Recently I was a panelist at our local Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals meeting. Each of us on the panel was asked to give 10 minutes of reflections to the young professionals starting their careers on “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” This was followed by a very spirited and lively question and answer period that had to finally be cut off so everyone could still get home for the last part of their evening.

Boiling down a few key bits of life and career growth advice into 10 minutes was quite a challenging assignment! It forced me to sift through my experiences and material to get to the core essence of what I’d do over or change if I was starting my career again.

Here are the four key areas I identified:

Harnessing the Power of Imagery or Visualization

I first came across the Law of Attraction in 1974. It fundamentally shifted my reality and changed my life. There’s now a rapidly growing body of scientific research, such as quantum mechanics and string theory, helping us to understand this incredibly powerful magnetic force. Whenever we think about the future, whether the next few days or longer term, we’re visualizing or imagining potential scenarios, actions, and outcomes. The vital question is whether we’re visualizing a future that’s mostly positive or negative. What we focus on sets the polarity of our personal force field.

I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences with visualization. CLICK HERE to peruse such articles as “How Visioning Changed My Life,” “Visioning Harnesses the Power of our Pictures,” “Yield of Dreams” and others.

Building Upon and Aligning To Our Strengths

Most of us intuitively know that being “in the flow” or “in the zone” comes when we’re using our core strengths. It would have been helpful to me to have a more explicit understanding of this much earlier in life.

I recommended to the young professionals (as I do many of my audiences) to check out the excellent work of the non-profit VIA Institute on Character ( This organization was founded to create a scientifically rigorous classification of character strengths and a way of measuring them. The VIA (Values In Action) survey is based on 24 universal character strengths defining what’s best about people. The VIA Survey is the result of a three-year effort involving 55 noted social scientists.

Approximately one million people have taken the VIA Survey on Character Strengths.  Taking the test and aligning our lives to our core strengths is key to health, happiness, and enduring success.

Build a FOD Fund

The more savings we have, the less we’re beholden to an annoying boss, the economy, or sudden job loss. Early in my career, I started a “fly off and die” savings fund. This money was to allow me or Heather to tell any bad boss to get lost, and survive a job loss, or start our own business. It’s been the fallback factor enabling us to do what we do because we want to – not because we have to. Without this financial cushion, the chances of being exploited by a bad boss or getting stuck in a soul-destroying job are much higher. Debt can be a ruthless master.

I advised the young professionals to be very conscious that as their income rises they don’t also raise their standard of living. Keep it constant or even lower. Put all of that additional money into savings. Pay yourself first and have savings automatically deducted from your bank account on pay days, before you have a chance to spend it. Set a target of saving at least 10 percent of your income – shoot for 20 percent or more. Avoid borrowing money and pay off your mortgage as soon as you can. Collect interest; don’t pay it. If you can’t save up and pay cash for everything else, do you really need it or do you just want it? Wants, you can do without.

Hire and Align with Leaders, Beware Followers, and Avoid Wallowers

My latest book, Growing @ the Speed of Change, is built around our Lead, Follow, or Wallow model. If I had to do it over again, I’d put even more focus on hiring Leaders, not Followers, and avoid Wallowers like the dangerously infectious people they are. I’d also help our kids earlier in their lives to recognize more clearly the types of people they hang out with and the consequences of those choices to their happiness and well being.

Click on the following links for recent newsletter articles about these basic choices:

You can also find this model outlined in much more depth in Chapter Three: Lead, Follow, or Wallow (keep clicking “Next” at the bottom of the pages to read the entire chapter.)

If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently? Why not start now?