Before there was “Grumpy Cat,” there was “Hang In There” cat. Most of us remember seeing that poster tacked up in a break room or classroom at some point.
No matter how cheesy some of them can be, there’s a reason people put motivational quotes on signs and plaques, ecards and memes: There’s something about a quotation that makes you stop and think.
There are a few key sayings that have guided my career, and a few important lessons I’ve taken away from them. Here are the quotations that resonate with me.
“HOW YOU DO ANYTHING IS HOW YOU DO EVERYTHING.”
Were you dismissive of the receptionist while you waited for your meeting? Abrupt to the waitstaff at a client lunch? Those gestures speak volumes — and it’s not positive. A potential client or manager is going to assess you by the way you treat everyone around you, not just those you deem worthy.
Of course, beyond the fact that treating people well is just common decency, it’s wise. Diss an admin at your peril as he controls the calendar of the manager you’re trying to reach!
This axiom also relates to how you approach your work as a whole. Creating PowerPoints, making copies, and preparing reports may seem menial, but those tedious assignments are an important part of a bigger picture. Do the little things with grace, and bigger things will come your way.
“LITTLE CHOICES MAKE BIG IMPRESSIONS.” — KEITH FERRAZZI
I use this quotation at the beginning of many speeches because I believe it’s critical to success. Your reputation is not based on a couple of innovative, brilliant flashes but rather the tasks you routinely carry out day by day.
It’s built on how promptly you respond to your messages, whether you remember people’s names, if you use email subject lines that are descriptive or lazy, how you greet people when you show up every day.
It’s actually very freeing when you realize there’s no pressure to have genius ideas over and over. Small, daily progress can add up to huge success. Show up….do the work…create the reputation and enjoy the payoff.
And as a bonus, you’ll find that by paying capital into that reputation bank over time, you not only create a positive impression, but you earn the benefit of the doubt when you do make a mistake now and again.
“COMMON SENSE IS NOT SO COMMON.” — VOLTAIRE
This is an insight I share in my speeches on generational diversity. I’ve learned that what seems obvious to a Gen Xer like me may not be so obvious to a millennial or baby boomer, and vice versa.
If you’re a millennial, you may be shocked that someone in your office doesn’t know how to use Twitter or what “SMH” means. Likewise, a Gen Xer might be perplexed at the fact you don’t know how to answer a phone properly or don’t catch their reference to “Conjunction Junction” from Schoolhouse Rock.
In a multigenerational workplace, it’s wise to check your assumptions often. You don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t always know what other people don’t know; but with an open mind, we can all learn from each other.
“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING BUT NOT EVERYTHING.”
Many young people I talk to like to keep their options open; they worry about closing a door that might have been the next big thing. But in order to truly be good at something, you have to focus and prioritize. You can always change your path in the future, but at some point you have to commit to a path and start moving forward.
Whether it’s choosing a major, seeking a healthier work/life balance or focusing on improving a certain element of your job or business, saying no to some opportunities allows you to say yes to what you really want. You can achieve whatever you put your mind to – but sometimes it’s just one thing at a time.