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There is no substitute for hard work. Humility and resiliency are important characteristics to embody. Prioritize personal life events. You are not indispensable, nor are you invincible. Take risks.

These are just some of the many life lessons Ken Worzel, President of Nordstrom.com, shared during our interview.

Ken was born into a hardworking, middle-class family in Florida. His father was an electrician and his mother ran an ice cream parlour when she wasn’t at home taking care of her family. Ken says he feels privileged with respect to his upbringing: From his parents, Ken learned how to treat others, and imbued the values of hard work, a great education and perseverance.

Ken’s entrance scholarship offer to Yale University was a reward he didn’t anticipate and his humbleness about this achievement is endearing. It certainly surprised and impressed me to learn that not only did Ken work as a busboy and, later, dining hall manager, despite his scholarship.

Post-university, Ken spent the better part of 15 years travelling frequently between New York, London, and San Francisco as a professional consultant. It was in this role that Ken learned to never take one’s current situation for granted: When his firm, Marakon, went bankrupt, he realized the importance of being proactive. Ken notes that the most successful companies are constructively paranoid.

Ken was asked countless times over the 12 years he consulted for Nordstrom to join their team, and it wasn’t until 2010 that he accepted their pitch. He first served as their Executive VP of Strategy & Development, before securing his current position. An astute family-man, Ken was very clear about the fact that this professional move was largely made in the interest of his children. As a consultant, Ken’s personal life often took a back seat. He filled very intense, stressful roles, was on the road for 2-4 days each week and married late. Ken has some regrets about not making this career change sooner, or, at the very least, not prioritizing his personal life to a higher degree. In the interview, Ken speaks to a wedding of a dear friend that he was unable to attend due to a work conflict. He still can’t remember what was “so important” to take him away from such a critical engagement and says that it is a mistake he hopes to never repeat.

Since joining Nordstrom, Ken has implemented various ways in which to establish a greater balance between his work and personal lives. He stresses the fact that more people should implement or heed the following/similar strategies:

1)   Consider the impact your actions (or lack thereof) have on the people around you. You are not indispensable; nobody is indispensable: Ken took a sabbatical for 6 weeks and thought it would compromise his team’s productivity. Upon his return, people were surprised that time had passed so quickly. The lesson: you’re not as important as you think.

2)   Schedule your life to enforce a proper balance. For instance, if you are committed to being at home for dinner with your wife and children every night, go to work earlier.

3)   Family first. Be present for your loved ones. Be there for them as much as you can.

4)   Be mindful. Build 15-minute sets into your day to reset your mind. Spend time outside. Follow a regular exercise routine.

5)   Reflect: Block out time for yourself to think about long-term goals/considerations on a professional level. It’s usually best to do this at the start of your day, as it is when you are at your peak in terms of energy or drive. This tactic will also keep you on top of things and reduce stress as deadlines approach. Ken takes 90 minutes each day and divides the time as follows: The first 45 minutes are dedicated to contemplating 1 or 2 innovative or longer-term topics. The second half, towards more operational directives in relation to the business.

6)   Take inventory week-to-week of your failures and successes: What worked and what didn’t? Why? What in relation to your current position can be advanced?

Upon reflection of some of his most challenging moments in managerial roles, Ken confirms that his beliefs are very much in line with his current superiors. Almost every company’s success depends on the talent and in the construction of great teams. If someone is unhappy, the system must be recalibrated.

This inspired me to ask him to explain one way in which teams can be poorly managed. Almost immediately, Ken referenced The Golden Rule. “Treat others as you would want to be treated is terrible advice”, he says. How you wish to be treated is not necessarily how someone else would want to be treated.

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