Words of Wisdom with Jeff Morales

Jeff Morales
Chief Executive Officer, California High-Speed Rail Authority

HQWhat are three things you wish you’d known as you embarked on your career?

1. Time really does fly. While you keep your eyes forward, don’t miss out on enjoying your experiences as you go through them. Write them down. Keep track. It only gets fuzzier with age.

2. You don’t actually know everything. One of the advantages of being around other people is being able to learn from them. Soak up all you can.

3. Bad lessons can be as important as, or even more important than, good ones. If you work for someone who’s a bad manager, remember what didn’t work and commit yourself to not repeating those mistakes.

Did you have a mentor? If so, what was the most important piece of advice they gave you?

I was fortunate to have a few great mentors. More than any single bit of advice, they did two things that were very important: exposed me to opportunities, and demonstrated by example what it meant to be a leader.

How did/do you handle work/life balance?

Early on, I worked on Capitol Hill, full of crazy hours and lots of pressure. I saw in myself and others that no matter how good or smart you may be, you can’t maintain your edge or your productivity if you don’t shut down and recharge. At some point, you just recognize that the stack of paper will still be there in the morning.

Do you have any suggestions of books, articles, websites, etc. that might help a young professional?

“Nuts” is the story of the evolution of Southwest Airlines, and a great example of how corporate culture matters. “Good to Great” is a collection of real examples (not theory) of companies excelling. “The Best Kept Secrets in Government” is about how to work around bureaucratic processes to get results and focus on what matters (and I had a hand in writing it).

How important is it to be involved in organizations outside of work (church, networking, philanthropy, alumni, athletics, etc.)? Why?

Different outlets are right for different people, but having those outlets is important for at least two reasons. First, they can be a way to give back to the community. Second, it helps put things in perspective – that life is bigger than a job.

What do you love about Sacramento?

Moving here from Chicago, I especially appreciate the brutal “winters” that we suffer through here. It’s the capital of the 8th largest economy in the world, with a great mix of policy, politics, business and an ever-growing cultural scene. All that, and it’s still a casual, easy-going and friendly place. You can get beaten up in a legislative hearing one hour and be communing with nature in a kayak on the river in the next. Not many places you can do that.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the 40 and under business professionals in our region?

First, it’s all about relationships. You’ll be amazed by the number of times you run into someone 5, 10 or 20 years after you first worked with them, and how that initial contact can play a role in your career down the road. Second, be flexible and open to opportunities. At least for me, the best career path was one that took twists and turns and took me places I never could have imagined.