To this day, I still believe that our single biggest ally in building a satisfying career is self-worth. If you don’t possess self-worth then, quite frankly, you are setting yourself up for failure. Opportunists will detect your poor self-esteem, prey upon it, and use it as a target for their own insecurities and a tool for their own betterment. Office politics will prove much more difficult for you to handle. Career advancement may elude you, even if you can’t quite pinpoint why. But once you understand how valuable you are and truly embrace your own value, others will have no choice but to respect that value as well. (Think about it – did most CEOs get where they are today by doubting and undervaluing themselves? Definitely not.)
I learned about the importance of self-worth when I embarked on my first career – which came before I was old enough to drive! I was a singer. As a youngster, I occasionally performed vocal solos at church and school recitals. In attendance at one of these performances was an elderly woman who had been a professional opera singer. She said she recognized a hidden talent in me, and to coax it out, offered me free vocal lessons.
Mrs. Buenger proved to be a strict teacher; when I didn’t breathe from my diaphragm properly, she’d punch me in the stomach. But her interest in me was also a huge turning point in my young life. Since starting school, I’d been unknowingly battling dyslexia and color blindness. I would not be officially diagnosed with both conditions until later in life. My academic studies at the time were a huge source of frustration and embarrassment, especially since I didn’t even know why things were so much more difficult for me than they were for other kids. Singing became an escape from feeling inadequate in other areas of my life, and Mrs. Buenger really made me feel like I had, and was, something special.