Professionally, my life looks like a mosaic or a connect-the-dot puzzle, except for the fact that rarely did the dots ever connect. I had 13 jobs before the age of 32. I’ve spent the next 18 years working for myself.
Looking back, every single job I had when I worked for someone else was critical to what I do now, but at the time they seemed pud and meaningless. Together, they turned me into a dynamo, an idea factory that could create something out of absolutely nothing and could do it in the next 13 minutes.
I’ll give you the short list of most of the 13…
Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers (fast food): I learned how to do a variety of different jobs and how to serve food FAST. I learned that a smile will cure most customer ills and that a manager will get you Friday night off if you know how to ask with the right words. BC (before college)
Heritage House (buffet restaurant): I learned how to apologize profusely after spilling BBQ chicken down the back of a prom-goer and I learned that I didn’t want to be a lifetime waitress and wear long skirts and an apron with white nurse shoes.. DC (during college)
Pizza Hut (fast food): I learned that if you run 5 miles a day you can eat anything. (Pizza Hut didn’t teach me this, the ex-Marine I was working with did.) I learned that I could service an entire dining room of customers by myself and that SMILING would turn even the most disgruntled customer into an admirer. DC (during college)
First National Bank (bank): I learned how to create a newsletter out of absolutely nothing and cut and paste it mysef. I learned that my boss didn’t like me very much, mainly because I didn’t stay in my chair and he couldn’t find me. AC (after college)
Summit Associated Marketing (ad agency): I learned that being the ‘golden girl’ who could do no wrong in the eyes of the boss was good and that even though I didn’t know much at the age of 23, I knew how to make decisions and be part of a team. These two traits are very good for business. I learned that you could ‘become’ creative, simply by hanging around creative types. AC (after college)
Informix (software company): I learned project management and how to juggle lots of balls. (I was already pretty good at this one) Learned how to create a trade show booth with a team and rock customer’s worlds. I also learned how to fight off people looking for freebies (even if they were a bigwig). AC (after college)
Computer Reporter (technology magazine): Learned how to sell. Sold a $10,000 back cover my first day out of the shoot. Learned that the best ad salesman in the world cannot negate substandard content. Ever. I also learned every road, byway, bridge, shortcut and drive-through in Kansas City Missouri. AC (after college)
Tupperware (bowl manufacturer, direct marketing): I actually did this one twice over because I was absolutely AMAZING at it. I could sell thousands of dollars of Tupperware every week. I learned how to recruit other women to sell and I learned that natural enthusiasm sells. People love being around someone whose in love with life. (I was so good at Tupperware that I earned a minivan in just 6 weeks.) DC and AC (during college and after college)
Kuhn & Wittenborn (ad agency): My shortest stint of employment, just 6 months. Couldn’t stand this job, not because it wasn’t a good place to work but because I simply blended into the walls with all the other Account Executives. I had a 3 year old and a newborn (6 weeks old) that I was shipping out to daycare and the guilt of knowing I was doing the wrong thing nearly killed me. AC (after college)
Midwest CAD (computer reseller): I learned that a strong leader is the key to a great company. I learned that having a 7-minute commute from home is ideal. AC (after college)
So what’s this long-winded narrative supposed to teach you about how to know when you’re good enough? It’s this.
It all matters. Every single thing you do adds to the experience that you bring to the party (your life). The technical skills are secondary to the heart and attitude you need to succeed. You’ll notice I didn’t once mention things like…learned to use Excel spreadsheet or how to operate a copier or attended a “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnegie seminar or learned how to approve a press-proof.
It wasn’t about the mechanics, it was about the experiences. Collectively, they added up to creating a wildly enthusiastic and confident entrepreneurial woman. I took those experiences and molded them into a 6-figure a year marketing consulting firm that allowed me to be home with my babies and earn a rockin’ income.
But there’s a second part of this story. It’s about the reading. I read more than anyone I know…this isn’t to brag but I am stating a fact. I rarely read fiction because there’s so many amazing people and stories in this world to learn about. I spend all my spare time reading.
Two of the best business books I’ve ever read are The Magic of Thinking Big and The Four-Hour Workweek.
So how do you know when you’re good enough?
You know you’re good enough when you’ve invested the time and done the work. You can’t be good enough at 20. It’s not possible. I don’t even think you can possibly be good enough at 35. It takes a decade or two to get good enough. And it’s not an achievement or a plaque on a wall. It’s about a depth deep in your soul. You can feel good enough without making big bucks, without a superstar award. and without being the boss. And I learned as much from my $2.35 an hour job at Wendy’s as I did at my high-powered Creative Services Director position.
Being good enough is about you. Knowing. Being. Learning. Doing. And yes, even failing. In retrospect, the connect the dots puzzle DID connect, I simply didn’t know what the picture was supposed to look like.
Do this. Take an inventory of your own jobs. Jot it all down. (I could have extrapolated my learning experiences tenfold but I didn’t want to bore you to death.) See what you learned. And then, decide if you’re good enough. Only you get to answer that question. No one else.
PS. This inventory can be done for any part of your life…friendship, marriage, finances.