30 years have rolled by and I wonder where time has gone, what has really happened and who am I now? The Phil that graduated in 1988 and today’s edition are a lot the same but also different in important ways. I feel good about my personal development over the years, but there is no universal prescription. Here are my suggestions to keep yourself moving forward.

Embrace your inner freak – We spend too much time and energy trying to fix the unfixable while not feeding the things that give us energy and allow us to shine. Embracing your “freak factor,” a term coined by David Rendall, means intimately knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Reject, politely, calls to fix your weaknesses. If you really want to make an impact, embrace your sharp edge. Don’t allow yourself to be watered down by calls to fix this or that. The suggested changes are more about conformity than they are about excellence.

Find your voice – Are you content to slide into a seat at the back of the classroom and spend the next 50 minutes hoping that you can avoid being asked to give your thoughts on the day’s topic? Mistake! You have a voice and you need to find a way for it to be heard. Each of us has valuable ideas to contribute; however, too many voices are not heard. They don’t speak up for a multitude of reasons, but their ideas die in the silence. And those of you who tend to have a loud voice, quiet yourself, slow down a bit and actively engage with marginalized voices to amplify their ideas. This is why I enjoy teaching online courses. The format engages all voices on every topic. There is a built-in richness to the discussion.

Build your personal library – Find authors whose ideas resonate and inspire you. Read their books, subscribe to their podcast, read their blog, pick a favorite quote and use it as your email tag. Seth Godin first came to my attention 20 years ago. In “Permission Marketing,” Godin described many of the concepts that have driven the rapid growth of social media long before Zuckerberg came along. 15 or 20 books later, Godin continues to inspire with messages that all of us can take to heart. The title of a recent book says it well: “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn).”

The safe bet may not be the best bet – Students often ask me about taking a job with a small company versus a larger one. The large company is generally perceived as being more stable, having more benefits and being better for one’s career trajectory. Small businesses, on the other hand, are seen as riskier with too many unknowns. Most of my jobs have been with smaller businesses and organizations. I count myself fortunate to have the opportunity to undertake all sorts of projects and adventures that would have happened at a larger firm. Take a risk and enjoy the ride. Resist the urge to take the safe bet.

Next week – Work to live or live to work.