“Take out the trash”, and other lessons learned from career development

I’ve received lots of wonderful advice the past few months as I have spent my days – and many nights – navigating the path from passion to purpose.

Some of the best advice I received included this phrase – “don’t forget to take out the trash”. No, not housework. Something much more important.

Two months ago, I wrote down some tips, and then some questions to ask yourself – to help others navigate through a transitional phase.  Here are some additional lessons learned:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Whether you are an entrepreneur, an independent contractor or a full-time job seeker, a lot of us can get used to doing everything by ourselves. While it’s great to be independent and self-sufficient, it’s also more than okay to ask for help.
  2. Take out the trash – Famous animator Don Hahn coined a saying, “Take out the trash” – meaning, learn what you’re not great at, or what you need to work on and be honest with yourself about it. While he’s not advocating we focus on the negative, taking out the trash now will allow you to enter your next project, job, shift, school, etc a bit more prepared, and humbled. Part of taking out the trash includes asking others for help, and asking questions.
  3. Ask questions – Ideas are sparked by asking the right questions. Ask questions of others and ask yourself plenty of questions as well. A curious mind, hell-bent on doing purposeful work that’s unique to you and your strengths can mean going through a lot of trial and error. Keep asking the tough questions and surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to ask those hard questions.
  4. Learn to not take things so personally – You care a lot about your work – and you (hopefully) believe it can do a lot of good. As much as it stings, not everyone believes the same thing you do. Not taking things so personally can really help keep you on an even keel. It takes a while to build up this muscle – but if you can, find out why someone resists your idea, or your application. See #2.
  5. Ride the rollercoaster – You will encounter your fair share of highs and lows, it’s almost a guarantee.  Somewhere between the line of complete apathy and utter disappointment and euphoria lies a healthy medium that allows you to do consistent work, with consistent drive.
  6. Know your audience – Sometimes we can get so consumed with our passions  or ambitions that we need to take some time to get outside of our head. Get clear about how your customer views you, what your value is, and what need you are filling. See items 1-4 to help you shape and hone your offerings.



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