I always had a plan, but as John Lennon so eloquently said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
While I was at Harvard, I set my designs on becoming a Rhodes Scholar and then returning to teach mathematics or economics at a university. I was realizing my vision when I graduated from Harvard, but then my plans changed. When I wasn’t selected as a Rhodes Scholar I was offered a job at Oracle, and I thought that would be a good way to learn about the business world before I started off on my real career as a professor. Life as I know it today started happening.
So much for my career as a professor; Oracle, Stanford University MBA program, & McKinsey came next and I was really enjoying what I was doing, so that plan to be a professor was set aside. Then Microsoft came along. At Microsoft, I had a great mentor who believed in me and my abilities, and pushed me to do things I never knew I was capable of.
I learned a lot along the way. First, having a great mentor that believes in you is invaluable. Seek out mentors that will help you see yourself in new ways and be open to the feedback and the encouragement. I am so grateful for my mentors and hope I am doing them justice by paying their investment in me forward.
Second, be clear on your purpose and vision. Don’t just share it, but engage your team to help you achieve that vision. You can’t be successful on your own—nor should you want to be. The collective brainpower of a highly connected team is not only powerful, but also exhilarating.
Most importantly, don’t forget to draw the line. Every part of your life – your family, your career, your health and well-being—want and need more attention from you every day. It’s up to you to strive for the balance that works for you. It requires making tough choices every day. Control what you can control, and let the rest go.
While I still make plans for my future—for my family and my career—I know that life’s little surprises and the unexpected and wonderful twists and turns in life are what make the journey a real adventure.