Success . . .

I've been shaking my network tree the last few days. Reaching out to old colleagues, friends, peers, people I respect. People respected by people I respect. People who have casual, passing contact with people who know people I respect. People who once served coffee to people who have casual contact with people who know people that I vaguely know. I kid. I'm not so crazy as to think anyone that is not a direct contact of mine is in my network but I am crazy enough to go far too long in between touching base with folks.

Of the four or five people in this world that I consider "professional mentors" (and you should all have one, even you stay-at-home domestic types), three of them have NEW (different - they are far from waiting for their business cards to come in) jobs and one of them corrected me on the name of their employer (Elliott School of Communication (no S at the end - theory vs. application)). The fifth one is still doing the same old thing but - dude's owned his own company for 17 years - I'll not exactly sniff, in that self-satisfied way, at that.

It is great to catch up, get some face/voice time, hear what everyone's been up to and - perhaps most importantly (my ego being what it is) what they think I've been up to. I don't mean to imply I asked them what I had for lunch yesterday or what the status of my Netflix Instant Queue is. I, instead, updated them on my professional pursuits and asked them for advice on how I can continue to grow and advice. Some OUT OF CONTEXT advice/feedback/thoughts include:

  • "Dude. I have no idea what ANY of that means."
  • "Do you ever NOT speak in industry garble?"
  • "You're still a bit of an 'acquired taste,' I might presume."
  • "BIG personalities in the world are two types - those that alienate, those that blend."
  • "There is nothing you've set out to accomplish that you have not. Can't imagine that would stop now."
  • "Hmmm. Repeat that exactly - but use different words."
  • "You jerk. You said you wanted to talk about football. I would not have called you back to talk about you."
  • "You might consider adjunct teaching. I think you'd be great at it."
  • "Just be yourself and be honest about who you are and you'll not put yourself in a spot where you can not succeed."
If you're horrified by any of that (some of them are not the most positive) - remember that these are people that I have self-identified as professional heroes. They are going to have a bit of an "edge" to them accordingly. And/or be so completely comfortable with who they are and the career they have that they have  become highly coveted, beautiful sea glass. I'm 15 years in to the tide here, folks - I could stand some edge dulling. Of the hours I've spent on the phone with folks in the last week - one thing has been consistently echoed and it is that last bullet up above . . . success comes only in self-awareness and self-presentation.

I'm loud. I'm aggressive (I would say assertive in some environments/contexts but I'm generally more aggressive). I'm confident. I'm direct. I'm honest. I'm passionate. I'm afraid of just-about nothing. I give credit where it is due. I'm a team player when I'm on a true team where the weight is being equally shared/pulled. I'm inclined to swear. I have a work ethic that makes a lot of people crazy (hint - never ask or expect anyone to do anything you would not do yourself . . . and if you would do it yourself - maybe you SHOULD do it yourself). I think of myself, first and foremost, as a professional (even in the context of fatherhood - I think of myself as a provider, an example to emulate or avoid, a person in full, etc.). I am not afraid to be the sore-thumb and lone opposition if my experience and the facts support my differentiation. 

The above (with balding, overweight, stunningly handsome, and a few other physical descriptors thrown in) is WHO I am. I have been successful (yeah, I said it) to this point in my career because I know this. I own this. I'm comfortable with this and if my success will continue for the 30 years of work I think I have in/ahead of me - I'm going to have to stay comfortable with this fact and make sure I'm in an environment that will allow me to be.