I graduated from college in December 2003, and started working for global professional services company Accenture in January 2004. I used my very small signing bonus to go to the department store with my mom and buy a few suits, a pair of dress shoes and an overcoat. I was about to enter the corporate world for the first time, and I was going to look the part even if my nerves were trying to tell me otherwise.
After a few weeks of orientation and training, it was time for me to report to my first client project. I showed up in my new suit and shoes ready to conquer the world, or at least ready to avoid making a fool of myself on my first day. I met Jason, my manager, and he led me down a long hall and up two floors to meet the client, Rick.
We stopped at the cube of a tall, lean, older gentleman. I later found out that Rick was retired military and now worked in the IT department. He swiveled around in his desk chair to face Jason, took one look at me and stated that he did not want me on his team. I was mortified. How could I get dismissed within five minutes of my very first day at work? The color drained out of my face and my palms began to sweat as I began to wonder about what would happen next.
That’s when I realized that my actions would have to speak louder than words, or, in this case, my outfit. I would need to prove to my client that I was not only worthy of being on his team, but also that I would become an indispensable member.
I went back to my desk and spent the next week pouring through training manuals for the new software the client was going to start using on his project. I developed and documented a strategy for how the team could use the tool as efficiently and effectively as possible. During the next several weeks, I trained more than 100 people at the company on how to use the tool, including Rick.
After six months, the project was completed successfully, and it was time for me to move on to my next assignment. I stopped by Rick’s desk one last time to tell him goodbye. Rick swiveled around in his desk chair, stood up and embraced me in a bear hug. He told me that the team would not have been successful without me and wished me luck on my next assignment.
Work lessons applied in sport, life
I found that the lessons I learned at my first project also held true at horse shows, which are my passion. The riders with the most expensive helmet, the trendiest jacket and the fanciest boots were not always the ones who went home with the blue ribbons. It takes a lot of time and effort to be good at equestrian sports and there is no shortcut to the top. It is often the person who spends the most days at the barn, the most hours in the saddle, and the most time watching and learning from other riders who is successful at the end of the day.
Since I travel most weeks for work, I have to be creative about how I can find time to train with my horse. Recently, I took a trip to Monterrey, Mexico, to visit one of our IT Delivery Centers. On the last day of my trip, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and traveled 12 hours to make it back to Kentucky. I got in my car at the airport and drove straight to the barn, changed into breeches and rode my horse. Was I tired?
Of course. Did I have a million things I needed to get done at home? You bet. But every hour I get to spend in the saddle brings me one step closer to achieving my equestrian goals.
So the next time things at work or at the barn seem particularly challenging or difficult, I’m not going to give up. I am going to take an honest look at the situation and possibly talk to a trusted co-worker or friend to see what I can do to put in the time to succeed.
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