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Success Files: Meet Brent Shafer, CEO of Philips North America

Brent Shafer is an avid bass guitar player who still carves time for a passion he’s pursued for over 25 years—whether dropping in to jam with Jim Belushi and his band, or playing a venue like the House of Blues for a Philips event. His primary gig today, though, is developing new consumer-facing products in the health care arena and supporting health care providers in their own business pursuits.

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What business advice do you give to young people starting their careers?

People make the mistake of wanting to walk away from a job after six months, but it can often take much more time than that and perhaps up to two years to fully understand it, embrace it and see if your skills are the right fit. The key is not to give up too soon—you need to give it enough time to make a mature evaluation and then make the choice that is right for you.

What has surprised you about your career?

I never set out to be a CEO of a major multi-national company or to go into health care, for that matter. However, after our twins were born prematurely and were in the NICU for nine weeks, the emotional toll and the gratitude we had for the doctors and nurses… I realized the meaningful impact I could have.

What’s the best business or career advice you ever received?

Early in my career, one of my bosses told me that there is a big difference between intent and ability. I’ve learned this applies in all aspects of life. While there may be some people who you really like, and who intend to make things happen, they don’t always know how to get things done.

Through your career, did you have to learn any lesson the hard way?

While being a musician is great, I quickly learned that not everyone can make a living at it. The key lesson for me is that you do not have to give up your dream, and you can still be creative and incorporate that passion into your life.

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