I feel fortunate to have learned a lot of meaningful lessons early on in my life, including what it really means when people say your mother is an alien and also the many benefits to multinational families. At 16, I started my first job waitressing and as the new hire was often assigned the difficult customers others didn’t want to serve. In the end, I discovered how nice those customers could be when I took the time to understand their needs and treat them with respect.

What a difference it can make to have someone take an interest in you, challenge you and help you see your own potential and what is possible if you work hard and care. I had some other rather dramatic examples that were powerful in reinforcing what I absolutely didn’t want to become. These and a variety of other experiences eventually led me to five commitments.

Seek first to understand and then form your opinion. I once heard the expression: you have two ears and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion. Master the art of listening as well as the art of asking great questions and you will be amazed what you learn.

Keep moving. Fitness, health and well-being are essential to a balanced life and to managing the many challenges and stresses that come along the way. Exercise will help you stay healthy, alert and happy and give you the energy you need to be effective. If you don’t believe this read Spark, by John Ratey.

Be present and fully engaged in what you are doing whether at work, on vacation, walking the dog, etc., which is perhaps a controversial statement in this highly connected, multitasking and multi-generational world. However, as my 24-year-old niece Nicola recently said: “Being present at work helps you identify opportunities, avoid mistakes and make connections; and being present in your personal life fosters healthy relationships and keeps you happy and fulfilled.”

Keep learning and sharing and look for the lesson in every experience. Read, take classes, talk to people, have a mentor, be a mentor, engage and stretch. Be flexible. It is important to have a plan and goals but stay open to the possibilities.

Finally, choose your company well. By that I mean both your employer and your friends. I am proud to work with a great company and my life is rich because of my colleagues, friends and family