career success

Making Mistakes

A wise person once told me, “Making mistakes is how we human beings learn.” I spent most of my life trying to avoid mistakes and then beating myself up when I inevitably made them.  In hindsight, this was terribly arrogant of me, counterproductive, and a difficult way to live. It was arrogant because to never [...]

Scaffolding

Over the years, I’ve homeschooled my kids in math. In the process of learning teaching methods for math, I came across the term “scaffolding.” In construction, “scaffold” refers to the temporary metal frame with large wood planks that surrounds a construction site. The scaffold gives construction workers a place to stand while working on the [...]

Master then Break the Rules

When you first learn a craft, it’s useful to learn the rules. As you master the rules, it’s useful to break the rules. The difference between learning, mastering, and then breaking the rules comes from understanding why the rules exist. Rules, rules of thumbs, or conventions exist around problems in a field that recur frequently. [...]

How to Wield Power

At Stanford, I took a class called Power & Politics. My professor said, “If you put two people in a room together, there’s politics.” As much as I disliked the answer at the time, I’ve come to appreciate that it is true. Politics occurs when different people with conflicting needs try to each get what [...]

Objective vs. Perceived Value

In school, if you get 95 out of 100 questions correct, you get a 95% score. Much of childhood education grading is done on an objective basis. However, once you enter the workforce, this changes. You get promoted based on how others perceive your abilities, as opposed to any objective measure of your abilities. You [...]

Fact vs. Opinion

One of the first lessons every first-year at McKinsey is taught is the difference between a fact and an opinion. The worst thing you could do at McKinsey was present an opinion as if it were fact. If you did this in front of a partner, the partner would never want you on another project. [...]

But, I Deserve It...

In school, you get the grade you objectively earn. In the workplace, what you get isn’t as objective. In many cases, you get what you convince someone else to give you. Want that promotion? You need to convince someone. Want a raise? You need to convince someone. Want a budget for your project? You need [...]

Conflicts of Interest

In a world of competing agendas, it’s inevitable that you will have a conflict of interest with a client, colleague, or boss. This is particularly true in consulting firms, law firms, and investment banks. Conflicts of interest come from having more than one role or relationship in a particular situation. Here are some examples: A) [...]

Do No Harm

When a medical student becomes a doctor, he or she is asked to take the Hippocratic Oath. The oath comes from a 2,500-year-old Greek medical text that requires new physicians to abide by a code of conduct.  This code includes its most famous phrase, which is loosely translated as “First, do no harm.” In essence, [...]

Feedback Loops

One of the most useful management tools is the feedback loop. Feedback involves some mechanism that provides you with data on whether your actions are focused toward your objective. When you’re off track, a well-designed feedback loop gives you some kind of indicator. When you’re on track, the same feedback loop provides confirmation to give [...]

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