A good friend’s kid who just turned 20 asked for career advice. Following are some thoughts that I wrote down for him. I have not always followed these, but over time, I have come to believe in these principles. I am sharing so you all can improve it with your experiences.
Don’t measure success in monetary terms. You need a career that gives you a reasonable quality of life but measuring success in terms of material accomplishments will surely lead you down the road of high dissatisfaction.
Give your 100% to whatever you take on. It is rare for people to find their passion early in life. However, if you develop a habit of giving your 100% to everything, you will become passionate about whatever career you choose.
Be immensely grateful for the opportunity. You will have hard days at work, you will find several reasons to complain but that helps no one, least of all you. Find things to be grateful for each day and your disposition will become contagious.
Continuously learn. Learning compounds. People don’t build learning habits as part of their daily work routine. It is common to ask people “what are you good at” and “what are you bad at”.
These are fine questions. However a better question to ask yourself is “what are you getting better at?”. If the answer is nothing, then you are not actively learning.
Always be creating. If you are a writer, write everyday. If you are a musician, create music everyday. If you are coder, code everyday. Quality of work is highly correlated with quantity of work.
Find a tribe of exemplars who you can learn from. Most people are exceptional in some way. Some are great writers, some have excellent articulation, some always manage to smile, some find time everyday for exercising. Excel at spotting and learning from excellence.
Focus on what you can give and not what you get. Reframe opportunities to see how it can benefit all, not just yourself. Most successful people have built things that they really like and want everyone to have the same.
Don’t speak ill of anyone. Firstly, nothing good comes of negative talk and if you follow the above steps, you will not have time for this.
Focus on the process, and the results may follow. Results often have many factors that influence it, most importantly luck. It is useful to learn from results, to calibrate the process but never obsess over results.
Make a list of things that should never be compromised. A common mistake is to trade health for wealth in the first half of your life and then trade wealth for health in the second half. Any career that requires you to sacrifice health, time for loved ones and time for yourself is not worth it.
Ultimately, it is not about building a career but it is about building habits. Right habits lead to an exceptional career.
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