Richard Pierce Thomas

Leadership and Small Business Consultant

June was a busy month in our household with two graduations to celebrate; our oldest from college and our youngest from high school.               

As much as my wife and I are excited for the future that lay ahead of them, it is not without apprehension as I find myself wondering if they will be adequately prepared to enter the workforce and embark on their new lives on their own. The simple answer is no, but truth be told, neither was I. In comparison, I believe they are much more prepared than I. Regardless, I found myself writing a top ten list the other day of what twenty-eight years in business and adult life has taught me in the thought that it will be needed soon. 

It has caught my attention of late that after enduring their teenage years replete with eye-rolls and monosyllable responses, suddenly my wife and I are smart again and are being asked for our advice. 

In as much, I have been giving thought to what wisdom I could pass on, and following is my top ten list I intend to share with them when the opportunity arises:

  1. Bad news does not get better with age – No one likes to deliver bad news. Delivering bad news, however, after the opportunity to respond to it has passed by is like putting the proverbial lipstick on the pig.
  2. Occam’s Razor rules – In problem solving it means start with the simplest solution first, i.e. if the printer is not working, is it plugged in? I have found this theorem to save me countless hours in situations where my engineering brain would otherwise have me recalculating Einstein’s unified field theory to get the printer working. 
  3. Execution is worth a thousand times more than a good idea – A difficult lesson for the young and inexperienced; that good ideas are a dime a dozen, but only through effort and persistence is success usually found.
  4. Hire slowly, fire quickly – One of the more difficult of lessons I have had to learn is that leaders usually know within the first month if a new employee is a fit or not. For those that are not, every day beyond that is not serving the business, which affects everyone.
  5. Don’t expect someone else to believe in you more than you are willing to believe in yourself – Belief is an inside job. Those that demonstrate belief are the ones that are ultimately rewarded.
  6. Nothing is more condemning than your self-imposed limitations – As was once wisely said, when it comes to ambitions most people aim too low and miss. What keeps us from aiming high is the belief we can’t, or don’t deserve to get there. Only you can control this.
  7. Fear is your friend – Fear is a shape shifter. Today’s fear is tomorrow’s discovery. Examine your fears for the opportunities they may be hiding and you will discover a wealth of experiences behind it.
  8. Be a heretic – Derived from ancient Greek hairetikos, it means able to choose. Be a chooser. Make choices and take action. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll be right but you’ll learn from it and move on.
  9. Love what you do – You will spend an average of 40% of your lifetime in your career or work life. That is way too much time to devote to something that you don’t love to do.
  10. Who you are in what you do is way more important than what you do – When we ascribe value to our self worth as a person rather than on the activity, then what we do becomes much less important. This has certainly been my experience in my various careers; it has never been about the importance of the careers in of themselves, but about the contribution we make in service of others.

Of all of these, the last is what I would want my children to internalize the most as they embark on their new careers. Perhaps you have your own top ten lists. Whether with a recent college graduate or new employee, I encourage you to share the wisdom. You likely will make an impact in someone’s life far beyond your ability to see.

Rick Thomas is a Principal and Director of Human Capital at Pilot Wealth Management, a registered investment advisor in Oregon state. Leading their focus on the human component of building wealth, he consults and speaks to organizations across the country, focusing on individual and organizational achievement.