2018 was quite a year. There was no shortage of headline-making moments or reasons to grab your smartphone to instantly like, share or comment. Amongst the year’s highs were also some very defining moments for industry titans and influential people. And along with that, pivotal moments for everyday people like you and me. Career highs and professional opportunities abounded.
Looking back, we took stock of some of the best career advice of the year. Here are five people who share five gems of advice that will inspire us today and into 2019.
1. Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions.
In a recent shareholder letter, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos borrow down two basic kinds of decisions you can make: those that are easy to reverse and those that are nearly impossible to reverse. He advises not to be paralyzed by doubt, but to clearly evaluate what’s in front of you.
“Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible — one-way doors — and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions,” Bezos writes.
“But most decisions aren’t like that — they are changeable, reversible — they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a sub-optimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.
As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavyweight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We’ll have to figure out how to fight that tendency.”
2. Take small steps to make a big impact.
At the first-ever Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa in December, Oprah Winfrey spoke to thousands on what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. While speaking about the legacy of the former South African President and activist, Oprah shared a tidbit that we can all apply to our careers.
In her speech, she said, “Let me tell you, no matter what’s going down in your life, there’s always somebody out there who’s not as blessed as you have been.”
Oprah continued, “If you do even one small thing every day, you’ll be building your own legacy. Because as Maya Angelou taught me: Your legacy isn’t some big grand gesture that’s waiting to happen, your legacy is every life you touch. So I’ve been fortunate to witness up close and personal that when you help someone else, your blessings return to you 10 times.”
3. It’s okay to change course.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama has a track record that anyone would be envious of: Princeton University undergrad, Harvard Law School, jobs in corporate law and public service, wife, mother, and, of course, First Lady. And while it may seem like her path has been a straight one, she insists in her new book “Becoming” that it doesn’t have to be.
“In the book, I take you on the journey of who that little striving star-getter became, which is what a lot of hard-driving kids become: a box checker,” Obama tells Oprah Winfrey in an interview. “Get good grades: check. Apply to the best schools, get into Princeton: check. I wasn’t a swerver. I wasn’t somebody that was going to take risks,” she says.
However, Obama admits she wasn’t happy. “I narrowed myself to being this thing I thought I should be. It took loss—losses in my life that made me think, Have you ever stopped to think about who you wanted to be? And I realized I had not. I was sitting on the 47th floor of an office building, going over cases and writing memos. I was like, ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life. I can’t sit in a room and look at documents.’”
So what changed? “Barack Obama taught me how to swerve,” admitted the First Lady. Winfrey chimes in, “What I loved about it is, it says to every person reading the book: You have the right to change your mind.”
4. Refuse for the fear of failure to paralyze you.
When you’re a more seasoned professional, you have experienced both the ups and the downs of professional life. You may have been laid off, fired, missed out on a promotion or made a seemingly career-defining mistake. However, Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu insists that fear should not paralyze you forever.
Before directing the box-office hit, Chu directed the failed remake of 2015’s Jem and the Holograms. It scored a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and was pulled from theaters early. Getting back into the director’s chair on the book-to-screen adaptation of the Kevin Kwan hit was daunting, needless to say.
“The fear of doing [‘Jem’] again was definitely present,” he said. “I always told myself after ‘Jem,’ I don’t want fear to change my choices. Fear is a destruction of creativity. Any time I had a fear about this movie I would go to that idea, don’t let ‘Jem’ determine your choices here. You were destined to be here and do this movie.”
5. “Invest in yourself.”
Three simple words pack a lot of punch when delivered by one of the wealthiest and most successful investors in the world. Warren Buffet shared this quick, but meaningful, insight with a start-up co-founder when asked for the advice he’d give to new graduates about to enter the workplace.
Buffet responded: Invest in yourself.
The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway then continued, “The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now at least is to hone your communication skills — both written and verbal. If you can’t communicate, it’s like winking at a girl in the dark — nothing happens. You can have all the brainpower in the world but you have to be able to transmit it. And the transmission is communication.”
Buffett’s advice speaks volumes. Investing in yourself and in your communication abilities can take you from 0 to 100 instantly. You will be able to deliver a better elevator pitch, answer an interview question perfectly, pitch an idea to an investor, and make the case for a raise or promotion.
Take time today to internalize the advice from seasoned pros and make tomorrow your best day ever!