17 Career Rules (and counting)

There’s a saying that ‘you’re everyone you’ve ever met’.

I love that idea, although I did once meet an 80-year-old drunken retired sailor who still lived on his rotting boat in Marseille harbour, so I’m not sure what part of me is him.

However, I do think it’s true that you learn something from every encounter, however brief, and sometimes it’s those small moments that can leave you with the biggest lessons.

On the right, the sailor. On the left, my friend. Not to be confused.

A few years ago, I happened to be borrowing a desk in a room where a new manager was delivering a welcome message to his team.

Not long after that meeting, he decided to leave the job (potentially because he was unimpressed by the poor meeting room availability which meant that people like me could earwig into his team meetings).

Despite this solitary, one-off encounter, what I heard him share has stuck with me ever since.

(I would give him credit but I don’t even know his name, so maybe if he’s reading this – unlikely as he’s not my wife or Facebook friend – he’ll know it’s him I’m talking about, and will have forgiven me for my slow, loud, keyboard typing and confracall-yelling which drove him to hand in his resignation before the ink was dry on his contract.)

His lessons, added to some of my own, form my career rules: a list of dos and don’ts to be added to and edited as I get older and wiser.

But until that happens, here they are in their current form:

The one rule to rule them all

Focus time and attention on the people and things that matter most.

The Things to do

  1. Be the best you can be
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do
  3. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
  4. Seek to improve yourself
  5. Be interested
  6. Help others to help themselves
  7. Be there, where you are
  8. Have fun


  1. Certainty (Doubt what you know to be true)
  2. Self-importance (Don’t you know who I am?)
  3. Short-termism (Anything worth doing takes time)
  4. Unhelpful expectations (It’s not me, it’s you)
  5. False friendships (LinkedIn friends are (mostly) not your real friends)
  6. Endless opinions (One mouth, two ears, used in that proportion)
  7. The need to be right (It’s good to say “I don’t know’)
  8. Binary thinking (Context is everything)
  9. Be the person you are, not the person you think you should be

The final thought

Remember, you don’t have to do any of this.

Thanks for reading this article, I really hope you enjoyed it. You can subscribe to my monthly update below, and find me in tweet form @johnjsills, in picture form on Instagram @CX_Stories, or in work mode at The Foundation

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