With the benefit of hindsight: 5 things I wish I’d known

Claire Cater, 26 May, 2016

By Claire Cater

These are five of many things I wish I’d known when I started my career. They still apply your whole life and I think we keep relearning them.


1) There is no such thing as a stupid question

I often sat there wondering what someone was talking about, that it didn’t quite make sense to me (or frankly made no sense) and that everyone else was clearly so darn clever to ‘get it’.  I looked forward to the day when I would be like the nodding smiling chaps around the table. I didn’t realise that most of the people in the room often felt the same.  They like me often had that ‘daft’ question on the tip of their tongue but dare not ask it. Then some clever person does just that and everyone hails their brilliance for highlighting the ‘important and obvious’. Misunderstanding is the greatest barrier to change and the greatest cause of chaos.

So, ask every question and probe until it’s clear. You’ll be smarter and look smarter too.


2) Everyone fears the hand on the shoulder

When you start out you often think – OMG how did I get here, doing this? Someone is going to find out that I’m not as smart as they thought and I don’t have all the answers and I’m actually not sure how to do all this.

Then you realise that this is how you feel most of your career and that it’s experienced by almost everyone. It shows you get it (no I mean it) – the acknowledgement that no one person knows everything, can do everything (not well anyway). The key is to learn that you are not expected to and the greatest skill is to facilitate the skills and expertise of others.

The trick is to know – to have the self-awareness. That’s one of the things that makes a great leader. The alternative is pretty lonely and risky.

Enjoy the moment when you feel a little lucky and on the edge – it meant it was worth it.

When you stop worrying – it’s usually time for something to change.


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3) It’s failure that teaches us most and can be our greatest success

I watch interns going through what I did, feeling crushed and embarrassed about their mistakes and failures. These lessons teach us everything and so it continues our whole life.  They make us wise. To be unafraid of failure increases your potential to go further.  Behind every great invention is often years of failed prototypes.

Google is most interested in the things that fail and learning from them.

Don’t be embarrassed when you fail, if there are smirking colleagues ready with the knife – they have something to fear not you.  Set yourself apart from them.

Be honest and transparent about your mistakes, be bold, confess to them and show that you have learned from them. Act on the learning and save the stories to share. Get up and try and again and you shall succeed and be fabulous.

4) Never assume anything

Particularly when we are starting out, we assume those around us know what they are doing, why and how they’re doing it and that we just have to catch up.

We assume that they know the facts, have the experience and that we should follow them.

This goes back to – there is no such thing as a daft question.

Never assume anything, check everything and ask questions. This is the route to everything – innovation, inspiration, reduced risk and the avoidance of disappointment.


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5) Your ideas could have world changing potential

How often have you heard people say – I thought of something like that ages ago. I wish I’d done something about it. If only I was younger. It was easy now I think about it.

Never let the ‘grown ups’ put you off your big idea – because its often when at the start of your career with youth and fresh perspective that the biggest ideas flow.  Jack Andraka was 15 when he discovered the test for pancreatic cancer.

For every doubter out there – there is someone keen to help you too.

I’ve learned that the only difference between me and that lucky/clever person who turned the dream in to reality and success – is that they chose to do something about it pursue their dream valiantly and persistently. Youth, inexperience or failure didn’t put the world’s greatest entrepreneurs off. In fact neither did age. Think Facebook.

I get to meet some amazing people who’ve achieved extraordinary success. Not one of them said – I was just lucky (well maybe the odd one). They all worked very hard, faced fear and doubt from those around them, made lots mistakes, got it wrong, got up and tried again.  They also talk of their mentors and supporters.

93 year old Lorna Page is the worlds oldest debut author with her feminist thriller ‘A Dangerous Weakness.

So what are you waiting for? Get on with it.


Claire is The Social Kinetic’s founder and CEO, check out more of her and the rest of the team’s writing here. If you’ve anything you’d like to add let us know on Twitter