One question from my father that changed my career

It was supposed to the best day of my life. But that was not how I felt that day.

I got the acceptance letter to the Economics undergraduate program at the London School of Economics. "Yes! I am going to London!", I told all my friends.  

There was just one obstacle standing between me and my dream: money. Student loan or working part-time was not an option. 

I gingerly approached my dad, who was absorbed by the morning paper. I did the math. The school fees will just be a drop in his retirement bucket.

"Well, have you considered going to the University of Hong Kong? It is a pretty good school too."

That was not I imagined. In my alternate universe, he would have tears in his eyes, he would tell me how proud he is, and he would transfer the funds to my account that day.  

I was furious. I ran into my room and slammed the door shut.

Little did I know, this one simple question has done more to set me on a path to career success than I could ever imagine on that fateful day. 

Stay with me if you want to the secrets in getting a promotion, being a better leader, and winning a negotiation. 

1. Success will not be served on a silver platter. You got to work for it with others.

 

Chances are that life has been treating you fairly well. I am 99.99% sure that you are not making T-shirts in a crumbling factory in Bangladesh. 

Food. Shelter. Vacation. I took everything my parents gave me for granted. 

I felt that I worked hard and did well in school. As a result, I am absolutely entitled to an all-expense-paid-for undergraduate experience in London. 

My dad taught me that is surely not the logic of working life. Our boss won't offer us a promotion just because we work hard.

Marshall Goldsmith, the world's #1 Executive Coach, reminds us that goal obsession is one of the biggest obstacles that is holding us back from career success in his best-seller What Gets You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful,

Being empathetic, respectful, and not feeling entitled are the keys to having a successful and fulfilling career. 

2. Too much pride stops other from helping you

 

I told my mother this conversation a few months ago.

"You never told me this." She said, "I would have helped you". 

That's right. She could have. But I never ask for help.,

I had too much pride and couldn't ask for help. There is another word for that.

Hubris.  

Research conducted by Heidrick & Struggles, a leading HR consulting firm, found out that one in five CEOs said they never doubt themselves. A 2013 study found that overconfident CEOs tend to make risky decisions about merger and acquisition that end up costing the company a fortune.  

I am glad I learned that lesson when I was still very far away from the corner office. I learned that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

I learned that asking for help from the right person with respect and without expectation often deepens the relationship.  

3. Anger can elevate you or destroy you. Your choice. 

 

I did not like that feeling of anger searing inside that day. Or actually any day. I have a difficult relationship with my anger. I want it to go away.

Anger feels like this red-faced demon, holding a trident, standing in hell, and looking at me with an intense focus. He is ready to burst if I let him.

Luckily, I did not initiate a shouting match with my dad that day. Research by Keith Allred, a former faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, shows that anger often harms the negotiation process by escalating conflict, biasing perceptions, and making impasses more likely. 

Phew. 

But over the years, I start to see this demon has been a blessing in disguise.  

I was so eager to prove my dad wrong. 

I was eager to show him that a global education is important.

I was eager to show him that women can have a great career and not be just confined to be a good wife and mother. 

And so I worked, really really hard, to get a good job and help other women to attain career success on their own terms. 

Somehow, I sneaked behind the devil, stole the fire, put that underneath my little rocket and poofed I go. 

My dad taught me that anger can be my best friend or my worst enemy. 

It was, and always will be, my choice to mak.