Perhaps the most famous line in eastern philosophy is “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”** As many recent graduates, new hires, career changers, and entrepreneurs embark on their professional journey, they would be wise to contemplate the advice that proceeds and follows that venerable phrase.
Most new graduates, career seekers, and enterprising freelancers have built a solid foundation of academic, vocational training, or professional experience to pursue their goals. They should be wary of believing this is the end of their training. In truth, it is the beginning. Their past efforts are merely a cornerstone to build their futures upon.
For those joining an existing company, it is important to acknowledge that each organization has its own governing principles and institutional culture. For those striking out on their own, please keep in mind that each new undertaking has its own cycle of progress. Regardless, all beginnings require patience. Watch, learn, and master the essential skills and knowledge to accomplish the job or achieve the goal.
In any undertaking it is important to distinguish between what is positive and what is negative. Nourish what is good and quickly correct what is bad. Focus on the details and take care of small problems before they grow into noticeable transgressions. Taking timely action makes a better impression than having to correct avoidable indiscretions created by laziness or procrastination.
Patience and Perseverance
Novices, whether employees or enterprising go-getters, rarely thrive in their initial undertakings. And, seldom are they prepared for the frustrations they will encounter. Moving fast and breaking things to become an “overnight success” is a stark and haunting delusion for the majority. It is wiser to remain patient and endeavor to put forth the persistent effort necessary to succeed.
Each organization, team, and project has its own flow. A pace that allows the various people and assorted parts to align and move forward. Accepting this and adapting oneself to this natural movement will lead to less discontentment and more consistent longterm progress.
The Work Environment
Dutiful mentors foster new employees and new ideas. Hopefully, this open and accessible environment is awaiting most novices. Wise leaders create conditions that encourage creativity and growth. They support innovation and understand that fresh viewpoints, and even competition, helps move their organization forward.
What is Success
Each pathfinder’s first step is full of hope. Regardless of what happens next, maintain a confident and humble belief in yourself. Don’t be beaten down by missteps or become arrogant when taking great leaps forward.
Be true to yourself and stay the course. With diligence all things will come to you.
** Translations and Appropriations
Although “a single step” is how the renowned quote is usually presented, most direct translations present the line as “The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet.”
In other words, it is your journey, make the most of it.