Maturing in your work life

Often we think about maturity as something that happens in your personal life – in the US, there is a distinct split between the private/personal and the public/professional, especially in the more traditionally-oriented industries of finance, law, and consulting. What makes the “new economies” so exciting, I believe, is that those boundaries are being blurred.

And that is a good thing.

Maturity in your personal life can be things like:
+  Strengthening your resilience in the face of failure and loss
+  Learning how to communicate respectfully, yet honestly
+  Having patience
+  Recognizing that priorities are a choice

All of those and more have an equivalent in your professional life and are equally necessary for growth, fulfillment, and success. Don’t we all want that?

1. Resilience matters
By now, most everyone has heard the mantra of Silicon Valley: “Fail often!” On the face, it has merit, but it should be taken with a grain of salt, and not just the addendum of “fail smarter.”

Recovery from failure, learning from mistakes, getting up again and doing it again, is about resilience. Resilience is a combination of knowledge of loss, knowledge of risks, acceptance of that, and then putting it aside to try again. Not haphazardly, but with a plan that factors in all of those lessons. In our achievement-minded, “externally-oriented” self-esteem boosting culture, resilience is becoming a rare and valuable quality.

Resilience cannot be taught in a book, it cannot be learned in a class, and it cannot be assumed as easily as putting on a hat or a nice shirt. It can only be developed with time and effort.

2. Priorities are a choice and that is okay
How many of us have put together a prioritization list for work items? How many of us have sat down in our personal lives and said: “What do I need to do today?” and then proceeded to either write it down and work through it (and feel guilty if we did not) or ignore it and do whatever we really wanted to do (and maybe feel guilty about that) or some combination of everything?

Priorities are choices and we should stop feeling guilty about them. Prioritize from a place of strength: there are things we must do and things we want to do, and we should do both. There are things that do not fall onto those buckets, but we let ourselves feel guilted / shamed / pushed into them and we resent it.

Professional maturity means understanding that and acting on it. We have all heard: “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” Behind that sentiment is this: people will treat you how you let them, so the only person that can make it stop, who can control your schedule, really, is you.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate some more
We are all born great communicators, did you know that? The most quiet, shy, and reserved person is as equally a good communicator as the loud, angry, boisterous one – or the hyper-anxious, or the stutterer, or the vacillator or facilitator or—

The truth is we may not be in control of what we communicate, but we are all doing it, all the time. Verbally, physically, telepathically! – does not matter, we are saying or not saying something. Maturity in this aspect is getting a better handle on that.

Please don’t take that to mean that we become manipulative or deceptive in our communications. Instead, recognize that is an area of growth: we can become savvier about what leaks out, what does not, the best way to approach “difficult conversations,” and even to recover from things which we may not have done as well the first time around.

Wrapping it all up
I am just getting settled into the second stage of my professional career. I am not at all surprised that it coincides with major changes in the private/personal aspects of my life. They come together and acknowledging that, accepting it, has been an inflection point for me and a number of my friends and peers.

All of these work maxims we hear: “Lifting the veil”, “Look at the big picture”, “the 30,000 foot view”, et al., are speaking to life lessons. These are the things we never learn in school and are not paint-by-numbers. We can only learn them by engagement and by living, and not just in a cubicle, but in all parts of our lives.

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If you prefer a one-to-one conversation, you can always e-mail me at

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