Vicky DeCoster writer

Five Important Life Lessons I Learned from My First Job

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I had just turned sixteen when I accepted a job as a server at Coco’s Famous Hamburgers restaurant. The now defunct restaurant chain had a loyal following of customers who wanted not just delicious food, but also outstanding service. Unfortunately, I was a tremendously shy teenager, not necessarily a good attribute for someone who had to greet hundreds of hungry strangers as part of her job duties.

Needless to say, my foray into waitressing was rough. Once my arms and hands were shaking so bad from nerves that I inadvertently dropped four plates of famous hamburgers right into the laps of four ravenous guests. Once I slipped on a puddle of water and fell, with a large sundae in each hand, straight onto the hard floor in front of a waiting line of customers. Fortunately I was desperate enough for money so I could put gas into my 1973 Chevrolet Bel-Air that I persevered through my first few weeks, all while managing to avoid being fired.

Throughout the next three years, I learned many valuable lessons that I carried forward into my career and life. Decades later, I still benefit from the below lessons that taught me much more about myself and life in general than I ever imagined:

  1. Practice makes perfect. At first, I admit I wasn’t a great server. In fact, I was pretty darn bad. I made mistakes, dropped plates, and delivered food to the wrong table. Yet through it all, there was one thing I knew for sure: I could do that job if I just focused on being better, one day at a time. So I did and then one day, everything just clicked. I delivered piping hot food to the right tables, cranked out delicious malts from the malt machine, and kept my footing even on the wettest of floors

  2. Never give up. There were times, especially in the beginning, when giving up was an attractive option. Being a server is one of the hardest, least appreciated professions. Still, I persevered through the bad days, all while keeping my focus on the good days. I learned new ways of doing things, kept looking forward, and developed great friendships with my co-workers. There was one thing I knew for sure: Quitting wasn’t an option because I was transforming my weaknesses into strengths every day.

  3. Failure is part of success. I’ll never forget the night that a foursome came into the restaurant. They had a plane to catch and were in a hurry. They all ordered fried chicken, a dish that took 40 minutes to cook. I notified them of the wait. What I didn’t realize is that I had inadvertently left the ticket in my pocket and hadn’t submitted it to the cook. An hour later, the customers were livid, late for their plane, and I was in trouble. From that point forward, I always double-checked my pocket to ensure I hadn’t forgotten to submit an order. As I navigated through that failure and many later failures, there was one thing I knew for sure: We all make mistakes. What is important is to learn from them.

  4. There are more good people than bad in the world. Being a teenager comes with lots of insecurities. Although I waited on a few customers who were angry and rude, I waited on many more who were kind and thoughtful. One morning, I waited on two guests who were quiet yet respectful. I didn’t think I did anything extraordinary. Yet when the guests finished their meal, they left me—a pretty dorky teenager at the time—a generous tip along with a handwritten note that said, “They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. If that is true, then you must have a beautiful soul.” That note touched me so much that I still have it today. From that moment on, there was one thing I knew for sure: It only takes a minute to positively impact someone’s life with kind words or a thoughtful gesture.

  5. A smile goes a long way. A smile is a powerful tool. As a server, I held that power every time I put on my uniform and showed up for work. We all have bad days where we want to throw in the towel and live on a deserted island. Still, it doesn’t seem fair to transfer that momentary unhappiness onto a random stranger, does it? Throughout all the hundreds of days that I greeted and helped strangers fill their empty stomachs, there was one thing I knew for sure: Smiling provided happiness not just for me, but for everyone who crossed my path.

In reflecting on our first jobs and every job we have held since then, it can be enlightening to think about what important lessons we learned from each experience. In our lifetimes, some professional roles will be challenging, others will be easy, and some may prompt us to question every decision we have ever made. But if we focus on taking the positive lessons with us—the kind that help us grow professionally and personally—then it allows us to move forward and become better employees, managers, or entrepreneurs in the future.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach based in Omaha, Nebraska, who specializes in helping her clients both locally and nationwide to move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Who Inspires You Every Day?

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Sometimes in life, the simplest everyday acts are what inspire us the most.

He has no idea he inspires me. The neighbor who lives four doors up the hill from me has special challenges. Every morning for the past twenty years, he has diligently laced his sneakers, bundled up if it’s freezing, and headed out his door for exercise. He is disciplined, determined, and reliable. No matter what the weather, he perseveres.

