Luke David Thomas' Top Ten Tips to Surviving The Next Ten Years

Photo of Karen Moore

Karen Moore

Founder and CEO

Today our Director of Business and Client Development, Luke Thomas, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony and reception honoring graduating Tallahassee Community College (TCC) veterans. It was such an honor to watch Luke connect with these individuals and speak personally about his own experiences. He graduated from TCC in 2005 and is a veteran himself. While addressing the graduating class, he offered up ten tips that he has used to be successful and happy.

Below outlines Luke’s compilation of perspective and practical insights from legendary historical figures, mentors and his dad. He shared these ten tips to survive the next ten years to help prepare for the veterans for the unknown variables of personal and professional life:

Tip 1 – “The first draft of anything is (awful).”– Ernest Hemingway

One of my favorite quotes!

Ernest Hemingway said that, only he didn’t use the work “awful.” His choice of words was more colorful. Your best work takes time. Don’t work to get it “done.” Work to get it right. This also DOES apply to literal writing, so…

Tip 2 – Continue to develop your writing skills!

Lots of people say this, and some of my most influential mentors have pushed me to be a better writer. Better writing forces you to read more. Reading expands vocabulary and comprehension. Better understanding and vocabulary results in more direct and concise writing, which makes you a better writer. Practice.

Tip 3 – Make eye contact, smile, and just say “hi.”

If find yourself in a social, or professional setting and you are nervous, and don’t know what to say, hang in there. Walk up to anyone, make eye contact, smile, and just say “hi.”

This is a quote from my dad – originally to talk to girls. It never worked in that sense, but amazingly it works extremely well in a business setting. You have to practice it a bit, but it’s way easier to practice than a speech. The key is timing and approach. Stay away from creepy facial expressions and staring.

Tip 4- Take ownership of a challenge

A good way to demonstrate value in a career or team is to find the hardest task, that no one takes responsibility for, and master it.

Dr. Richard Leonard told me this while at Flagler College Tallahassee. When you accept AND take ownership of a challenge, you can never fail. You grow. You get smarter and stronger. You increase your skill-set, professional bandwidth for stress and possibly provide ideas to streamline inefficient processes. All valuable assets to an employer.

Tip 5 – Consider a side hustle.

See if your skills and hobbies can go to work for you. You can start an LLC and open a business account all online in under 3 weeks for a minor investment. You might fail. You might never have to look for a job again.

Tip 6 – Think about your actions, and reactions.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

I love this quote. It was on my Aunt Leslie’s fridge. To me, it’s basically saying, don’t sweat the petty things.

Tip 7 – Learn the term Practical Drift, understand why it is dangerous, and avoid it at all costs.

Practical Drift is the unintentional adaptation of routine behaviors from written procedure (or social and organizational behaviors). The occurrence of Practical Drift can result in catastrophic disaster in high-reliability.

“We do it this way because that is how it has always been done,” is never a good reason to do things. No effort to change or improve or adapt to a changing environment is dangerous, and gradual failure is just a matter of time. Practical Drift is the antithesis of innovation. I think the world we live in today needs innovative DOERS more than EVER. Be different. Difference is the difference maker. Share your ideas. Jump the tracks. Want to learn more? Read Friendly Fire by Scott Snook.

Tip 8 – A tip for identifying and avoiding Practical Drift…

Once you get really good at something, it’s time to take a risk.

My old boss Chad Wegeman told me this. He said in a review one time “I see you working hard, and can do the job, now I want to see you make a mistake. Take a risk. Try something crazy. I’m not going to fire you!” So confusing at the time, but I get it now. He knew growth only happens outside of your comfort zone, and I needed to stop working to impress the boss, and start working to improve my skill sets.

Tip 9 – Stop saying “sorry” and start saying “thank you”

Didn’t hit quota? Got beat out by competition? Missed a deadline?

I’m SO guilty of this. It’s like one of those subconscious rebuttals. I have actually said, “I’m sorry, I was on vacation.” I wasn’t really sorry. This happens a lot. Sorry does nothing in a business setting (unless there are personal implications).
Removing “sorry” makes you internalize a less-than-desirable outcome, creates situational analysis and helps you develop answers like “Thank you – no, I didn’t hit quota, but I did find out that I can tap into this different market segment in this geographic region that our competition hasn’t entered yet, and if I go to bed earlier I can hit the ground running tomorrow to make up for lost time.” – Drops the mic, crowd goes wild.

Also, publicly thank and give credit to anyone and everyone who has benefited you, or made your journey easier in any way, no matter how big or small. Giving thanks to your support is WAY more appreciated and classier than bragging about your successes. You may end up creating legacy. Leadership may not always have the opportunity to notice others going above and beyond. Your “thank you” may provide the perspective needed to elevate you and those around you. Everyone likes to get noticed. It’s just a cool move. A nice “thank you” also makes the crowd go wild!

Tip 10 – Leave a legacy.

We have all gotten to the top of the hill because someone turned around and extended a hand at some point along the way. If you have used any of the free resources in this center, or on this campus even, you are reaping the benefits of a legacy left behind by people that you may have never met, but care deeply about your development. A legacy to me is like always remembering where you came from and what it took to get there.

Volunteer. Join local business networking groups. Continue your professional development. Make it a point to develop others. It is the secret to success. Donate to the TCC Foundation. If you are on social media, check your feed. TCC Foundation has the One Day of Giving fundraiser going on right now, in the height of their 50th Anniversary. What a way to say thank you.

What a way to extend a hand to the group right behind you trying to get where you are today. Your legacy could cause a ripple effect that helps many veterans get the resources they need to get the educations they strive for. It can help grow the Veterans Success Center or TCC Campus. You may hire one of those people one day. They may hire you. Who knows what legacy may leave. All you have to do is take action.