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Atlanta CEO tells how to reinvent yourself and your career


John Addison knows all about re-invention.

During more than 25-years with Gwinnett-based Primerica, Addison rose from a business systems analyst to co-CEO, a post he held from 1999 through March 2015. It was Addison who helped steer the company through its dramatic break from Citigroup after the 2008 financial crisis.

This is a time of year when many companies look at their bottomline and make tough decisions about moving forward. Employees, whether they are impacted by those decisions or not, should always focus on reinvention, says Addison, president and CEO of Addison Leadership Group.

John Addison headshot 2015

Addison will share many of his business and personal insights in a book to be published in March, but today he offers metro-Atlanta workers some tips for staying on top.

Atlanta is the place to be for anyone seeking a new path, he says. "If you look at its true economic history, Atlanta is a place that has reinvented itself as well as any city in America," he says. So how can you get started on your own new beginning?

Addison is a firm believer in lifelong learning. "You need to be reinventing yourself all the time," he says. "You need to be thinking about your personal skills and business skills and looking at things you can do to make yourself personally better."

Invest in yourself by taking a course or reading books or other materials that will get you closer to your goals, he says. Really think about what you are devoting your time to on any given day. "One of the biggest things people can do is turn of the TV and spend that time improving your organizational skills or business skills," he says.

Whenever you are in a time of transition, be it a job layoff or a new job, take the time to do a self-assessment. "Look at your self honestly and ask 'Are there things I need to do to get better?' and then work on those like crazy," Addison says.

But spending all of your time trying to turn weaknesses into strengths is a lopsided effort. Devote as much time or passion to developing the strengths you already have.

"Everyone has a skill where they are better than most people. Find what it is you are good at without trying and then try. You actually can be great," he says. In other words, do what you can to improve your weaknesses, but exploit the heck out of the things you already do well.

It is also important, Addison says, to put yourself in positions and situations that maximize your strengths whether that be a job or a networking opportunity. And be open to when and where those situations may happen.

Addison has traveled more than three million miles on Delta spending much of that time at Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Each time he travels he notices that anyone under the age of 40 is sitting in the airport with ear buds in their ears and screens in front of their faces.

"Some of the greatest business contacts I have ever made have been talking to people in the airport. It is one of the greatest human traffic locations ever. Who did you fail to meet because you were paying attending to a device in your hand instead of who is around you?" he says.

Technology is awesome when it allows you to improve things and make things happen, Addison says, not when it keeps you from living in the world and talking to people. Practicing and perfecting your interpersonal skills is one of the greatest assets you can have in life, he says.


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.