Do Your Best on Everything You Do

Roger Ferguson Jr. is the President and CEO of TIAA-CREF.  In case you don’t know, TIAA-CREF is the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund.  It is the leading provider of retirement investing for people who work in the academic, research, medical such as senior care marketing and cultural fields.  It’s a large ($900 billion under management) and a very well respected company.

On 9/11, he was Vice Chairman and a member of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve.  He was the only Fed governor in Washington that day.  He kept the Fed open, providing ample liquidity to backstop the banks by sending them extraordinary amounts of cash to avoid having ATMs run out of money.  Just another 9/11 story that we seldom hear.

Here are his three best life and career success lessons…

  • Careers are climbing walls, not ladders.
  • There is no job too small to do well.
  • The one thing no one can ever take away from you is your knowledge.

These are three great pieces of advice.  But I really like Mr. Ferguson’s second point.

Let me give you a personal story to illustrate this point.  Many years ago, I had just taken a job in the Training and Development department of a very large company.  One of my first assignments was to do a time management workshop for the sales group of the company’s smallest — and least significant — division.

I met with the VP of Sales to make sure I understood exactly what he wanted from the workshop.  I used his input to design a workshop for the VP’s direct reports — six Regional Sales Managers.  The VP and his Regional Managers were so impressed that they asked me to conduct the same workshop for their 30 District Managers.  These folks liked the workshop too — and asked me to conduct it for the entire sales force of about 350 Territory Managers.

I had an early win at my new company.  My boss came to me one day and said, “Those guys have been after us for a couple of years to do a time management workshop for them.  Nobody wanted to do it, because they are a small division, and time management is a boring subject.  But you jumped right in and did a great job for them.  The Division President sent a note to my boss complimenting our department on the work we did.”

All of a sudden, I was a star — because I took on a small job and did it really well.  My colleagues made excuses not to do something as mundane as a time management workshop.  Partly because I was new, and partly because I always do my best on everything I do, I took on the job and did it well.  This allowed me to very quickly build a positive reputation in my new company.

The common sense point here — if you take on a job, do it as well as you can.  People will notice.  And you will succeed.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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