Fail, learn, grow, be optimistic. Repeat

I have been fortunate in my career to work with amazing leaders whose incredible words of wisdom continue to guide me through my professional growth. Of the many pieces of advice that I have received, I will highlight three that have impacted me in different stages of my career:

1. Fail fast and learn quickly

After graduating law school, I worked as a law clerk for a trial judge. In my first week, the judge sat me down and told me “there is no mistake that you can make that I cannot fix but if I don’t know about it, I can’t fix it.” I remember the profound sense of support that I felt in that moment. That conversation set the tone for how the judge and I worked together – knowing that errors were inevitable helped to eliminate the fear of failure and analysis paralysis that many first-timers experience. I made many mistakes during that yearlong clerkship but because I was encouraged to communicate them openly without fear of reprisal or embarrassment, I was able to quickly resolve them. The judge’s perspective not only guided me as a young attorney, it continues to influence my leadership style as I have ascended to management roles.

2. Maximize every opportunity

I was advised early in my career that the key to counteracting the dilatory effects of gender or racial discrimination is to maximize every opportunity that comes my way. To me, this means making peace with the possibility that my successes or failures as a woman of color may be viewed as a reflection of my group as a whole, and choosing to utilize the immense pressure that that understanding brings as a source of energy in order to make the rare opportunities count. I have been able to make leaps in my career by holding fast to this maxim.

3. Never judge tomorrow by today

This phrase is a rough translation of a Yoruba adage that my parents repeated to my siblings and me when we were children. It has been applicable to many facets of my life, including my career. Professional growth is a journey that unfolds over time with no linear trajectory, making optimism and resilience must-have tools for success.