A 50th Birthday party is a big milestone, both personally and career wise. Our good friend had a party in his home, and I caught up with his parents, and how they were doing in their retirement. I heard a story that I hadn’t known in the twenty-one years of knowing them.
I listened to Brian, who worked 37 years at Bell, and who had never had an interview in his life, and yet he estimates he worked 27 jobs in those 37 years at 1 company. He was hired by word of mouth, and recalls he was on the job a couple of weeks before they completed the hiring paperwork. He did better than expected, and took early retirement – at 54 years old, and has been enjoying life the last couple decades. Here is a very small aspect, but a fundamental one in my opinion, to his story.
Bell was going through a lot of growth and had a lot of opportunities. While some people stayed in the field they felt comfortable in, Brian did not. He moved around, saying, “I’ve never done it, but I can do it.” He learned on the job. As a result, he was one of few who had broad experience – management, engineering, field experience. As he kept saying yes to work that he didn’t know how to do, he realized if you had the outlook of a manager, knew how to engage your team with empathy and respect, then you’d succeed.
And succeed he did.
He had the opportunity to go to Saudi Arabia in the nineties, and work with a team there and contribute to putting in new infrastructure from the ground up for telephone and networking. There were many cultural adjustments, and time away from the family. If you say yes to things, there’s the opportunity to succeed but there’s also sacrifice to accept. It’s a balance, and the payoff was great for Brian — he retired early.
What I learned from Brian is:
- Say yes – don’t stay in your comfort zone because you’re afraid to learn new things.
- Have empathy in your management style; connect to the people you lead.
- Understand and accept going in, the risks and sacrifices of doing the unknown.
Brian’s attitude is one of a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, psychologist at Standford University, wrote about how mindset influences achievement and success. It was an honour to hear a real-life story rather than just the theory of it in a book or website.
We work hard, take risks, and grow in our careers, but it’s these times celebrating with friends and family, connecting through our stories and listening and learning from each other, that makes life such a diverse and rich experience.