Last week, two friends called for advice. One asked about a job interview and the other about what was holding back career goals. I told both of them that their anxiety was indicative of their age. I was not being condescending. The saying “youth is wasted on the young” holds true. If you mature as you age, wisdom and growth accompanies that. When you are young, you believe you know it all. The cautionary warnings and advice “old folks” tell you go ignored because you are young and invincible. My dad had a phrase he would say when I said something naively, “Keep on living. Life will teach you a thing or two, just keep living.”
I am 42 years old and my dad’s words proved true. After living a little on this earth, I look back at my younger self and shake my head. I wasted tears on people and invested my heart where I received heartbreak and pain in exchange. Besides being a fool in love in my 20s, I had a very idealistic, self-righteous view of the world. When you start living in this world and expose yourself to different people and experiences, you realize how little you know and how much you have to learn. Growing older made me value the wisdom of my elders. My granny would say, “I earned every gray hair.” As a child, I would stay at Granny’s house and listen to her stories. As a teenager, I had less time for stories because I was becoming an adult. I approached my 30s with excitement because I began to let go of what I thought I had to accomplish and what my life should be at 30. Life gets better with age if we allow ourselves to listen to wisdom and knowledge of those that have walked this path before us.
In giving my friends the benefit of my good, bad, and ugly experiences, one asked me what would I tell my younger self generally and business and career-wise? Below is a synopsis of what I said. I hope you find a few pearls to help you.
TO MY 30 YEAR OLD SELF
Be patient. It is not all that serious. Pick your battles. Everything is not worth the argument. Enjoy the little successes and moments. Life is short. Do not waste energy on people who do not deserve it. But do not be so quick to write people off – mercy and forgiveness are powerful. Do not be afraid of being vulnerable.
I never thought of myself as a business person because law school does not teach lawyers to be businessmen, even though running a law practice is a business. I assumed writing would help me be a philanthropist, but I did not know how that would happen. Right now, I am concerned about being business savvy and understanding my brands (Ronda-isms, Matrix Navigation, and Auntie Rondas). I reject a lot of “offers” because my associations and affiliations are a representation of me. One core value for me is being true to myself. I am learning what it means to be a businesswoman and entrepreneur and what works for me.
Have a plan. Have a backup plan. Know when to abandon the plan. Be flexible. Take risks. Do not reinvent the wheel. Do not be afraid to ask for advice. One of my friends did not like the work culture and environment during her interview, yet she was worried about not getting the job. Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions. If you accept the offer, this will be your work “family” for 40-60 hours a week. If they gave a bad vibe during the interview, it is not going to get better. Do not be afraid to reject an offer. If it is not a good fit, walk away.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Old folks say patience is a virtue. I was impatient in my 20s into my early 30s. This generation wants everything quick and fast or they lose interest. Nothing happens like that. In fundraising, studies revealed that although social media helps garner attention online, in order to convert likes to donors and mission followers requires the tried and true old fashion method – sweat equity building relationships. I used the analogy of a farmer in previous blog posts. You till the soil removing things that impede growth. Then you plant the seed. You may or may not have a harvest in fall due to drought or mistakes in planting. Give things enough time to develop. Do not neglect planting season.
A friend who is a life coach told me that there are three steps to dreams/visions. A devotion I read broke it down as follows: (1) birth of dream; (2) death of dream; and (3) resurrection of the dream. The birth of the dream is me focused. The death of the dream is when it seems like all is lost despite your efforts. The resurrected dream has a vision and purpose beyond you. Give things time. Not everyone you need to work with are seasoned or at a stage where they can develop and grow with you. You must help develop them and have the wisdom to recognize who is not growing and needs to be pruned from the team. Not every offer of assistance is worth it.
It takes nine months for a baby to be born. The birth does not mean the parents are ready or know what they are doing. The joke is that parents need to have at least two kids because the first time around they are so worked up about doing it right. By the time the second child comes around, the neurosis settles down. With the firstborn, parents did not talk above a whisper and jumped at every whimper. With the second child, you know it is okay to let them cry, a dropped pacifier is not the end of the world, and a stained onesie does not come off immediately. What happens between the birth of the first child and the second is a season of learning, growth, and maturing as a parent with the benefit of experience, disappointments, and smiles along the way. The other friend that asked about career advice was also lamenting turning 30. I suggested reading Six Reasons Why Parenting a Toddler at 50 is Much Easier Than 30. I recommended it because they are the same reasons why life gets better as we age.
In the immortal words of Maya Angelou, “The minute a person feels that he/she has done it, you end the process. You stop learning.”
My life’s motto is: “Get wisdom, get understanding and forget it not…Wisdom is the principal thing, but with all your getting, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4. As my dad said, “Do not be an educated fool, forgetting common sense.” It is my sincere desire that as I grow in wisdom and knowledge that I never lose my ability to understand the struggles and heart of the common man. Shame on me if I look down on those who are walking where I once stood.