Ten Takeaways From my Life as a CEO

 By: William A. Donius

“What lessons had I learned over the past thirty years?” was the
writing exercise I undertook before I could begin the arduous process of writing a second book in my reinvented life as non-CEO.

As I frequently do these days, I used my right brain writing technique to delve into my creative subconscious for what lay beneath the surface of my former career. I’ve turned to this process because I’ve wanted to bypass the more typical holistic thinking approach by activating the right hemisphere for a more creative, and even authentic response. (If something strikes a chord with you, pay attention to it! It’s probably no coincidence; you’ve actually tapped into that same place in your consciousness.)

Hard work, heroics and hubris are all part of a successful career trajectory. Here are some lessons I learned over the past thirty years, listed in no particular prioritized order.

1. Don’t believe all of what you hear; trust your gut (and right brain), and proceed with extreme caution if you notice conflict between what you’re hearing and what you’re feeling.

2. Discover what’s important to your co-workers, friends and family, and then help them to realize it. The double win is that they will be grateful and you will feel good about it.

3. Continually evaluate and reevaluate important, strategic issues for your organization. You can’t rest on your laurels in a fast-moving global economy. Integrating right brain thinking into the process gives you a fresh perspective.

4. Listen closely to elders and anyone else who has something intelligent to offer.

5. Realize that longer hours (over 40 per week) may decrease productivity and increase burnout.

6. Don’t be intimidated by the brilliance of others. Find your own light by tapping into your creativity. (It’s there; it just may take some exploring to find it.)

7. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” This well-worn expression applies to opportunities, investments, people, products and resumes.

8. Find your passion. Life is too short to do something you are not passionate about, and chances are, you will be mediocre (at best) at doing it. If you’re not sure, tap into your creative place to find your “it.”

9. Don’t worry about money. If you embrace #8 above, the cash will come.

10. If you’re in a rut, get unstuck before your soul is eaten away. This may mean you have to quit your job. (It’s always a good idea to have 6-12 months of living expenses socked away.) Learn how to get in touch with your heart’s desire. You’ll not only be happier, but also more successful as well.

Note: I spent thirty years in the corporate world in television, public relations, management consulting and banking, serving as Chairman and CEO of Pulaski Corporation for a combined 12 years after taking the company public in 1998. Currently, I am volunteering on community boards and writing a second non-fiction book about the workplace.

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