Friday, July 12, 2013

Almost 10 lessons I wish I knew sooner

I just filled out a survey and when I got to the "age range" part of the survey, you know when you choose which bucket you fit in 18-25, 25-34 etc. I realized I wasn't at the low end of the scale any more. I was still on the scale just not in one of the first few options. I mean I'm even considered to be in the "protected age bracket" which I know is supposed to make me feel better, but it doesn't.

I was feeling a little bad about it, then realized I had some knowledge I could share to those younger than me. Most of it is stuff that someone told me when I was 18, or 20. But some of it is stuff that now looking back I wish someone had told me, though I probably wouldn't have listened....

Rich's lessons for the younger generation
1. Document. This is one of those lessons people tried to teach me. "Rich make sure you label that server", "Rich you should document how you fixed that" and of course my response was usually "I don't need to because I know it and won't forget". Why I thought that was a valid response I don't remember. Which is part of the reason I should have documented it. The other reason is then someone else could have done it when I was out. 

2. Train. If I wasn't going to document than I should have at least trained other people how to do things. This would have freed me up to do new things instead of me being the guy that always had to fix the printer. It sort of seems obvious now, and clearly should have been obvious then but wasn't. I mean I remember complaining about always having to fix the printer so it's not like I enjoyed doing it....

3. Relationships matter. Now in my defense we didn't have things like, facebook, or even commerical use of the Intenet back then so keeping up with relationships was harder, but still I wish someone had gotten through to me how important this is. While I do much better than I used to, I keep connections on linkedin, I try to stay in touch at least via email with people and even make sure to spend time out of my day talking to my work peers. Above all else do this one....

4. Save early. My company has done matching 401k for a long time and I was too dumb to take advantage of it for like 5 years. Dumb, dumb, dumb I should have at least done enough to max out the company match. It's like turning down a raise that would give interest. As soon as you can start saving for retirement do it. Let's be honest, counting on someone else like the government, to takre care of you is not the safe bet. Be dependent, start saving now..

5. Everyone can teach you something. I had the chance to ask a CEO once what he thought was the secret to turning around a company. His answer was listen to the employees. Everyone knows something you don't. In some cases it can be as critical as "Hey that guy from Friday the 13th, in the hockey mask is behind you with an ax" to "Don't press the red button", or as mundane as "The pizza place down the street is $3 cheaper for the same size" Listen and you will learn something.

6. If we all have the same information the answer is obvious. This took me a while to figure out. When people do something "stupid" often times, like 99% of the time, it's because they had, or didn't have some information you did. We once didn't buy a company tha built a key piece of technology that I thought we should have and it seemed dumb to me that our execs didn't see that. I had the chance to talk to our CTO about it and he explained why "We estimated about 2M a year in additional revenue, but the company wouldn't sell for less then 25-30M and we just didn't think that made enough sense". Hmm OK they actually had a well reasoned thought process on it. The next time you assume someone is being stupid, recognize that they just may not be able to share all the details of why...

7. Don't cover up mistakes, explain why you learned from them. My first real boss, at a local McDonald's taught me this. It was one of the few lessons I learned and remembered. The first time you do something wrong it isn't a mistake, it's a learning experience. Don't try to cover it up, but learn from it and avoid doing the same thing again. (Then it IS a mistake). Besides if sitcom's have taught us anything, it's that you always get caught and it just makes it worse...

8. Experience matters. When I graduated I knew that I knew everything.I mean I just got done learning so clearly that meant I must know more than the people that had been doing the same thing for years. They didn't get the new way of doing things. What never actually occurred to me then was that the people that had been doing it for 5, 10 or 15 years, already knew what I knew, plus everything that happened before, including why somethings were tried and dropped. 

9 just because you know doesn't mean you have to share, or to quote "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon's mother - "
Now listen here, Sheldon, I've been telling you since you were five years old, it's okay to be smarter than everyone else, but you can't go around pointing it out!"
I remember when i was very young my mother and father only had one car, so my mother would walk me and my sister to Kindergarten. I was too young, but it wasn't like she could leave me home, so she brought me too. Until I got kicked out for answering all the questions. Just because you know doesn't mean you need to interrupt people with the answer, it is sometimes OK to let them figure it out on their own.

10. Yeah I know there should be ten, but hell I'm old and didn't feel like thinking up another one. Deal with it :)

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