I want to grow, to change for the better. I want to be the best me I can be. In my last 40 years in business, I’ve found personal growth results in committing to a community. Here are three life-changing truths you will receive from committing to your work community.
Truth 1: Learn How the World Works
In my early days as an angel investor, I had two brothers come to me with their business idea. When they walked into my office, I was surprised and impressed. First, they were twins. This was unusual. They were 30 years old, six foot five and built like Michelangelo’s David. They were graduates of Duke University and former scholarship baseball players.
I explored their backgrounds as I usually do in these meetings. After graduating, one went into sales and the other into the MLB minor leagues. I asked the baseball player what happened to his baseball career. In looking at him, I concluded, if anyone can make it to the majors, he could.
He said, “Every day I would practice catching, throwing, running and batting. Every day I would see someone join our team and within weeks be moved up to ‘The Show.’ One day I realized, I’ll never be good enough.”
He learned a lesson on how the world works. You can have all the gifts necessary to be a success. You can work harder than anyone else. But sometimes they pick someone else.
I sometimes wondered if he had been born 20 years earlier, would he have been a Hall of Famer? His size alone would have made him an outlier. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, describes the lives of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. If they hadn’t been born when they were, we might never have known them.
Being in the right place at the right time is how the world works.
Truth 2: Learn Who You Are
One year after graduating, I found myself in my first startup. We sold software to CPAs. I got the job because I was the only end-user who had ever figured out how to use the software.
It was Friday morning, and the founder called me into his office. He told me there were three clients coming in on Monday morning to begin a one-week training course on the software they purchased.
He then said, “You will be the teacher. You need to put together everything to teach the course. They need to leave here capable and impressed. Good luck!”
I spent the entire weekend getting prepared. The clients showed up on Monday morning at 9 am. I was ready. I got it done.
I realized through this assignment I could learn material quickly and organize it for a presentation. I learned to think about the audience first. Who they were, what they knew and what they needed to know. I learned I was a teacher.
Truth 3: Learn Who You Want to Become
My first startup was my first business experience. The entrepreneur founder was the smartest businessman I ever met. Every time his lips were moving, I was learning something new about business. He was brilliant until the business started to grow beyond his strengths. I had to learn to be a manager but had no one to mentor me. Then we sold the business.
In walked my new mentor. His name was Jim Porter. He was fifteen years my senior and a successful senior manager. He was the picture of who I wanted to become.
Every member of our senior management team was under thirty. Over a dinner, we peppered him with questions. As he spoke, words of management wisdom poured out.
When I got back to my hotel room, I wrote down every point I could remember. It was three pages of notes. Upon returning to the office, I gave a copy of this memo to every manager and supervisor in our company.
For the next five years, Jim Porter was my mentor. To this day, I give him credit for mentoring me and molding me into a successful general manager. I still ask myself, “What questions would Jim ask this management team?”
Commit Not Just Participate
You will realize these three truths by committing yourself to your community. How the world works, who you are, and who you want to become surface in a community.
But to grow, you must fully commit to the community and not just participate. When you commit, you are challenged to serve others and not yourself. That’s when the real growth happens.
Also published on Medium.