Julien Smith’s short, incomplete list of things he’s done wrong has inspired me to share my own list.
1. Chasing a ‘dream job.’ In theory it sounds good, but in retrospect it’s tough (especially if you come out of school during a recession) to ever close the gap on your peers who took the money and ran.* Money isn’t everything, but that low(er) starting salary in my first job has impacted other offers along the way.
You’ll learn that you probably have no idea what you want to do with your life, that most jobs are pretty malleable and it’s more important to work with great people anyway. It’s not popular advice, but chase the dollar signs right out of school. Money gives you flexibility down the road.
2. Being too risk averse. Most of it comes down to fear, but I didn’t understand that at the time. I didn’t take a call with Ramit Sethi in 2009 and I didn’t help Kathy Ireland with her book launch that same year.
The latter was more complex (potentially a conflict of interest with the organization I was working for), but with both of them it ultimately boiled down to “What could I possibly offer these people that they don’t already know?”
If you’re relatively young you won’t have the breadth of experience that your elder co-workers have, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t provide value on projects and in niches where you have accumulated a lot of knowledge and/or experience.
3. Dated someone just because they looked good on paper and met some imaginary criteria of what a girlfriend should encompass. If you have a choice between “what makes sense” and wanting to throw someone against the wall and make out with them 24/7 even if you fight like insane people, pick the latter. It won’t work out, but it’s better than a passionless relationship.
4. I’ve spent way, way, way too much time filtering out noise. I need to spend less time consuming and more time creating. I’ve learned infinitely more since I culled down my blog reader, stopped clicking on sensationalist Twitter links and started reading more books. Speaking of…
5. Not reading enough books. I try to read one a week now, and I alternate fiction with non-fiction. I’m enjoying reading again for the first time since I was like 10-11. Surprisingly, I’m learning almost as much from the fiction books.
6. Not saying “Hi” to Julien in front of the Austin Convention Center at #SXSW 2011. In the split second I had to introduce myself my lizard brain said, “What does a ridiculously conservative, relatively close-minded dude like me have in common with a guy with tattoos and gauges? (Again – fear being the elephant in the closet, I suspect.)
Still Undecided On:
My Degrees in Communications, English and Marketing. I enjoy what I do, but part of me wonders if I could’ve made a bigger impact on the world had I become an developer, engineer, etc.
How insanely frugal I am. I get a lot of comfort out of the huge safety net I’ve built up, but for what!? I could’ve traveled more, experienced more, treated others more. As I get older, start a family, etc. maybe all the savings will come in handy, but I don’t want to leave this world poor in experiences merely because I insisted on being wealthy in the bank.
But like Julien said, none of this matters…
Life isn’t made up of the things you did wrong. It’s made of the things you did right. — Julien Smith
What about you? What are some mistakes you’ve made along the way? What would you have done differently? Let’s learn from one another in the comments.
*I’m not advocating ill will against your friends. I’m merely stating that if you do damn good work and desire to elevate through corporate pay grades knowing industry averages, what your worth and how to communicate that to leadership matters.