This one sentence is the best career advice in this day and age

By May 16, 2017Current

TL;DR – I wanna be the very best.

Microsoft is getting cooler. Some say that it has become the new Apple. The person leading this transformation is Microsoft Satya Nadella.

One of the key changes he has brought to Microsoft is to build a growth mindset culture. He credits Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s best-selling book, Mindset, as his inspiration.

Interestingly, Satya learnt about the growth mindset when he was thinking about his children’s education. He said:

“I was reading it not in the context of business or work culture, but in the context of my children’s education. The author describes the simple metaphor of kids at school. One of them is a ‘know-it-all’ and the other is a ‘learn-it-all,’ and the ‘learn-it-all’ always will do better than the other one even if the ‘know-it-all’ kid starts with much more innate capability.

Going back to business: If that applies to boys and girls at school, I think it also applies to CEOs like me, and entire organizations, like Microsoft.”

We want to extend what Satya said. We think that it’s not just boys and girls at school, CEOs and organisations who should adopt the “learn-it-all” mindset. We think that all of us should adopt the “learn-it-all” mindset.

The importance of wanting to “learn-it-all”

This is particularly important in this day and age where technology is rapidly changing the way things are done. Given the accelerating pace of change, we would be rather deluded if we think we can possibly “know-it-all”. And that delusion will be very costly.

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Because technology is destroying and redesigning many jobs. Your job is not safe. If we think we “know-it-all”, we won’t be able to adapt to the changes in our jobs. Instead, to keep abreast with the changes, we need to constantly learn new things, develop new skills, and deepen current skills. In other words, we need to have a “learn-it-all” mindset.

And if you find yourself in a situation where you need to move into a completely different career, then all the more you need to have the “learn-it-all” mindset. Our PME friends who have switched careers tell us that they found they really need to be humble, be thick-skinned enough to ask for help, feedback, and advice. They tell us that that’s the best way for them to learn and progress in their new careers.

Of course, it would be better to move on to promising careers before you even lose your jobs. The only way you can do that is for you to pick up the necessary skills while you are still in your current career. That, too, requires you to have a strong desire to learn new things. In other words, have a “learn-it-all” mindset.

One key aspect of having a “learn-it-all” mindset is the ability to receive criticism in good stride. As Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, said:

“People who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

But in an Asian culture like ours where “face” is important, it may not be easy for us to humble ourselves and be thick-skinned enough to take criticism in good stride. We really need help with that.

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Bosses need to create the right culture

That’s why bosses need to create a culture that is conducive for people to take criticism so that they can feel safe to adopt a “learn-it-all” mindset. That’s something that Satya knows all too well. He demonstrated this in the aftermath of the epic failure of Microsoft’s Twitter bot, was Microsoft’s attempt to advance how artificial intelligence communicates with humans in real time. Things took a vicious turn, though, when hackers and others caused Tay to begin spewing racist and profane comments. was shut down just 16 hours later, followed by an official apology from Microsoft.

If you were the team who worked on, you would probably hang your head in shame and try to forget what happened, and hope that the rest of the world does too. And if you saw an email from your CEO about the incident, you would probably fear that it’s asking you to resign.

But that’s not what Satya sent to the team who worked on Instead, he told them this:

“Keep pushing, and know that I am with you … (The) key is to keep learning and improving.”

He also urged staffers to take the criticism in the right spirit while exercising “deep empathy for anyone hurt by Tay.”

When asked why he sent that email to the team, Satya explained:

“It’s so critical for leaders not to freak people out, but to give them air cover to solve the real problem. If people are doing things out of fear, it’s hard or impossible to actually drive any innovation.”

Revitalise your career like how Satya turned Microsoft around

When Satya Nadella took over in 2014, Microsoft’s share price was around USD35 a share. At the end of 2016, it went up by about 80% to about USD63 a share. It has introduced a range of cool products. The turnaround is nothing short of amazing.

If you want to revitalise your career the way Satya Nadella turned Microsoft around, adopt a “learn-it-all” mindset. If you are an employer and aspire to grow your company into a Microsoft of your industry, be a boss like Satya Nadella and create a culture that encourages your staff to have a “learn-it-all” mindset.

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If both employees and employers can do that, then Singapore’s economy will have a chance of being innovation driven and have a more sustainable, healthier growth. So go on, go learn it all.


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Jake Koh

Author Jake Koh

Recovering sushi addict, I'm a man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery.

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