13 Important Career Lessons Hindsight Taught Me
Tonight, after a successful meeting I had managed to nab with the Director of a company that I wanted to freelance for, I floated down the street, elated. Though I had been nervous prior to our face-to-face, it all melted away when we sat down and I outlined my advice and suggested content strategy for taking her brand to the next level; I proved to her that I knew how to solve her business pain. I rocked my pitch, and left our meeting with a firm handshake and a "welcome - now let's get started." Gliding towards the train station, I mentally replayed the highlights and next action steps; I then stopped and realized - with gratitude - how far I have come professionally (and personally). A few years ago, the current version of myself would have been completely unrecognizable.
Back then, while I managed financially, I did not feel particularly motivated or fulfilled. Though I longed to fill the void with something that would inspire me, I could not answer what that was; I didn't even know where to begin. I envied those who had easily identified their passions back at the age of 18, while I climbed towards 30 with no clear direction (inwardly labeling myself a misfit, or even a loser for not being able to do so). A self-labeled 'outgoing introvert,' I was very shy with those outside of my inner circle, and did not particularly enjoy striking up conversations with strangers, so networking wasn't a desirable activity. Truthfully, I did not yet have the confidence in myself and what I could offer, so I often hung back, content with the spotlight being focused anywhere but on me.
Nowadays, I am not so afraid. I push myself outside of comfort zones regularly; I eagerly seek varied professional challenges and hunger for new connections (I dare to say I even enjoy networking). Through a mixture of time and personal/professional experiences, I have learned many lessons that I wish I could have shared with my younger self. Ah, hindsight; the phenomenon in which one acquires wisdom and knowledge on how to best approach or handle a situation; the only catch? The lesson can only be learned once the opportunity has passed, sometimes leaving lingering emotions of regret in its' wake for lost time and chances.
Fear not, folks - regret can be avoided. Whenever I begin to doubt myself, I remind myself of these important lessons I have learned:
- There are differences between having a job, a career, and a vocation. A job merely pays the bills and allows you to be a responsible, functioning adult; a career is a job that you strongly believe in, whether it's the mission behind the cause, or the company itself. A vocation though, well, that's another story. Having a vocation means that you have a calling to do something; there is a song that only you can hear, and it sings to you a melody in which your talents and passion combine to serve something bigger than yourself. Your calling doesn't necessarily have to be your day job, or even pay your bills. Strike a balance that works for you without sacrificing one for the other, and be happy.
- Confidence in yourself is key. Trust me, no one thinks you're as stupid or unworthy as you might fear; they likely are not even paying that much attention to what you're doing. Make them notice you - for the right reasons.
- Age is just a number. Never allow yourself to get in your own way by convincing yourself that you're too old to do something new; it's never too late to go after what you want.
- Education is an investment and achievement that one should be proud of. However, a degree (or lack thereof) does not speak to your talent or skills, and especially not to your passion and drive; this will take you further than any of the above.
- That thing that you're afraid of trying, that scares you? Do that. It will be worth it, I promise. Any reasoning that stops you from trying something new is just an excuse. No one is stuck; how much effort will you put into changing your own life?
- You don't have to be perfect to do great things; no one is. It is okay to fail; in fact, it is recommended. Failure(s) will make you stronger and smarter than any other experiences. It is not how you fall, but in how you pick yourself back up afterwards.
- The worst thing that can happen when you ask is that you may be rejected. If that happens, adjust your strategy and keep trying.
- If you're crazy enough to believe you can do something, you will.
- You can change your mind, and then change it again. Variety is the spice of life - just ask the millions of people who have changed careers multiple times.
- You should never base your success on anything other than your own happiness; not on other people, not on money, but only on the fulfillment you feel inside. Compete only with yourself.
- Coloring inside the lines does not always create the most beautiful art. Stay true to yourself; authenticity is underrated.
- Millions of other people have the same fears and doubts you do. Regardless of age, education, experience, income, or fancy titles, we all have experienced some self-doubt. The key is identifying it and not letting it cripple you; let it make you stronger. Use your past experiences as a point of reference to grow and flourish; channel any regret you might have into actions to obtain that goal you dream of reaching for.
Perhaps the most important lesson of all?
Learn and practice gratitude. Every single day.
Be grateful for every experience that has brought you to where you are at this very moment. People that are truly content in life are able to express gratitude, regardless of what they have or where they are. Be grateful for the good, and even for the bad; it has prepared you and placed you exactly where you are meant to be.
Hindsight has taught me to have faith and remain relentless in pursuit of my goals. If something makes me happy, I do it - it is that simple. I sometimes wish I had been able to skip over the years I struggled, but I recognize now that I am that much stronger and more successful for having experienced them, and there is nothing I cannot do.
Now, what will you accomplish today?
"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
~ Steve Jobs