Colin Powell is quoted as saying, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” I came across this quote a few weeks ago, and it really resonated with me. I think it reflects a core belief of mine and describes key drivers of my business success.
I was the first member of my family, including extended family, to attend college. I am the oldest child, with a single mom who was going to school at night to better her opportunities, as she worked hard to support her family. She received her college degree at age 50, well after I had graduated and started my career and family. Watching her showed me the significant value of education not only in making me a more well rounded individual, but in providing financial independence. My mom was always upbeat and positive, even in trying situations. She instilled in me a strong work ethic and the value of perseverance—both have served me well throughout life. As I think about my own children who have worked tirelessly to be accepted into the schools of their choice, I marvel at my own naiveté in applying to a single school, without any consideration for how I would pay for my education, or what would happen if I was not accepted. Once I decided, I was intensely focused on this goal by working hard and remaining committed to my success.
Throughout my career, my success has been as a result of completing the tough assignments, taking on additional work, asking lots of questions, critically evaluating and questioning past assumptions, understanding how my work adds value to the organization, and communicating complex concepts simplistically and in plain English. I’ve never shied away from an opportunity to learn; I’ve made lateral career moves to better my experiences and knowledge, which has assisted me in becoming an effective executive. This required me to step outside of my comfort zone, to take on risks and challenges for learning and development. Sometimes taking these risks didn’t always result in the outcome that I had expected, and on the surface, on one or two occasions, they may have looked like failures. But, ultimately, all of these experiences, both positive and negative, shaped me as a leader. Through these experiences and opportunities, I was able to successfully navigate change and adversity with clarity and a strong focus for results, which is invaluable in any career assignment.