What I have learned in nearly 38 years in the business

Some thoughts – not about career or leading others, but about life and leading yourself

I have worked nearly 38 years in the FMCG business. Some younger colleagues have asked me to share some learnings. You can imagine that I can write and speak for hours after all this time. But I have summarized some of my findings. They are probably not complete or new. But nevertheless they might give you some food for thought. You will see, that these are not the usual considerations how to make career. You will find tons of other material about that in various sources. I have thought about life itself. And I would assume that if you consider these reflections, success and happiness will come – however that may look like for you.  

1. “Good relationships are the key to stay happy and healthy.” (See also Harvard Study of Adults Development). Family and friends are very important. Build good connections > in private and professional life. It is not the quantity but the quality of relationships, which is important.

2. Take care of your health and well-being. Consider all four areas: Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. You need energy in all four areas to master life and to “perform in the storm”. Protect your energy level as much as possible, don’t say “yes” if you mean “no”.

3. Know your strengths, values, priorities and your purpose/ mission/north star (or however you call it). Stick to them at all times. Focus on your strengths, don’t invest too much time in improving your weaknesses. And as change is constant, never stop learning and developing yourself. Stay curios.

4. Very important: Choose your environment carefully! It needs to fit to you and your strengths resp. your purpose. A kangaroo will not be happy in the Arctic – even if it has dozens of seminars, coaching sessions and mentoring. If you realize that you at the wrong place, the most important thing is to get out of there and to find something better.

5. Keep focus on the key topics in the job and private life. Focus only on what you can control. Don’t confuse urgent topics with important topics. And don’t bother about smaller issues. Shit happens. Ask yourself: Will that be still important tomorrow or next week or in a year?

6. There are challenges and barriers on the way. Don’t give up. Follow your path and your dreams. Stretch yourself. With discipline and persistence, you will overcome the challenges. Don’t be afraid to fail. And if you fall down, get up and start to walk again. Nevertheless, check from time to time, if you are still on the right track and if you still follow the right targets. And make sure that you follow your own path and not one which have been chosen by others for you.

7. Targets are important, but enjoy the journey itself as well. Focus on the presence. Look left and right, take your time, make breaks, make some detours, look for companions etc. (Please see my post regarding the Camino walk).

8. Good communication is key – be open, transparent and honest as much as possible. Listen carefully. Try to understand the other person and respect other opinions. Be kind, don’t offend/attack others. Don’t criticize, but ask questions, if you don’t understand resp. don’t agree. Wait with your response, if you are emotional or angry in that moment. A smile and some kindness will always make this world a better place.

9. Ask for support, especially in difficult times. You don’t need to find all answers and solutions on your own.

10. Help others if you can. Give something back to the society.

11. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be grateful for what you have and don’t be angry for what you don’t have.

12. Tackle life with a positive attitude. I like the description that you should live and act like a positive realist or a realistic optimist (please chose the wording you like).

13. Who should take action now? Look in the mirror! You are responsible for your life – no one else.  So get your stuff together and start to walk. Please remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You have to be the change you want to see around you!”