Much like anyone else, I am a product of my environment and circumstances. I believe, as Aldous Huxley states, “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” Those experiences—personal, professional, positive and negative—serve to shape us all. When I look back on many of the decisions I’ve made in the past, I can see how these decisions impacted my future options. As tomorrow’s corporate leaders face their own metaphorical fork in the road, my counsel is this: choose the path that seems to have the greatest number of crossroads ahead. I believe that the best choices you can make today are those that leave you with the greatest number of options in the future. It’s those choices, and the decisions you make, right and wrong, that build the context for your future.
These crossroads can sometimes be difficult to navigate, so keep in mind the people you meet along the way. Some of the most important decisions I have made on my journey were often guided by the simplest counsel, and rarely from a mentor in the traditional sense of the word. These important guides come from surprising places; the trick is to take the time to listen and internalize these thoughts. But not all of this counsel has been positive; some of the best feedback and guidance I have received has come from the most negative interactions. Conflict often provides the chance for you to crystallize views and values; truly difficult decisions force you to make a call.
Someone once told me “feedback is a gift”—something I often joke about today, but there is some real truth to this statement. This gift is something you should pass on. As you learn from others, take the time to provide that same level of insight and support to others. Sometimes the process of helping someone through a difficult decision or choice gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your own choices.
I believe we make our own destiny and choose our own path. As you progress on your journey, allow yourself the time to grow and learn from the people and experiences you meet along the way. This will provide the best grounding for your future leadership position no matter what your final destination.