I listen to a lot of podcasts interviewing people on how they got to become who they are and interviews with experts telling people how to become better versions of themselves. What is interesting is how much I hate them and love them at the same time. I too often find myself taking the advice in the short term while in the long term saying “yeah but so and so grew up with rich, well connected parents”. This is why I hate giving advice, because I don’t want to be that asshole and I have never really gotten any single piece of great advice on its own. I want to be in a place where I will be asked for advice, I am beginning to get there, and I certainly want to be able to satisfy so I need to get it together, what would my life/career advice be?
Advice piece number one: be skeptical of any single piece of advice catering to an individual’s behavior. Double this sentiment when it is given to a wide audience for no specific demographic and/or industry. When I hear silicon valley bros saying skip college and learn science, coding, growth hacking, and product management it makes me cringe. We get it, the internet gives us access to do this, but if I am a lower middle class 18 year old with no network or family connections living in Raleigh, NC then how do I parlay this information I have into job? Silicon Valley investors won’t take a meeting without an introduction and they don’t look outside of a select few cities, so what good would that information do for me starting a company?
Now, general advice on not giving up, taking in different perspectives, being a team player, it’s a grind — that is fine. That information will cater to your life across demographics and industries. Life is hard, it is not as happy and easy and as quick as it is made out to be on tv and although that may sound condescending or intuitive, it is easy to forget.
Advice piece number two: Master your first principles. For everyone, this means critical thinking, basic arithmetic, reading and writing, civics, and untaught but mastered in k-12: social awareness. You do not need to be great at any of these, I would say if you are above average in all of them (defined by a whole group ranking 49 or higher out of 100) you will have a rewarding life.
Career wise — in your chosen field you will need to master the first principles of that given field. This will often mean being at a higher percentile of certain basic first principles of the whole citizenry but possibly lower in some. If you are in logistics I would suggest being above average in corporate finance, data analysis, excel, written communication, the rest of the supply chain. If you are a writer you need to be above average in creativity, plotting, description, grammar usage, etc. You will likely not need to be as strong in arithmetic as someone in logistics and can do just fine being lower on the range. I would certainly recommend being higher than the average citizen though.
Advice piece number three: Don’t rush into anything. Whether that is a product, a marriage, a job, a house, a geographic location, or especially a family. This means a commitment of money, but more importantly time and sentiment both of which you may feel you have enough of at the moment the choice is made to said commitment but that can change. Your boss quits and you don’t get a promotion to his or her spot and on top that they brought in an incompetent outsider who is a total asshole. There is no where else in the company to transfer to. You already bought a house, got married, and had kid who is starting school soon. Your spouse is a local and would never dream of moving, its their worst and most annoying trait because the best thing about this town was the job. You thought you might eventually change their mind but you couldn’t once you had your son, all of his cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles are here. Now you are stuck with a spouse who gets on your nerves, a job you hate, a mortgage on a house you don’t want, and a kid you are regretting you had…at least at that moment. This may seem dark but…
Advice piece number four: You are promised nothing in life. You are not promised to do better than your parents, you have the opportunity to earn it.
Advice piece number five: Being smart and talented and putting yourself out there are table stakes. We do not live in a meritocracy. No one does. Much of life is dependent on where you live, your timing, your network of people and their influence, how you present yourself, how attractive you are, what mood the decision maker was in on the day of importance, etc.