Reflections on work, success and getting your shit together from 3 decades on the planet
GET UNFORGETTABLY GOOD
The best piece of marketing or personal branding advice I ever got was:
Do what you said you want to do and get fuckin amazing at it.
If you say you want to be an entrepreneur, go out and test your idea: experience a few people laugh at your idea, a few others slam the phone down; get frustrated with your financial advisor because you don’t understand 90% of the terms they’re using; get pissed off that ‘people make it so hard’ for you. And then get better from there.
If you say you want to be the best fashion designer in the world, make stuff. Put them up online. Talk to local designers and people who buy designer clothes. Skip one thing you spend money on and put that towards a seed fund to make 3 pieces. Showcase them, blog about them, sell them- see what the market says. Get better from there.
Whether it’s speaker, writer, programmer, or the next Bill Gates you want to be, I guarantee you there will be people who think you lack talent or grit, and you will spend much of the time uncertain about yourself. You can’t think, imagine, certify yourself into not flinching when doing things you’ve never done before. You have to DO.IT.
Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.
In other words, get skin in the game fast. There is no protected, small, risk free way to learn anything amazing. It feels devastating the first few times then you stop giving a shit and get used to just doing things anyway.
That’s the beginning of EPIC.
THIS IS THE DECADE OF LEARNING BY DOING
From job interviews and business plans, taxes and timelines, relish the many firsts that will come your way during this phase. Celebrate it- it’s the start of learning to think for yourself, getting actual market feedback, charting your own course through the long history of your life.
What you’re learning is how the world works.
Grades are no longer the metrics that matter,
there isn’t even a designated teacher anymore.
While that sounds like good news in the beginning, ask the adults around you how many times they wish there was someone who knew what the fuck was going on and would just tell you “follow steps a, b, and c and I’ll give you an A at the end of the month.”
So learn early on to be resourceful, think for yourself and accept the consequences of your choices. Ask questions and listen like a fiend- there are thing you learn by listening and observation you cannot learn any other way.
Coming from a decade and a half of schooling and learning to follow instructions, spend this decade learning, exploring, experimenting and expressing what Go Your Own Way means for you.
Whether you work for someone or start something of your own, remember this is your time for learning. There will be people who are painful and tasks that aren’t exactly epic- screw that.
The reason you’re doing this is not for your boss or clients or parents.
The reason you’re going to accept everything as part of the learning curve
and do an epic job is for you.
Somewhere in all of this you are learning practical skills and intangibles like how not to handle young talent, how to speak up about something uncomfortable, how to accept responsibility and credit, how to handle people yelling an inch from your face.
Believe it or not, there will be worse things than that in your career.
This is the time to build patience, guts, risk appetite and ambition- when the stakes are low and the future is bright.
DECADES NOT YEARS
You are going to be around for somewhere between 50-70 years. Work accordingly.
Pick doing epic shit over getting publicity and praise.
Test your theories and ideas. Be wrong- a lot.
Get very unafraid of people’s disapproval and the opinion of your cool friends.
You’ll realize in a few years how rare a thing that is.
Get a sense early on of your capabilities, resilience and capacity to turn out solutions out of thin air. We do this naturally when we’re kids, just get used to accessing that again.
Short term thinking & excessive attention to what other people will think skews your perception and choices. Urgency, insecurity and fear is not a good cocktail for long term success & happiness.
The world will be different 20 years from now- the things that are valuable now, the job titles that exist, the markets and the technology will all be different. What matters in the long run is not that you get the biggest deal of your life this year (in fact that might be positively disastrous- what the hell are you going to do for the next 70 years!? :p )but that you learn to be agile, adaptive and aware.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU’LL LEARN WILL BE FROM PEOPLE
(not books or jobs)
Maximize face-to-face time with people. Reach out to people you admire, people you’re curious about, people whose work you follow, people who are tangentially related to your industry or aspiration.
Relationship trumps commerce in the long-term.
If you listen to yourself, you’ll find you’re already naturally curious about certain types of people and themes. Whatever you are curious about- whether that’s global change or how to make money from knitting- there are people who have done it before, who are engaged in a conversation about it and who have email addresses and cell phone numbers.
Reach out. Have a coffee in person or over Skype. The world is the smallest it’s ever been- make use of it!
Newsflash: you’re human first. Then entrepreneur, student, intern, doctor whatever.
Your human (not technical) aspects are ultimately the source of your greatest strengths and success: the infinite potential of your mind, the creativity & ingenuity built into your core (see any child or puppy navigate the instruction DON’T DO THAT for evidence), your capacity for connection and the very human ability to bounce back from anything.