Five Simple Rules

One of the “advantages” of working for a number of years is that you develop a small set of rules you apply to many (if  not most…) of the situations you encounter. The way you have those guidelines applied varies from project to project, however you need a way to make them known to the people you work with in a simple way. I try to make mine “memorable” as well… here are five of them, that many of my colleagues have heard me repeating often:

1. If things seem under control, you are not driving fast enough (from Mario Andretti, race car driver)

This is my all-time favorite, as it describes a philosophy of pushing to your (or your team’s) limits. Of you don’t try, you’ll never know what you are capable of…

2. If it’s too steep, you are too old (from a T-shirt in Banff, a ski town in Western Canada)

A corollary of the previous one, it is emphasizing the need to stay young at heart, to search for new ideas and and new ground, to “boldly go…” (you know the rest).

3. How many years does it take to get 15 years of experience? (from me)

My point is that in many professional domains it just takes time and effort to achieve the required level of proficiency.  The answer is, of course, “approximately 15 years”, and it should not be considered a “put down” message, rather as encouraging people to set goals and work hard to achieve them. No one wants to be operated on by a surgeon working for a clinic that advertises hiring with “no experience required”… Recently, Malcolm Gladwell has written extensively about this in his book “Outliers”.

4. I’ve never heard such a stupid idea in my whole life! (one of my former  managers)

The point here is to think and try to understand new ideas thoroughly, be constructive and tactful with your feedback. The manager in the story made that comment when hearing a suggestion from the company’s CEO ( I was there as a techie). He was fired that evening. And the idea did fail spectacularly…

5. You need to repeat something seven times for an adult to remember (from personal experience)

One of my friends is a kindergarten teacher. She told me she doesn’t stop from being amazed how quickly kids pick things up and remember them days after the initial discussion. It looks like after so many years of school, we adults have developed a certain level of resistance to other people speaking. So now I do not get frustrated, I just say it again, and again, and again…