If you’re looking for some words to motivate yourself, retired CEO Doug Conant has some great ones that can help motivate anyone. Words he clearly lives by.
I was reading an interview Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, once gave to my alumni magazine. After working at Kraft, General Mills and Nabisco, he took on the enormous challenge of shaking things up at Campbell, which was declining in both stature and performance. Conant helped turn the company around.
Even though Campbell had household-name products, when Doug arrived sales had plateaued, and there was no exciting vision to bring the company into the future – or even the present. (You can just imagine how the employees felt!)
But with his help, there was that and much more. It’s an impressive story about the difference truly good leadership skills can make to a company’s success. And it’s a story I think any of us can learn from.
And now we get to his advice
In the interview, Doug was asked what career advice he’d offer recent graduates just starting out. But I think this is great advice for anyone who works for a living, at any point in our careers. His answer was these simple 10 two-letter words:
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”
One of the greatest career mistakes we make is waiting for others to provide us with the momentum to make things happen. That just isn’t the way to get ahead. So Conant’s 10 little words are definitely words to motivate yourself!
Some words that don’t motivate (or help)
Think about it. How often have you heard people say things like this:
- I wanted to work on that project, but no one asked me.
- They’re doing everything wrong. If only they asked me!
- My boss is so stupid, but I’m not paid to think.
- I wanted to tell them how to do things better, but they wouldn’t listen anyway.
- My job is dull and they never give me anything interesting to do.
- I hate my job, but I doubt I could find a better job in this economy.
- I do my job the way I’m told. Why don’t they promote me?
Are those the folks you’d go to with new challenges? Are they the ones you’d put in charge of making things happen? I don’t think so.
You’ll need more than just words to motivate yourself
All those complaints are about what their job isn’t giving them. But the real answer to a successful career lies taking action — and in those things you take charge of yourself:
- Asking to work on projects you’re interested in.
- Coming up with ways to improve things.
- Coming up with ways to make more money for the company.
- Seeing ways to add to your experience rather than just whining about it.
- Networking with people inside and outside of the company.
- Finding existing opportunities or creating new ones.
- Making the most of what you do have rather than focusing on what’s not there.
- Playing to your strength.
- Always bringing an “I can do” attitude rather than a “Can’t be done” attitude.
- Investing in yourself and your future (including education).
- Saying “yes” (and taking a risk) when opportunity arises.
- Moving on to something better when the time has come.
Of course, that list could go on and on, depending on your circumstances. But no matter what, there’s always something more you can do. And if you can’t quite see it yet, think about what someone like Doug Conant would do if he had your job.
Now you don’t have to be a Doug Conant, but you also don’t have to wait around for others to make your life better. And so, I leave you with these 12 more words to motivate yourself:
What one thing can you do to make things better for yourself?
If you’d like to read the whole interview you can find it here.
And for a related post from the Work To The Wise archives:
[Post updated in 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
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