Three Things I Learned Early in My Career

Recently, I saw a question posed on social media by someone in my network who wanted to start a discussion about great business books that we had read.  That really got me thinking about some of the most profound books I had read and the impact they had in my life either personal or professional.  Three things that I learned from reading was that good girls don’t get ahead, there is a simpler way to do things and an asset is something that brings in money.

  1. Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do. By Kate White

Early in my career, my very best friend for life, introduced me to this book.  She had read it and felt that I would also find it useful and I did, for several reasons.

First and foremost I was able to readily identify what it took to be successful and to recognize the fact that I did not have to be apologetic for wanting to be successful.  It also taught me that I did not need to be afraid to delegate work to others.  Not everyone is going to find what you ask them to do to be as boring as you think.  It also taught me that sometimes you need to allow people to feel empowered and allow them to take responsibility for a task.  I used that knowledge to display confidence in my assistant’s abilities by giving her responsibility for organizing a programme I was conducting.  I told her that I expected her to handle everything and I was only going to turn up and speak.  She was so pleased and energized that she made it happen flawlessly and I was freed up to focus on other projects that my boss needed to have completed in another country.

From this book I also learned that many of us have an inherent need to be liked and to be thought of as perfect.  Therefore we often prefer to keep our heads down and hope that we are not noticed as we plod away, working hard and getting things done.  For me, I did not like to know that I was making mistakes.  As a result I was always afraid to receive feedback from my boss.  I can still remember the day that my mindset changed.  It started with me asking myself what was the worst that could happen in this job.  The answer was that I could get fired.  This is pretty bad news for someone who is not used to failing.  However, I went further, to ponder what was the worst that could happen if I was fired and I realized that I could always get a job as a cashier. When you are young, responses like that can ease your mind.

Eventually I came to recognize that the feedback I was getting from my boss was in fact valuable.  I recognized that she did not have to invest her time in doing this. She could indeed just fire me and move on.  Once I changed my view of the feedback, I changed my behavior.  Before I would cringe and dread getting that call to come to her office.  After, when I got the call I would get up and go immediately.  In short order it no longer became a burden and eventually the need for correction and pointing out my mistakes lessened.  I was able to take her advice and feedback and not just see it as criticism or a suggestion that I was a failure.

Good girls always follow the rules but gutsy girls are willing to push the envelope and are willing to take the chance to see what will happen if they try.  Trying means that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Eventually, I discovered that I would rather be a gutsy girl and so this book started me on the path to becoming one.

  1. The Simplicity Survival Handbook by Bill Jensen

From this book I learnt that the key to transmitting information in an email was brevity.  I had a work colleague who would send me long emails with several paragraphs, color coded and multi-bulleted.  Every time I received an email from her I would groan and inevitably delay reading it until I had time.

Reading this book helped me to realize that I had the right to tell her that her email messages were creating a burden for me and in fact I was not reading them because they were overwhelming.  I also helped her to get into the habit of putting into the subject line of her email, the real purpose of her message.  It also taught me that if I want people to read my emails I needed to do the same.  At one point in my life I was so strict with this that everyone on my team was able to convey whatever they wanted me to know just in the subject line.  Ah yes, good times!

From this book I also learned how to read novels and articles.  This was very important to me because I am one of those people who constantly buy books with every intention of reading them but somehow never find the time.  This book taught me how to overcome that.

Did you know that most novels and articles tend to summarize the entire work in the first chapter or paragraph? For me this meant that I could just read the first chapter of a book, get the overview of what it was about and decide whether it was worth my time to go into the detailed explanation of every area. Or I could select the chapters that expanded on the specific areas I wanted to know more about.  This little secret has allowed me to make a conscious decision about how I manage my reading time.

Now I must confess that using this principle, I only read the first chapter of this book which was in fact a summary of everything else in it.  Therefore there may be other great examples and details throughout the book but I never felt the need to go searching for them.

  1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

I was fairly young when I read this book.  Just starting out in my career.  Barely making enough money to make ends meet but fortunately living at home and so expenses were a lot less than they would otherwise have been.  I was however, totally fascinated with investing as a means of making money and getting rich.  I had long subscribed to the philosophy that you never invest more than you are willing to lose and so I thought that I had a pretty level head and a good understanding of how making money works.  Then I found this book.  And the one thing it taught me? That I really did not understand how money works.

I had spent years study accounting at university and so I was fully aware of what is meant by the terms assets, liabilities, cash in-flows and cash out-flows.  However, this book brought a completely different perspective to my understanding.  To recognize that an asset is not just something that you own and to recognize that even something you own can be a liability caused a drastic and immediate shift in my thinking.  I can still remember the day that a colleague of mine boasted of his new car and referred to it as an asset.  Even my accounting knowledge let me know that just depreciation alone is an antagonist to anyone trying to view their car as an asset in the long term.

This book changed my attitude to money and helped me to examine my notions about wealth and my perceptions of rich people. I really did believe that money was the root of all evil.  I still have not let go of the notion that money does not grow on trees.  I must admit that many of these lessons were just ideas for me and not things that I have put into practice.  However, I credit the book for giving me an education that I got nowhere else and for that it profoundly affected my life.

I have read a lot of books over the years and there are several others that were useful.  But when I was pressed to identify the three that stood out most for me, these came out on top.


Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance.  She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.  For more of her writing visit



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