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Lean your ladder against the right wall

Lean your ladder against the right wall

| March 10, 2024

We all know the old adage. You need to lean your ladder against the right wall. If you don't, you will find yourself making a lot of progress towards the wrong goal. In other words, have a plan.

What struck me about Simon's Post-It note, is that in order to be successful, you need to be able to pivot and adapt when blocked. It made me reflect on my career. Perhaps his advice is not 100% on target?

Coming out of UC Berkeley, I was determined to take over the world with my Big Ideas. Matter of fact, I couldn't see any reason I wouldn't be running the Country Division in 10 years at the company that hired me. My tenure at that company was quite short. Hmm, my ladder was against the right wall. I went through 14 rounds of interviews.

I certainly did not expect my way to be blocked and when it was, I had no idea what was next. I applied to numerous jobs and landed one, restarting my career in the US. This time, I sat down, focused, and listened. For not the first time, my career in banking was derailed by job relocations, surprise downsizings, and complete blindsides.

As I ponder Simon's comment, yes, you have to pivot. But shouldn't there be a plan in pivoting? I frequently found myself without a clue what was next. Yes, I have succeeded over 34 years in the industry. But is it common to gone through twists and turns that you could never have seen?

I studied Marketing and Finance in my undergraduate years. I knew nothing about 401k plans and could not spell "ESG". Yet here I am, successful to some extent, my head bloodied but unbowed after all professional life has thrown at me.

Perhaps a more accurate view is: 1) Have a plan. 2) Realize you cannot plan for everything. 3) Be willing to pivot and flex while acknowledging that sometimes you may be groping forward (?) in the dark. Hmm, that doesn't fit well on a motivational Post-It note though, does it?