As a member of the Alumni Associations for the institutions I attended, I am frequently contacted by current students and recent graduates hoping to glean a bit of wisdom from my experience to help guide them as they enter the working world. A quote from one such conversation recently has stuck with me, and it makes me sad to consider it:
“Sir, you are the only alumnus I have spoken to who is happy with his career and has no regrets.”
I have to wonder what it was that would result in such bitterness, disappointment, and ruefulness on the part of my fellow alumni, who received, as I did, a top-notch education with bountiful career perspectives. At the same time, I began to consider what I had done differently.
One ingredient is undoubtedly the fact that I always had strong personal convictions about work and its place in my life. I almost never sacrificed long-term satisfaction for short-term gain; in the rare instances when I felt I had no choice, I resolved never to find myself in such situations again. I can truly say that I have made a difference for the people I worked with, many of whom were attracted to teams I was leading when nobody else would give them the chance they deserved, and they have gone on to become very successful in their own right.
I also remained attentive to opportunities consistent with those values. I have had my share of missteps, from failed projects to assignments that subjected me to constant harassment, but each provided me with an important lesson; as the saying goes, that which didn’t kill me has made me stronger. I have been blessed with the opportunities that have allowed me to ply my craft on 4 continents, including a 20-year stint living abroad in a place that many people dream of visiting for vacation.
So today, as I reach the final stages of my professional career, I can look back with no regrets, having made a difference, small as it might be, always being happy with what I was able to achieve, and never sacrificing my principles.