Mackay: These are lessons they don't teach you in school

Education is a steppingstone to success, but some of the most important lessons aren't taught in class. There are plenty of life lessons that we need to know, and the textbooks often do not have chapters on them. Here are some lessons you should learn in order to grow both in your career and in your personal life.

You can't do everything yourself. Control freaks make the job harder and foster resentment among the troops. Learn your limits so you can concentrate on what you do best and delegate the rest to people (or tools) capable of doing as good a job, or better.

You need to understand finance. No matter what field you're in, a basic understanding of how money flows in and out of your organization will help you stand out from your peers and enable you to make better professional and personal decisions.

You don't always get a second chance. Failure isn't necessarily fatal, but that doesn't mean you'll get unlimited opportunities to try, try again. Learn to distinguish between foolhardy gambles and reasonable risks. Do your best -- but be ready to move on if things don't work out. Failure is not falling down, but staying down.

Your attitude is paramount. Stay upbeat no matter what happens. Employers and co-workers respond to your positive energy and outlook. You'll be more motivated and productive if you approach your work with optimism and a can-do spirit. Your attitude and your aptitude will determine your altitude.

Take your work seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. Starting your day with a good laugh is as beneficial to your health as it is to your mood. There is no place that needs humor more than the workplace. Human resources directors will tell you that employees with a sense of humor are more creative -- and much more fun to be around.

Your boss doesn't have all the answers. Listen to your managers, but remember that they're human, too. They don't always have the best answers, so be prepared to offer solutions. Your job is to help them get things done, not dump problems in their laps. Offer solutions and support wherever and whenever you can.

You never really know it all. Arrogance is one of the deadliest of all human failings and can destroy a business. It is the easiest to rationalize and the hardest to recognize in ourselves. Don't confuse arrogance with confidence, which allows you to perform up to the level of your capabilities. As I like to say about arrogance, I know that you don't know, but you don't know that you don't know.

You have to market yourself. You're responsible for your own success. Most of your managers and colleagues are too busy with their own issues to look out for your career. Look for opportunities to shine. Let people know what you're capable of. And be ready to prove yourself.

Beat rejection before it beats you. Rejection is -- and always will be -- part of business. For example, if it were easy to succeed in sales, everyone would want in. Rejection helps knock out the weak. You can't take it personally. People don't realize that in order to get the yeses, you must hear the nos.

You don't always get a trophy. Don't let ups and downs leave you down and out. Handling disappointment is one of life's challenges, and often an indication of how you deal with adversity at work as well. Achievers focus on the road, rather than the bumps in it, to reach their destination. Rough spots sharpen our performance. And more often than not, the obstacles can be turned into advantages. You just can't let your disappointment get in the way.

Mackay's Moral: You learn something new every day -- if you are paying attention.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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