I’ve changed careers every seven or so years. Coming into my second semester here at Les Roches Marbella represents my sixth major change in direction. I do not talk much about my first career, but suffice it to say it was not anything embarrassing. Subsequently, I worked in psychological services, senior management with an advisory role for the government (UK and later Scotland), and since my move to Spain almost 15 years ago, as a teacher of English as a foreign language, then a German teacher, and now as an Effective Writing teacher amongst other things, at Les Roches. In addition to this, and for my personal satisfaction, I have published some books: novels and poetry.
Why am I telling you this? For two reasons: firstly, to say that choosing a career does not mean you will have to stick with it for your whole life, and secondly, that there are no such things as wrong decisions. Every choice, every experience, every turn in our life creates for us a new learning opportunity and does not only progress our career, but changes and moulds us as individuals.
I would like to share with you some of the things that I have learned with which I hope you will be able to identify.
In order to avoid accusations of plagiarism, let me state at the outset that some of the quotes I will use come from an inspirational figure who died supposedly about 2600 years ago: he was a librarian and historian in the Royal Court of the Zhou Dynasty, in China. His name is Lao Tzu.
- Patience: “Do not be in too much of a hurry to be someone. Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” We live in a culture in which everyone wants to be rich and famous NOW. No one wants to assume responsibility for the unseen and lowly tasks. We want to be recognised, but in order to be effective in whatever we do, we have to grow in understanding and knowledge. “Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it”. You arrive at a place of responsibility and importance much more securely when you have allowed yourself to grow into it. Patience is also an important skill in the management process. Petulance leads to decision making with ineffective outcomes. “Muddy water, left undisturbed, becomes clear”. One of my stock expressions when presented with a problem by a member of staff was ‘leave it with me, and I’ll get back to you’. OK, a crisis is a crisis, but relatively few of our decisions are made as the result of a crisis.
- Humility: “He is free from self-display, and therefore he shines.” Ladies, please do not think you are exempt from this; it is just the way things were expressed in China in 600BCE. Arrogance is not an endearing quality, nor is it a sign of strength. The arrogant person, who thinks she or he knows it all, is not open to listening or to learning. There is nothing wrong in acknowledging the things you are good at; false modesty is not humility. But being humble does imply conceding that there may be others, regardless of their position on the ladder, who may have valid suggestions, good ideas and effective solutions. The person with a reputation for listening will attract far more respect and loyalty from colleagues and staff, than those who do not. Do not let a big ego get in the way of becoming a better person.
- Personal development: “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day”. Our personal growth does not end with a university degree. The process of learning has no completion date and our personal development is not just about accumulating new knowledge. It is also about looking in the mirror and identifying the traits, habits, prejudices, or values which prevent us from realising our full potential. Developing and evolving as a person is equally as important as growing as a professional. Einstein allegedly said, “Do not aim to be a person of success, aim to be a person of value”. You cannot put a price on integrity, a sense of justice, compassion, and emotional maturity. Lao Tzu expressed it this way, “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened”.
To conclude, I would like to say this. As a writer, I have learned that there is nothing worse than a story without an ending, but also to tell the story well you don’t want to get to the ending too soon. We need to learn to live in the here and now, enjoy the moment, and find contentment and purpose where we are, wherever we find ourselves. “Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here”. I will finish with some words from my first book. ‘What you can dream, you can become. How do we know where to go if we don’t have our dreams?’ Journey well.