While I’ve done a lot of things that I now regret, I can say that I’ve been somewhat blessed to have learned from some of my mistakes. So please believe that this advice comes from sad experience and that I’m just trying to help some folks avoid the career limiting moves that I have made over the years.
1.) There will be politics. Unless you work in a one-man shop consisting of yourself and yourself alone there’s going to be politics. And to be clear when I say “politics” I mean decisions made not because of some valid technical justification but rather made because someone’s friend’s kid needs a job or because some leader still holds a grudge against another leader from 10 years ago. It’s a fact of life. It’s annoying. Do your best to do the best job you can and accept that even though it’s galling there will be lots of decisions made based not on technical merit but based on prejudices, biases and plain old ignorance. If you’ve explained why one course of action has more technical merit than another and they still choose the less technically meritorious approach, you can look yourself in the mirror and know you’ve done what you can.
2.) Don’t dwell on the negatives. While it’s good to have your eyes wide open and see things as they truly are, if you’re constantly focused on the bad decisions and the arbitrary annoyances, you won’t change them but you will make yourself very unhappy. Again, in any situation you work in there are going to be downsides. If you focus on the downsides to the exclusion of everything else, you’ll just make yourself angry and you won’t accomplish very much at all.
3.) Don’t bifurcate the world. As much as we wished the world were a nice definite composition of black and white, it isn’t. Good people do bad things (all the time) and bad people sometimes do the right thing in spite of the fact they’re bad. Life is ambiguous; deal with it. Don’t be too quick to judge someone as good or bad or smart or dumb because people are contradictory creatures.