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The most Important Lessons I’ve Learned in my Business Career

By : Ziad K Abdelnour| 8 September 2014
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Over the years, one of the questions I’ve been asked most frequently is “What are the most important lessons I have learned in my business career?”

Well here are the 10 basic ones which I still apply in my everyday life.

1. Take care of your health, your relationships, your career, your (ongoing) education, and your integrity. They are hard to recover when lost. When a manager or company tells you that the project in front of you is more important than any of these, it’s almost certainly not the case, and you are a fool for making these kinds of sacrifices to support someone else’s vision or career.

2. Nothing is difficult, only unfamiliar. Applies to personal or professional; “creative” and “non-creative” fields; work or life. This thought will see you through the darkest periods of self-doubt, when you hit those points when your confidence may be shaken, especially in attempting something new and especially challenging. Intelligence is only the entrance fee for success.

3. Establish a vision of the person you want to become at some point in the future– Describe that person completely in terms of character traits, opportunities, skills, people you are connected to, even location.  Fix that vision in your mind.  Write it down and post it on your bathroom mirror, even.  Then, own that vision in your mind– claim it emotionally as if you are there already.  Ask yourself every morning “what will I do today that is consistent with that future me?”  In the evening, ask yourself, “what did I do today that was consistent with my vision?” Ultimately, train your brain to be the person your spirit tells you already exists. Your personal brand is all that you are building. With that in mind always build deep capacity and good reputation by ‘under promising and over delivering’. Working with you should be an absolute joy for clients and seniors.

4. Focus on high-leverage activities.  Leverage is defined as the amount of output or impact produced per unit of time spent. This lesson applies regardless of whether you love to spend many waking hours working or whether doing something fun. At some point, you’ll realize that there’s more work to be done than you have time available, and you’ll need to prioritize what to get done. Leverage should be the central, guiding metric that helps you determine where to focus your time.

5. Never lower your standards.  You will work with people who don’t care as much about their work as you do.  That’s not an excuse to start doing a worse job, if anything it’s a good reason to redouble your efforts.

6. Don’t plan for anything, but create your own opportunities and don’t be afraid to walk through the door when it’s open.  Life works in mysterious ways and don’t let societal pressure and what you “should do” get in the way of achieving greater things than you could have ever imagined.

7. Investigate your intuition. The rational mind is one input. Don’t discount others. My best decisions have come at the hands of my intuition. But the catch is that you can’t just go off running in the direction of anything that appears like a great idea at first. Your gut will point you in the right direction, from there it’s up to you to dig deeper, ask why, talk to your tribe, plan and then ruthlessly execute.  Intuition exists to alert us to risk and opportunity. What we do with this information, like what we do with more rational inputs, is the difference-maker.

8. Hire the smartest, most passionate people you can rather than the ones that have a specific skill set. Skills can be learned. Raw intelligence and determination to get a job done cannot. It’s not who leads the race to success but the reasons and motives others followed along. Life today is shorter than yesterday. Go out, seek people which could complement your passion, make them feel part of that goal/vision and you’re on your way to better times. PS: Never think you’re the smartest person in the room.

9. People buy what they think they need, not what you think they need. When I got started as a financier, it was because I saw struggling people I knew I could help. It took me a long time to learn my ability to help didn’t matter. It’s sort of like selling kicks in the ass: We all know people who need them, but those people are almost never the ones who would pay. The approach I eventually learned was to figure out what the client perceived as their biggest problem and then solve that in a way that played to my strengths, built confidence, and got them closer to seeing the problems that I saw. Even later I realized that this doesn’t just apply to finance; it applies to pretty much every human relationship: to work effectively with others, you need to understand their perspective of their wants and needs.

10. Do the right thing. Always.  What matters most is how you treat others and the principles upon which you base your decisions. It may not always make you popular or even benefit your career, but at the end of the day, your success will be measured in other ways.

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By :� Ziad K Abdelnour

Ziad is also the author of the best selling book� Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics (Wiley, 2011),

Mr. Ziad Abdelnour continues to be featured in hundreds of media channels and publications every year and is widely seen as one of the top business leaders by millions around the world.

He was also featured as one of the� 500 Most Influential CEOs in the World.