What have you learned in your career?

During a recent interview, a prospective hire asked me a great question:

What have you learned in your career?

Here are the first lessons that came to mind:

  1. Avoid complexity. Now that I have a business, a family, and two dogs, I try to steer clear of initiatives or commitments that will overly complicate my life, my family, or the lives of our team members.
  2. Customers are better than investors. I have found it easier and more profitable to sell a small product to a customer than to sell the idea of a large product to an investor.
  3. Surround yourself with kind people. Working with jerks, prima donnas, passive aggressives, bullies, or misanthropes is painful for everyone, even if they have fantastic skills, pedigrees, connections, or resources. For me, it always ends badly. Some folks say you should only hire talented people or people who have the capacity to develop talent. To me, that’s a given. Everyone appreciates talent; too few appreciate kindness. I have found it impossible to maintain a constructive working relationship with talented but unkind people. Unkind people, regardless of their great talents, alienate kind people, and that makes a lack of kindness an insidious and destructive force that prevents a healthy company culture from flourishing (this is only my experience; it clearly works just fine for some people).

I was shooting from the hip with those answers. What are the first life lessons that you think of when you reflect on your career?

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