I once did a “life coaching” exercise that at first sounds rather macabre. It is this. Write your own eulogy. Shocked? Don’t be. The point is to articulate how you would like to be remembered. And once you’ve done it, ask yourself if you are that person today. If not, then no better time to start than immediately. After all, it’s too easy to look across the tracks and see successful people (whatever form that “success” might take to be relevant to you) and muse that they’ve only done it because they were born in the right month, to the right family or with an excess of luck on their side. It’s much harder to perceive your destiny as your own responsibility.
And yet, what is it that permits some to rise to fame, fortune or respect? I’ve been hugely privileged to interview many people I find inspiring over the years, from Mary Portas for this issue to film director Peter Greenaway, hotelier Ian Schrager and photographer Eliott Erwitt to name a handful. And it strikes me that there are common threads that have very little to do with backgroud, providence or prosperity. And so I proffer my observations and my own life learnings thus far…
• To do anything well, you must first care. Passionately.
• And be enthusiastic.
• Be hungry. Stay hungry.
• Be proactive.
• Do more than your job description. Create your own job.
• Understand that receiving criticism is the quickest way to improve.
• And that sometimes being fired, or not getting what you want, is absolutely the best thing that could happen.
• Be a team player.
• Give credit where credit is due; “we” is always stronger than “I”.
• But if something goes wrong, take responsibility.
• Stand up and be counted.
• Love your life outside work, it’s the only way to stay sane; and that’s more important the higher up you go.
• Know your physical limits, but never stop dreaming.
• Never mock another person’s dreams.
• Don’t be a quitter. If you believe you can do something, you’ve already done the hard part.
• Be curious. Stay curious.
• Rules are overrated but respect is everything.
• Play for win/win scenarios.
• Don’t ask permission to succeed, just get on with it.
• If something hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
• In short, dream, believe, do! But be prepared to work bloody hard, over and above expectations.
• Never cheat.
• Don’t gossip.
• Have a moral code.
• Enjoy the ride.
The aim is to screech to a halt when you finally get to those pearly gates and say wow, what a blast! Not ooops, I forgot something.
First featured as my Editor’s Letter in the July 2012 edition of ELLE Decoration.