The CEO of my company once gave me some great advice. I asked him what the best part about being CEO was. He said the best part was this great feeling of satisfaction he had in looking back on his career. When he thought about all of the adversity he overcame he had a fulfilling feeling of knowing that he made it. “How did you do it?” I asked.
“Never be a victim,” he told me. When I asked him what he meant he said that he always took responsibility for his situation. He committed to himself early in his career that he would never blame something that was out of his control for his performance – he acted on things he could control.
Steven Covey wrote about this concept in his famous book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey calls this notion focusing on your “sphere of influence.” There is nothing effective about blaming the weather for poor results. There’s no use worrying about the economy or the threat of nuclear war. Effective people like my CEO worry only about things they can control – their behaviors and the behaviors of those they can influence.
I’d like to have this feeling someday. There will be ups and downs in my career. But at the end I’d like to look back on a career from the top of an organization. I can imagine my CEO’s great feeling, a feeling of content and delight in knowing that I made it.