This is a story I wanted to share with you because it sits very closely to my ‘Why’. I’ve done many different jobs over the past 20 years, including student jobs. And I’ve loved every single one of them. Yet I’ve met so many people that say the exact opposite.
What made my jobs so much better? They were equally annoying, busy and stressful at times. I had differences with my colleagues and I wasn’t always paid as much as I should have been. The same things other people were saying who didn’t like their jobs/lives.
So I started looking deeper. Soon I realised that each job gave me joy because I was able to see the positive things, the purpose and the long term vision. I looked for things that would help me grow. I asked for help and in the process found mentors. I worked each day to make sure I’d leave a legacy. And funny enough, I got raises I didn’t even have to ask for.
So why write this story? It’s meant to be an inspirational one, to share some valuable life-lessons and hopefully help you find joy in whatever it is you do.
1. Learn to accept help
During my 10 years of work experience, I’ve had a few different jobs. Each time leaving behind what I knew. This is something that motivates me. Knowing you’ll be doing something for the ‘first time’, knowing you can (and probably will) fail the first few tries but realising you’ll grow in the process.
When I stopped developing and became a project manager. I left behind 7 years of experience. I was a senior developer with a large backpack of knowledge and felt confident in my job. All of a sudden the next day I went to work, most of my previous experiences didn’t matter. Lead a team, make invoices, talk to customers and make sure we make the damn deadline. All of the things I never had to worry about were now my only concern.
I became a junior again, and had to restart the whole learning process. This brings a certain amount of anxiety because you have to ask questions, and hope people will help you out if you can’t figure it out on your own. It makes you vulnerable because you have to publicly admit you don’t know something. This is something that people are scared of because you’re actually saying: “I don’t know how to do my job”.
When you’re in a safe work environment you should never be afraid to admit that you don’t know something. At iO we all work really hard to help people feel safe because we fundamentally believe that it will help people grow. Learning to accept help, and not being afraid of saying you don’t know will liberate you.
Ask many questions, but never the same one
People don’t mind helping others, but if you keep asking the same questions it’s a sign you’re not really listening to their advice or help. Try to take notes and try to avoid asking the same questions.
Try combine your questions
If you notice you have a series of questions, it’s a good idea to combine them and plan a dedicated meeting with your colleague. Asking questions means you take someone out of their flow, so if you ask something every 30 minutes, this person will never be able to get any work done themselves. Secondly, it will also create a moment of learning where your colleague knows he has dedicated time to answer a list of questions you have prepared, causing them to be more aware of the moment. So it’s a win-win for both parties.
Make sure you actually tried looking for the answer before you ask someone
As a developer for example most of the time we can find our answers online, by just googling the right terms. If you ask questions to your colleagues without first trying to figure out the problem yourself, you’ll come across as lazy. Growth comes from the effort you put in yourself. By asking senior profiles how to do it you won’t learn as much as trying to break your head over the problem.
Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”
To learn you need to understand why something is done, and now only how it is done. Also learning doesn’t always mean you have to do what others do. Learning should also create the opportunity to challenge the status quo, allowing you to find solutions that could be better than what was already in place.
2. Find a mentor
The power of coaching people is highly underestimated. Throughout my career I’ve always been lucky enough to have the right people surrounding me. One of the reasons for that is because I strongly believe in the following quote: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room”. At iO it’s clear I will never be the smartest person and that’s exactly why I’m so eager to go to work each day.
Each company I’ve worked at I’ve been lucky enough to find someone who took me under their wings and helped me grow without hesitation. These people are the ones I consider my mentors. So I want to thank all my mentors for their knowledge and patience.
Now let’s have a look at what a mentor does?
“Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.” – Wikipedia
Mentorship for me is a cycle that we might all recognize looking back at anything we learned via another person.
It starts with you asking questions, and finding someone you trust and doesn’t mind helping you. Before you know it you end up building a trusted relationship. You’ve found your mentor.
Whilst you grow and learn, have respect for the effort they make. Say thank you and show that you appreciate them and the work they put into helping you.
Slowly your mentorship will start to transform into a peer to peer where you both give and take advice. But always remember to keep learning and keep an open mind.
You’ve now grown to a point where you can become a mentor yourself and restart the cycle of growth.
That last part is the most important one for me and is part of the reason why I’m writing this. Giving back to other people will make the circle whole.
It will help you leave your own legacy.
3. Always look for solutions
We all know someone who’s always complaining about everything that is going wrong in their life. Hell, we might even be that person at times.
But ask yourself this question, how long does it take for you to get bored of hearing the same complaining? Remember the same goes for people listening to your complaining.
So instead of complaining, try to find solutions and discuss those with people. You’ll see people will be more eager to help you. Also the burden of your problems will be less on their shoulders because you’re presenting possible solutions. This means they’ll get less bored ;-)
It sounds easy to say “think in solutions”, but we all know you can get caught up in a spiral where you are unable to see solutions. So how can you get out of that situation?
The best tip I’ve come across so far came from Pieter, he taught me to stop using the word “problem”. What he really meant was to start avoiding negative connotations. If you use the word challenge instead, you’ll automatically start activating your solving capabilities.
Another tip that flows from the previous one is to keep a positive attitude. In order to keep this positive attitude you’ll need to implement the first tip, but also believe you want to change the current situation. Bring the right attitude.
4. Take responsibility for your actions
For a long time I worked as a waiter in a local nightclub. After 1 year I was promoted to head waiter, meaning I was responsible for the other waiters and waitresses, managing their vacations, who was on stand-by and many other responsibilities that come with leading a team.
Near the summer of 2016, I noticed getting myself up to go to work on Friday and Saturday nights had become less enjoyable than it was for the past 6 years. I started to become more agitated with the daily challanges and I started complaining about everything.
After pondering about this for a while I realized that the problem wasn’t the job, the nightclub or the drunk customers. The problem was Me. Everything was still the same, I just wasn’t. Spending every weekend for the past 6 years in a nightclub working had burned me out. Having sworn that I would never do a job that I’m not motivated to do, I quit that summer.
Sometimes you just get so caught up in whatever it is you’re doing that you just can’t see that you are part of the problem. So take a good look at the things around you that seem to annoy you and ask yourself if you might be part of the problem? How can you help create solutions?
5. Stand Up for yourself
I was 19 years old when I realised I had to stop blaming the world for my past. Losing my mom created lots of anger and caused me to close down on my environment. For this reason I didn’t fit in well. I invested too much time trying to please people (who i shouldn’t) and forgot about myself and what made me happy.
In order to start accepting I had to set goals: finish school, get a bachelor degree and mostly become a better person. The years went by and I started to get a grip on this thing called life. Bought an apartment, found a really amazing place to work and most of all a job that allows me to make a difference in people’s lives and inspire them.
During my career I’ve had multiple conversations where employees were complaining about their company/managers not listening to them or their ideas. I’ve never had this hurdle because I feel that if you truly believe in whatever it is you want to change, you build a strong case of pro’s and con’s and do this all with the best interest of the company you work for. People will listen to you and you will be part of the change.
Am I saying I’ve never had some of my ideas dismissed? Of course not, but I’ve never been left behind feeling I wasn’t heard. After a good conversation my view was adjusted or my business plan was adapted to a point where the idea got set into motion.
So whenever someone comes up to me to tell me they can’t do something or they are being held back. Remember the only person that is holding you back is you.