Recently, a young person reached out to me to schedule a video chat about life paths and careers.
I was pretty impressed by a few things:
- First, her courage and confidence in networking, especially since neither of us knew the other before this.
It takes gumption and moxie to do a cold approach in any situation, so kudos to her for breaking the ice.
- Second, her creativity and maturity – while she’s on a gap year, she’s been talking to people around the world to learn from them.
This is precisely what the internet was built for – knowledge and exchange of ideas across boundaries.
- Last but not least, her well-crafted questions.
What she asked gave me much food for thought, in terms of what I’ve learnt thus far, and how someone else might also be able to use that learning to do or be better.
I’m penning down my responses here, partly as a comparison with my responses when I was posed a similar question seven years ago.
And, perhaps, if another opportunity presents itself again, it might be a comparison to what I would say in the future. It’d be interesting to see how my thinking would’ve evolved – or not – at each age or life stage.
- What advice would you give your younger self?
When it comes to learning and life, strike a balance between going at it on your own versus getting trusted advice from someone who’s been there and done that.
On one hand, reinventing the wheel can often be an exercise in futility.
Having someone reliable with the wisdom of experience to guide you makes the process of learning and development quicker and less painful; you get to avoid any pitfalls while reaping the rewards of success.
On the other hand, tried-and-tested methods, while safe, may not always lend themselves to creativity and innovation.
She asked a follow-up question: How do you find that balance? While i had provided an initial response, I’m reworking what I said initially and would like to offer this instead:
Always gather information first, regardless of whether what you want to do is something others have done before, or something no one has done before.
You may uncover inputs that are useful, relevant and applicable, in a direct or indirect way.
Conversely, you may discover information that indicates a need to forge your own path, instead of following a well-trodden one.
Once you gather sufficient insights, distil them to make decisions on how best to do what it is you want to do.
- What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt from your career?
Take care of yourself.
I don’t mean this in a selfish or self-centred way, such as by placing your own needs before those of others.
Rather, really carry out self-care in all the different dimensions i.e. physical, mental, emotional, etc.
When you’re in a good place, you can accomplish almost anything, be it leading yourself or others to greater heights.
To use the oft-quoted Oxygen Mask Analogy: during turbulent times, putting on our own masks first allows us to help others put on their masks.