25 Lessons Learned/Reconfirmed Since Leaving Corporate Life

It’s been about 1 year since I left corporate life to pursue The Brainzooming Group full-time. Here are some of the strategic lessons I understand now that I didn’t understand nearly as well 1 year ago.

  • You’re better off to not think someone else in business shares your same performance standards.
  • You’re definitely better off to not openly assess your own performance in light of your overly-high standards. Give yourself a break.
  • A lot of the same problems exist in lots of companies, so don’t think your crap is so special.
  • Despite preparing as much as you think you can to get ready to do something new, you’ll discover things you didn’t prepare for the minute you actually commit to doing it.
  • All that stuff they tell you about the importance of networking (especially when you don’t really need the network)? It’s all true. And then some.
  • It’s possible to get by without caffeine, but you better get some more sleep if you’re going cold turkey.
  • Slow pay is the first step in slow death. Cash is (and always will be) king.
  • Business development is more rewarding than I ever imagined.
  • Most things happen about when they should happen.
  • The corporate hierarchy doesn’t necessarily flush out sociopaths. They can get, and apparently hang on to, really good jobs. And even if they get fired, somebody else seems ready to hire them again.
  • There are great, trustworthy people all over that are wonderful to do business with.
  • People don’t necessarily know or even have a remote idea of the major impact they’ve had on others.
  • Sometimes, you do have to jump.
  • Too many people don’t seem to look for the learning opportunities in uncomfortable or apparently bad situations. Do yourself a favor…shut up and go to school right away.
  • It’s easy to give away what you do for free. Some of that’s okay. Some of it isn’t. Figure out which is which in a hurry.
  • The good results from taking a chance aren’t necessarily going to happen right away. It may take months. Or longer. If it was important enough to do in the first place, it’s important enough to be patient about it.
  • Sometimes telling you, “No” is the biggest favor someone can do for you. Quit trying to convince them to tell you, “Yes.”
  • Short naps during the work day really help you be better at what you do. We’d all be better off if we admitted that.
  • When things are going really well for a prolonged period of time, you need to think about walking away and letting somebody else have their shot at new-found success.
  • There are projects portrayed as “sure things” which are very important and have very tight timelines that have no chance of happening.
  • “Does this really matter?” and “Will this ever matter?” are two of the three best questions you can ask.
  • “What are we trying to achieve?” is the other one.
  • If you’re not able to portray yourself as successful at something, you’re not defining “success” in the right way.
  • Getting up to go to mass each weekday at 6:30 a.m. provides the most important reason in the world to get up along with creativity and tremendous structure to the day.
  • People (and pets) will step up and try to fill voids when they exist. What’s really cool is they’ll probably fill them in very unexpected ways. Sit back and see what happens.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement.  To learn how we can structure a strategy to keep you ahead of your customers, email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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15 Responses to “25 Lessons Learned (or Reconfirmed) in 1 Year Away from Corporate Life”

  1. Leslie says:

    A very interesting list, Mike! (And is it a coincidence that there’s a birthday cake on your blog today?…I think not!)

    • Mike Brown says:

      Thanks Leslie for identifying this as a pseudo birthday post! My birthday and leaving work were so close together last year, they’ve kind of become linked for me!

  2. One of the best posts you’ve ever written. And it’s all true!

    • Mike Brown says:

      Thanks Alex! I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll never know exactly what registers most with people. This post was started shortly before midnight and wrapped up around 1:15 a.m. this morning. While I don’t like to make it a practice of doing that (this is the second latest Brainzooming post ever), if the urgency creates better writing, well maybe I should procrastinate more?

  3. I’ve been out of corporate for almost 3 years now, I’d spent 30 years at the same company. One of the things that started me thinking about departing was asking the Does it/will it matter? When I consistently kept getting the answer “no”, that was a big indicator it was time to go!

    Good stuff, thanks! I’ll be retweeting this in real life. 🙂

  4. One thing I forgot to mention in my earlier comment…..the last point you make about people and pets filling voids…well, as it turns out, I now have a pet care business that I LOVE! Ain’t it funny how things turn out?

    • Mike Brown says:

      Thanks for the multiple comments Karen! Pets are truly wonderful. As I sit here typing this reply, our cat Clementine is sitting on the desk purring like crazy. Since losing “my cat Coco” in May, Clementine has gone out of her way to spend more time with me and take lovey-dovey to a whole new level!

  5. Sarah Lyons says:

    Mike, great post! Some of it was exactly what I needed to be reminded of about half a year behind you and the rest I’m lucky to consider advice. 🙂 Glad to see you survived (wink) and did so with a sense of humor and an interest in sharing what you learned with the rest of us. Thanks!

    • Mike Brown says:

      Thank you Sarah! Glad to be able to be a reminder – we all need somebody to help us recall what we already know!

  6. Liz Craig says:


    Very honest and revealing. Thanks for your insights. I especially appreciate the one about corporate life not filtering out sociopaths. I worked for one at Bozell in Omaha, and he then went on to destroy the creative staff at Bozell Chicago, finally landing softly when kicked out with a golden parachute. I think he’s somewhere in Arkansas. Hope no creative ever has to deal with him again. And that he’s happy. 🙂


    • Mike Brown says:

      The sociopath lesson is an interesting one, Liz. There’s a future blog post in there, I think. Dealing with sociopaths brings a whole new level of political intrigue to business that sucks a lot of energy out of otherwise cool work.

  7. Colleen W. says:

    Great post Mike! Hard to believe it’s been a year already.

    And the comment on the nap…so true!


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