My office window faces the sidewalk. Sometimes I happen to look up while he’s on the last stretch of his outdoor exercise session. All these years, I have been stopping whatever I am doing and quietly observing him as he heads home. You see, our houses are situated on top of a giant hill—a hill that I have been trying to tackle at the end of my run for the last twenty years—and the same hill that he has conquered every day on his own without a coach, parent, or personal trainer to cheer him on.

His journey to the top of the hill is not easy every day. As the years have progressed, his gait has slowed to a slow and steady pace. Although he leans to one side now, he trudges up the hill with a quiet determination while keeping his focus on his goal of reaching the top of the hill, no matter what it takes. His daily struggle is mesmerizing and always prompts me to reflect on his perseverance despite his challenges and then determine a way I can utilize this inspiration to motivate myself to achieve what I want for my own life, not just that day but every day.

Inspiration is all around us. All we have to do is be aware. Inspiration comes from the child who is overjoyed after solving a math problem without help from the teacher. Inspiration comes from the mother who juggles complicated tasks at work and then comes home to simultaneously care for her aging parents and young children. Inspiration comes from Paralympic athletes who prove over and over again that great things can be achieved despite physical obstacles. Inspiration comes from a senior citizen who has found her purpose in serving others during her final act in life. Inspiration comes from the bus driver who makes a point of smiling at all his passengers as they enter his bus, the server who makes a special point of complimenting all her guests, the CEO who heads a fundraiser for an employee facing hard times, or the ordinary man who, without thinking, runs into a burning building to save those inside from certain death.

My neighbor will probably never know the influence he has had on how I view life. Since I first began observing him from my office window, we have both sprouted a few more gray hairs and learned new things, all while managing to keep ourselves upright and breathing. We have much more in common than not. Through it all, he has taught me that no matter what our challenges, we all have the power to look deep within for the strength to trudge up the hill to reach our goals and pursue the life we were meant to have.

Today, look for the inspiration. I promise it is there, all around you, just waiting to lead you in the right direction.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients both in Omaha and nationwide to move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Why Change Is So Hard

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The call for change often comes when we least expect it. Sometimes it comes in the form of a whisper so soft that we have to strain to hear it. Other times it comes in the form of a roar we cannot ignore. But when that little voice in our head becomes so loud that we cannot ignore it anymore, the potential for change suddenly becomes a reality we must courageously face.

Yet oftentimes as exciting as change can be, many of us resist it because, quite frankly, it can also be terrifying. In fact, the idea of change can sometimes be so daunting that it has the power to immediately transport us right back to a time when we had to face a super scary change, like the first day of kindergarten when we felt like we might lose our breakfast right on top of our brand new shoes. Yikes. The cold, harsh reality is that when we step outside our comfort zones, it is an uncomfortable place to be at first. As author and research professor Brené Brown states, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

Change is an inevitable part of life. It comes in many forms whether it is something we embrace like new love or something we abhor like an unanticipated job loss. Sometimes change makes us want to curl up in the fetal position and shut out the world. Other times change lightens our load and makes us feel like leaping with joy. Sometimes it is fun just to talk about change. What if I moved to Europe and lived off my savings for a year? What if I started my own business and escaped the corporate nightmare I’ve been enduring for entirely too long? What if I bungee-jumped off a bridge with a Go-Pro attached to my helmet? It is while talking about change in its most initial stages that we realize we are craving something new. But what is it really and how do we find a way to move forward from here?

Will Craig, author of Living the Hero’s Journey, says that the quickest way—and perhaps the only way—to discover our true destiny is to truly know ourselves. In order to push through the fear, identify a clear path, effectively make decisions, and take action, we must first be able to identify and understand not only our strengths and passions, but also our weaknesses and limitations. We must also be prepared to answer introspective questions that dig deep and force us to look within for the answers.

It is incredibly important that while on this journey through life to be honest with yourself about the possibility of change. In the end, is it is you who is living your journey: not your spouse, not your parents, not your children, not your friends, and not your next-door neighbor. You, and only you, hold the key to unlock and walk through the door of change or throw the key away and stay where you are for now. No matter what, take the time to work through each decision with help from an accountability partner who does not have an agenda, but instead, is capable of guiding you to becoming the best version of you.

Change is powerful. It is scary. It is an action-packed roller coaster ride through the unknown. Change is what fuels our journey through life, keeps us from being stagnant, and ultimately transforms us into the people we were meant to be.

Change is hard. Find a way. Your destiny is waiting.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.