time. She died at 63. I could make a list of a thousand questions that I never got to ask her.
(11) The best connections come from personal contact — not an email.
(12) Be more concerned with doing something well than with doing it fast. Speed does not equal quality.
(13) Be brave, practice courage, keep innovation high on the agenda, and strive to make the exceptional real.
(14) When faced with a very difficult decision, ask yourself if you could explain it to the world on the six o’clock news — either now or in 30 years. If the answer is no, rethink how you are handling things.
(15) No matter what is happening, if you are in a leadership position, people are counting on you to stay calm.
(16) The longer you hang on to a bad idea, the harder it is to let it go.
(17) Don’t confuse effort with results. Just because someone works from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week does not make him or her smarter or more productive than you; it makes them more likely to burn out.
(18) Practice patience with yourself and others.
(19) Try to learn what everyone goes home to at the end of the day — you will become more compassionate.
(20) Never yell at anyone. EVER. People never recover from this. You remember the leaders you have worked with who admit that they made a mistake and try to make it right far longer than the ones who never admit that they are sorry for something they did.
(21) Be the first to forgive — really forgive. Chances are it will make working with that person again a whole lot easier.
(22) Walk away from gossip. Don’t listen to it. Don’t participate in it.
(23) Keep a journal of every accomplishment, award and promotion — it will help you to build your resume.
(24) Never compromise your standards.
(25) No matter how awful something seems today, it will get better. You will get over it.
I would also tell my 25-year-old self to always keep your eyes open for challenges — they are there to help you grow. If there is something facing you that you fear you can’t handle, that is most likely the very thing that will catapult your career in the direction of the greatest success.