The 10 Keys To Staying Grounded (and true to yourself)

“Don’t follow leaders, watch your parking meter” Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”


Let me offer a toast to your career success from a familiar Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields…

And to assure that you are fully protected…

May you always be treated fairly,

May team players who do all the hard work and play by the rules be recognized and rewarded,

And may those who live by their own rules and care only about themselves suffer the consequences,

May you never be pressured to agree when you really disagree,

May you never have to compliment an emperor on their clothing when they are wearing none,

And may you never have to conform with self-serving leaders who abuse their authority and put profits and power ahead of principle and people.

But just in case wishing doesn’t make it so…

May these 10 recommendations for staying grounded prepare you to deal with the working world as it is – namely highly imperfect, sometimes unfair, and unpredictably frustrating.

How can you inoculate yourself from corrupting influences?

Conforming to the culture and behavioral norms of your workplace, and trusting and following your leaders, are necessary to becoming a trusted and influential part of that community.  But so is retaining your independent thinking and judgment. Sometimes it’s best to compliment the emperor on their handsome outfit, and sometimes you have to let them know that they are not wearing any clothing at all.

You will have to draw the line by using your judgment, situation by situation, in a way that is true to your core values.  In order to make your boss successful in the long run, sometimes you will have to say and do things that are likely to make them feel frustrated with you in the short-term. Differences of opinion and perspective are only as valuable as they are communicated.  Sometimes, leaving an organization is the best choice.

These represent some of the most difficult decisions you will have to make.  While you can’t avoid them, there are ways to stay grounded enough to keep from losing your balance altogether, and making good decisions consistent with your long-term goals and core beliefs

The 10 Keys to Staying Grounded

  1. Understanding your rights and company ethics policies and procedures.
  2. Self-awareness: Knowing who you are, your core values, what is important to you, where you are going and what you want to leave behind enables you to:
    • become less dependent on approval, admiration, status and material trappings. “Money is great, but I want to build, create, deliver, serve, help….”
    • Be more tolerant of the everyday barriers and frustrations.
  3. Career mobility: A current network, marketable skills, track record and job search skills.
  4. The willingness to acknowledge “trouble” – in organizations and individuals – is the first step in your sprint away or disengaging from it.
  5. Long-term goals tied to contributing to a greater good make you much less vulnerable to corruption, whereas goals that have to do with getting as much as you can for yourself make you more vulnerable.
  6. The support of a strong family, community and network of social support is something you can tap into when you feel unsure of a decision or begin to question yourself.
  7. Mentors you can trust and turn to when faced with difficult choices.
  8. Having a well-rounded life and outside interests to give you a balanced view of the world and who you are in it.
  9. The wisdom and courage to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
  10. Enough savings to allow you to make changes without causing major disruption!

Finally, let me leave you with this wish:

“Be whoever you want to be.  There is no time limit.  Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same.  There are no rules to this thing. You can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it…I hope you meet people with a different point of view.  I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

For more on this topic, order  Handbook For Early Career Success

[i] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures, 2008.


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