Keith Cowing

Keith Cowing

Product guy. Entrepreneur.
Career advisor. Read bio

4 words to live your career by

February 16, 2017

chalkboard-career

Building a happy and successful career takes time and energy. Try focusing on these four words to guide you in the right direction.

Honest

First, be honest with yourself. It’s amazing how easy it is to lie to ourselves. When you’re excited or upset, think carefully about your motivations, your loves, your fears, and your biases. We all have them. The more you understand them, the more effective you will be.

Second, be proactively transparent. Being honest is more than telling the truth when somebody directly asks you. If you go out of your way to educate people about what’s going well, what’s not, and what is at risk, you can proactively avoid a lot of problems.

Third, be open about your concerns and provide constructive criticism. Look at people who are extremely successful and you will frequently find this behavior. They give honest feedback, but do it in a constructive way so people can improve. If the train is about to go off the rails, you want somebody on your team who will raise their hand and tell you. Be that person, it pays off.

Kind

Kindness matters. The trick here is to carefully weave it with honesty. It’s easy to be honest and abrasive. It’s also easy to be kind and avoid criticism. It’s extraordinarily difficult to be kind and constructive at the same time. But if you can perfect this art, it will pay dividends throughout your career. If people know they can come to you for the brutal truth, but get it in a way that doesn’t attack them – you will become a trusted adviser.

The flip side is that you have to let go of the idea that you will make everybody happy. It is not possible. It is possible, however, to be honest and have the best intentions. If you are open, honest, and constructive then you can sleep well at night and accept the consequences. You will always miss something. You will always make somebody upset. That’s OK. It really is. It has to be or you will never make meaningful progress in this world. But have the best intentions.

Disciplined

The devil is in the details. Get your shit done. Send out status updates. Read the document before the meeting. Go the extra mile to close a deal. In the short-term, 9 out of 10 actions will go unnoticed. But people catch on and you will earn a reputation for being gritty and reliable. In the long-term, your results will speak for themselves. Success is 99% perspiration. Strategy doesn’t separate companies and careers. Execution does.

Clutch

There is something magical about having somebody you can count on in the most critical situations. Pick your favorite sports analogy, whether it’s Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Simone Biles, or somebody else. If you aspire to 10x your market value, you should aspire to be disciplined, prepared, and reliable. Poise under pressure is a result of consistent grit over an extended period of time. When you become the clutch player, you become a true leader.

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