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Avinash Kushink

June 2, 2014 by Speakers' Spotlight

This I Believe: 12 Rules for a Magnificent Career

Avinash Kaushik is the “Digital Marketing Evangelist” for Google. One of the few experts in web marketing that makes data understandable, Avinash shows how leaders, marketers, and executives can leverage digital platforms and data to out-innovate their competitors while delivering delight to their customers. Below, Avinash shares his 12 personal philosophies and core values that guide his day-to-day work. They are lessons he learned, sometimes painfully, from practicing his career thing throughout three countries:

1. If you don’t know where you are going, you are going to get somewhere and you’ll be miserable.

I don’t believe in five-year plans or lifetime career plans; the world changes too quickly. But know your blue, and have a passion plan. Have an idea of what you love now, how you will stay in love with it, or how you’ll find the next thing you’ll love doing.

2. “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” -Will Rogers.

Too many meetings at work? Email inbox constantly stuffed? 16 straight quarters of missed bonuses? Difficult relationship with your peer/boss? Nothing seems to be going your way from a product/hiring/deadlines?

The first things to do is to stop digging. No, that not right. First learn to recognize that you are in a hole – it seems like common sense but this is so hard. Next, stop digging . Then, be honest with yourself, reflect on what’s really causing these situations. Finally, look for different solutions and be brave and ask for help (from your friends and perceived non-friends).

It takes a very long time to get good at this — at least, it took me a very long time. But I’m a better person/employee/father/husband/friend for having learned to recognize when I’m in a hole and to stop digging!

3. The last people to get laid off in a company are the ones closest to creating revenue.

This might sound controversial to people in operations, support, corporate finance, analytics infrastructure and all the other teams that are critical to functioning of any company. When push comes to shove, they are the first to be laid off. I should know. I’ve been laid off twice, from SGI and DirecTV Broadband.

I’ve never made that mistake again. I pick roles as close to directly making actual money for the company as possible.

4. 70/30 people will rule the world . Spend 70% being spectacular at your core focus area (accountant, lawyer, perl programmer) and 30% being good at everything in the immediately adjacent areas (marketing, finance, digital, real estate).

The web has broken down traditional job silos in companies. The web demands immense agility and flexibility within every company. Those two things mean that being a one-trick pony limits your capacity to help your companies think smart and move fast.

Deliberately identify the areas immediately adjacent to your job and invest your own time and effort to build out your 30% (your company will not do this for you) skills.

5. This seems ironic, but the less you worry about your next promotion, the higher the chances are that you’ll get promoted.

Everyone wants more money, the next promotion at work. One way to get it is to focus everything you do on your next promotion by plotting strategy, “building network,” creating “a bank of goodwill,” stepping over those that need stepping over, and only taking shiny object projects. This does work. Even at Google, this strategy yields results. But often, this leaves a bad taste even in your own mouth and creates a bad vibe around you.

So my lesson is to focus on adding value. Take on tough projects. Solve meaty challenges. Do good work. It is almost guaranteed that you’ll get promoted. But in the small chance that politics inside your company mean you are not, you’ll still be able to look yourself in the eye every morning and smile – and the people around you at work will love you.

6. Solve for scale. Point solutions don’t scale, frameworks scale (and people are grateful you’ve taught them a different way to think).

The single biggest difference between good people and magnificent people is that good people work hard and solve problems, while magnificent people look for patterns, dig deep to identify root causes, and look for scalable answers. Often this means new processes, new frameworks and new structures that drive a new way of thinking across the organization. That is glorious impact. Solve for scale.

7. What’s your one thing? The thing you are better at than anyone else in the team/sector/company/world.

Now this one is hard. Especially if your blue is entirely separate from your professional career (which is all green and orange). But people who know the one thing that they are really, really good at — better than anyone else — stand out in any organization. The way to get there is to know your green and blue, and then invest your own time in constantly trying to get better.

Most people stop learning once they leave college. Don’t do that. My personal goal is to spend four hours every single week learning something new – mostly in the blue area (which is easy) but also in the green area.

8. Self-awareness is the single biggest gift you can give yourself. Become a feedback junkie.

Will it surprise you if I guessed that you think very highly of yourself? No. Because it is true. 🙂 And perhaps it is. But I’ve learned the value of self-awareness, knowing what you are really good at and what you are not good at. At regular intervals (weekly, monthly and quarterly) I ask for feedback from my peers, our leadership teams and complete outsiders.

Feedback allows me to see myself as others do (perception often matters more than reality). I use that feedback to find opportunities where I can amplify my strengths, and I use it to ensure that my weaknesses are not deal-breakers.

9. 99% of all arguments are based on a difference between what each person is solving for. First, get to a shared vision. Then disagree. Then get to the best solution.

It took me such a long time to learn this lesson. I’m embarrassed. In typical business situations you hear/see something and you are like “how can that be, that other person is such an idiot, how can they possibly have such insane opinions and make these crazy decisions, I must stop them/give them a piece of my mind!” Ok, I exaggerate a little. But you get my point. Off you go to argument land.

I’ve learned to stop myself. I find the person/leader/being and ask: “What are you solving for?” Then I outline what I’m solving for. Incredibly, it usually turns out that we are solving for different things. I learn (or they learn) that I have different context than they do. We both feel like such dolts. We then agree on what we should solve for. Now finding the optimal solution is simpler.

Before you argue about small or big things, ask the other party: “What are you solving for with your decision?”

10. Nice guys/girls might not always finish at the top, but in the long run jerks will always finish last. Karma.

I’ll just leave it at that. Karma.

11. If you are a leader, remember it is never about you. It is always about the team and each person in it.

It is such a cliché. But it is so incredibly true. A superstar you working at max awesomeness can solve for a local maxima. If you work with your team of individuals and help figure out how to make the unit function at max awesomeness, you solve for a global maxima. And I mean team of individuals – because each one is unique – and not the generic “team.”

Bonus: Also see #5 above.

12. At the end of the day always remember that it’s just a job. On their deathbed, no one wishes they’d spent more time at work.

No one.

That’s it. My dozen personal philosophies and core values that guide my day-to-day work (and life).

By Avinash Kaushik/June, 2014