When you walk into my office, you’ll find two art pieces displayed prominently on the wall. In painted Mandarin, they read: “Courage: the ability to confront fear and opposition” and “Wisdom: knowledge, common sense and good judgment.” These paintings not only provide a beautiful decoration, but also serve as a reminder for what has led me to where I am today.
Courage and wisdom are the frequent subjects of song and poetry, but they apply in business – particularly in the context of career changes. Like so many people, my career path hasn’t been in a straight line. It’s been a path of many twists and turns, each providing a new set of opportunities and challenges.
Of course, each turn in the road came with that initial feeling of fear. Am I making the right choice? Is this is the right opportunity? What happens if I fail? It takes courage to not only ask yourself these questions, but also to be able to answer them in an honest way. It takes courage to get over your fear of the unknown. It takes courage to realize you might miss great opportunities if you let fear consume you.
But having courage is simply not enough, and can even be reckless, if not balanced with wisdom. Wisdom allows us to draw from previous experiences and to use knowledge in a meaningful way to make the best decision possible. Wisdom further enables us to use incredible discernment to provide answers to those questions which are provoked by fear – not to mention gives us the necessary skills to be competent in a new role. So when changing career paths, it’s important to remember that you not only need courage, but also wisdom to utilize good judgment in evaluating whether such a change is the right one for you, and then using those skills in different way.
When faced with a tough situation, I often gaze at these paintings as a reminder, if not a guide, to help me make the right decision. But long before these images became a decoration on my wall, they were the basis for any important decision, including those critical turns that have marked my own career path. I’ve had four such points in my career, and at each crossroads, I’m reminded that it takes courage to make the change, and wisdom to know I’ve made the right decision.