38. Life Lessons

In this unique episode, we share our personal stories. This episode is simply titled: Life Lessons. Bethany and Brandon are experienced scaleup COO’s and the co-hosts of The Operations Rooms.

4/12/20245 min read

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We chat about the following lessons: 

  1. Know where you want to go

  2. Lean into the fear

  3. Don’t try to be somebody else

  4. Focus on the job that is in front of you

  5. Know your superpower

  6. Accept critical feedback for what it is 

  7. Leadership is about serving others

  8. Find people who stretch you

  9. Take opportunities when they present themselves

  10. Don’t be a victim, take responsibility for your life

  11. Do uncomfortable things

  12. Cultivate your network

  13. Be kind. Be respectful. 

  14. Accept the fact that people won’t like you


  • Career goals and adaptability. 0:05

    • Brandon and Bethany discuss their sleeping difficulties, with Bethany experiencing a bird phobia-related insomnia and Brandon going to a quiz night with his wife.

    • Bethany struggles to fall asleep due to her bird phobia, while Brandon enjoys a UK-centric quiz night with his wife.

    • Bethany Ayers shares her lesson learned from her career journey: know where you want to go, but be open to opportunities.

    • Brandon Mensa adds to the discussion, emphasizing the importance of being clear on one's goals while remaining flexible and open to new experiences.

  • Overcoming fear and ambition in business. 4:31

    • Brandon shares his experience of struggling to land a job during an internship programme, despite applying for 10 marketing roles and interviewing 10 times without success.

    • Brandon overcame his anxiety related to telephone interviews by taking small steps, such as practicing with friends and using positive self-talk, to build his confidence and land a job as a marketing specialist.

    • Brandon leaned into his fear and ambition to secure a job, despite a long commute and initial discomfort.

    • Leveraging his motivation and ambition, he drove himself to fulfill the potential of the company, learning to manage his fear along the way.

  • Personal growth and career development. 9:37

    • Bethany emphasizes the importance of embracing discomfort and being the best version of oneself, rather than trying to be someone else.

    • She encourages individuals to focus on their unique strengths and skills, rather than comparing themselves to others.

    • Brandon recognizes the value of his own strengths and weaknesses, and stops comparing himself to extroverts.

    • Brandon takes inspiration from others' ways of working and incorporates them into his own toolkit, rather than mimicking them exactly.

    • Bethany prioritizes becoming a domain expert and a practitioner in her field, focusing on the job she has and building her skills to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

    • Brandon emphasizes the importance of focusing on the job and becoming a craftsperson, with opportunities for advancement and job security following suit.

  • Embracing unique strengths and work ethic for career success. 17:09

    • Bethany struggles with imposter syndrome and feeling unimportant in a leadership role due to her lack of a specific functional expertise.

    • Bethany highlights the importance of identifying and embracing one's unique strengths and specializations, rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades.

    • Brandon agrees, emphasizing the value of focusing on a specific area of expertise and becoming a subject matter expert.

  • Leadership lessons learned and the importance of serving others. 21:11

    • Brandon was put in a leadership role he wasn't qualified for, struggled in meetings, and was told he was "terrible" by the CEO.

    • Brandon took 3-4 months to accept critical feedback, work with an external coach, and rebuild himself as a leader.

    • Brandon and Bethany discuss the importance of leadership being about serving others, not just personal achievement.

    • A new head teacher at a primary school transforms the school's morale and engagement with their leadership, showing the power of effective leadership.

  • Leadership, feedback, and personal growth. 26:17

    • Brandon and Bethany discuss the importance of leadership and career progression, with Brandon emphasizing the value of taking feedback and continuously improving.

    • Bethany shares her experience with giving and receiving feedback, highlighting the importance of self-awareness and continuous improvement.

    • Bethany has had two mentors in her career who provided specific feedback to help her improve, including a former BCG analyst who gave her BCG training and a sales leader who pushed her to think more critically.

    • Bethany is currently seeking out mentors who will challenge her and help her reach her full potential, as she feels she doesn't have anyone in her life currently who will push her as hard as she needs.

  • Career growth, responsibility, and self-reliance. 31:37

    • Brandon became a market analyst for IDC and loved it, but then got a call from the CBC to talk about BlackBerry live on TV, which he initially doubted but then saw as an opportunity to showcase his skills.

    • Brandon took the opportunity and did a credible job, leading to more TV engagements and growth as a communicator, highlighting the importance of seizing opportunities and taking initiative.

    • Brandon and Bethany emphasize the importance of self-reliance and responsibility in personal and professional growth.

  • Leadership, resilience, and decision-making in business. 35:58

    • Bethany emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one's function and solving problems upstream and downstream, rather than just complaining about them.

    • Brandon agrees and adds that a CEO should be concerned with motivating everyone to achieve the vision, which requires taking responsibility for the team's success and working with other teams to move the ball forward.

    • Brandon faced challenges in his role as VP of Product at a company in Las Vegas, feeling unhappy and undermined, but he chose to stay and turn things around, leading to a successful run at the company.

    • The lesson learned from this experience is the importance of resilience, as throwing in the towel is not always the right choice, and Brandon was able to turn things around by rethinking his approach and figuring things out.

    • Bethany emphasizes the importance of resilience and perspective in business leadership, and seeks outside counsel or coaching to navigate challenges.

  • Networking, kindness, and relationships. 42:27

    • Bethany emphasizes the importance of cultivating a network based on genuine relationships and introducing people to each other, rather than just seeking personal gain.

    • Brandon shares an example of how his mentor's network has led to valuable opportunities and serendipitous connections, highlighting the power of building meaningful relationships.

    • Bethany emphasizes the importance of treating people with respect and kindness, even if they're not someone you necessarily like or want to spend time with.

    • She shares a lesson she's learned about being aware of how our actions and words can impact others, and not excluding people unnecessarily.

  • Leadership, respect, and dealing with difficult colleagues. 48:34

    • Brandon had a difficult relationship with a sales leader, initially disliking them due to personality clashes, but later recognizing their professional skills and respecting them.

    • Brandon had preconceived notions about another individual, leading to a disrespectful interaction, but later developed a positive relationship after getting to know them.

    • Brandon and Bethany discuss the importance of respecting colleagues, even if you don't personally like them, and how this can lead to better business outcomes.

    • They emphasize that leaders should be rooted in sound principles and values, even if some people may not like them for different reasons.