You’re thirty. If not, maybe you wish you were—or could go back. When many hit this stage of their lives or careers, they feel settled in or behind or confused. Of course, there are as many feelings as there are people in the world, but it is a time when many hit a crossroads. They’ve been working for a while, but still have a long way to go. How should I approach it? Should I continue down this path? Is there something more?
Only you can answer those questions, but I would love to share some insight related to the complicated host of issues you have faced or will face. I hope you find these perspectives helpful as you take your next step.
1. Comparison kills. Don’t compare your career to anyone else’s. Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes footage to someone else’s public highlight reel. Most importantly, don’t compare your career or life to what you thought it should be. It only matters what you’re doing at any given moment. Embrace that.
2. When seeking advice, never ask someone what you should do. People—no matter who they are—are poor at predicting their own future and even worse at predicting yours. If you want their help to matter, ask about their past and present, but never your future. Keep that in your own hands.
3. Rather than choose all or nothing, try a little something first. It seems that many want it all immediately. Perhaps you want the top rung of the corporate ladder, or to make a career shift, or a life shift. Instead of throwing all caution to the wind, take one step. Look around. Then another. Look again. By the third step, you’ll know whether to turn around or start running forward.
4. One of the best investments you can make in yourself and your career is to take genuine interest in other people. The moment you realize there is enough to go around for everyone is the moment you’ll truly start enjoying yourself. Help your colleagues and teammates. Learn from them as well. Companies that operate according to the abundance theory thrive—and so do their people. Companies that operate according to the scarcity theory fail—and so do their people.
5. What you perceive and reality is rarely congruent. Your mind is a very talented forger. It never allows you to detect the inauthenticity of the details it just provided you. Whenever you face any situation, assume you don’t have all the details. Keep searching until you’re confident you have most—you’ll simply never have them all. Most errors in decision-making are made because of a lack of complete and correct information, not because of poor reasoning. One simply feeds the other.
6. The single greatest reason you’ll fail at your career is because you don’t love it. I wrote an entire book on how to get everything you want in your life and have fun doing it. The single greatest reason people don’t achieve their goals, is because they set them for things they don’t truly love. The single greatest reason people fail in their careers is because they don’t care, not because they’re not capable.
7. It’s never too late to pursue the life you want. While these points bend toward your career, this goes for anything in your life. Life is too short to continue doing something you don’t love. Most reading this probably chose their careers when they were 22 years old. You were young! There is no law that states you have to keep plowing forward until you collect your Social Security checks. While there might be a select few who are fortunate enough to love what they do for their entire careers, most do not. I’m not sure about you, but I certainly don’t want a twenty-two-year-old to pick my career for me—not even a twenty-two-year-old version of me.
8. People want to know why…so tell them. If you ask someone for something, you actually increase your odds of receiving a “yes” by more than 50% simply by adding the word “because” somewhere in the request. It makes no difference what the “because” is. It’s sad, but true. People simply want to know why you want or need something. As soon as they do, they often give it to you. Share and be genuine.
9. Mindless compliance is not always something you want. There are actually six weapons of automatic influence you can use to gain mindless compliance. Before you attempt to use any of them, ask yourself whether you truly want mindless compliance. Someone’s delayed thought or reaction will likely cause you unanticipated trouble at the absolute worst time.
10. Being happy is better than being on the fast track. The ones that are happiest over the long run are the ones that are happiest during each moment along the way. You can only “be” in one place—literally and figuratively—at any moment in time. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Realize happiness comes from within. Most importantly, the longer it takes you to arrive at your destination, the happier you’ll likely be. Love the journey. It actually is the destination.
11. Nothing in this world that is worthwhile is a safe bet. There is no such thing as a safe job. There might be companies that are sturdy, but any individual’s job is not. The expression, “The greater the risk, the greater the reward,” is also not entirely true. Many situations that are perceived as risky are not actually as risky as they appear. Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing. Even so, anything that is worth achieving will likely require more sweat than risk.
12. Never let the reality of “what is” get in the way of what is possible. You can look at the way things are or you can make them the way you want them to be. Choose.
13. Nothing is more dangerous than a thought when it’s the only one you have. No matter what you’re thinking, rethink it if it’s your only idea, opinion, option, or whatever. Just make sure you don’t hold too tightly to way you think things ought to be. Understanding the big picture will keep you in the game longer.
14. Don’t sleepwalk through life. It dawned on me one day when I was visiting my Grandmother in the cemetery. I was surrounded by people who loved many, but I also felt that I was looking at miles worth of unpainted canvases, unwritten books, un-started businesses, and worst of all—unfulfilled dreams. Think of these remarks the next time you utter the word “someday.”
15. Knowing what’s important to you is the most important thing in life. Never let that important thing be at the mercy of something that’s not. Everything you do in life is a choice. The most important choice is determining what’s most important and then making everything else second, third, and so on…
16. Don’t let past failures or rejections take up permanent residence in your head. Evict them to the curb. You can have a life filled with mistakes or one with empty dreams. The choice is yours.
17. Take control of your own career. While others can hold your work and happiness hostage temporarily, only you can do it permanently. You can outsource many things in your life, but your career is not one of them. Own it.
18. The smartest people you’ll ever meet are not the ones that have the greatest capacity to think, but the ones who know the right things to think about. What you think about you bring about. Choose the right things to think about and life will be full and rich.
19. You will never be more on your game than when what you think, say, and do are all the same. There is absolutely no resistance internally or externally whenever your thoughts, words, and actions are in harmony. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to your word. Follow through on both.
20. Listen to yourself. Studies have been done that show people figure things out before they know they’ve actually figured them out (based on physical responses and so forth). Imagine what your life would be like if you simply listened to yourself as early as possible.
21. What you have is what’s important. I once heard you can do anything with endless time and money. Perhaps that’s true, but I tend to be less impressed with what people can do with infinite resources. Sooner or later you’ll realize it’s not about what you’re missing, but what you do with what you have that becomes awe-inspiring.
22. Don’t fear fear. Fear is a wonderful emotion that in most cases immediately precedes a personal growth opportunity. Embrace it. Your other option is to let it turn into panic, which basically means you’re done.
23. Good ideas often have lonely childhoods. Really good ones also have lonely young adulthoods. The more original your idea, the less good advice others can give you. If you’re ever at a loss for those who believe in your idea, you’re probably on to something.
24. Life gets a lot easier when you learn to accept all the apologies you never received. Let it go already. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes they’re made to you. Hello. Welcome to the “Town of No One Cares.” Population 7 Billion.
25. The only way to make a difference is to be different. I’m not sure I can add anything more about this one.
26. There are two things you should never do. Don’t let success go to your head and don’t let failure go to your heart. If you can’t manage both, just make sure not to do the latter.
27. Open your mind before your open your mouth. You’ve been out in the real world for a bit. You’re learning some fascinating stuff. Hopefully you’ve realized by now that the longer you live, the more aware you’ll become of how little you truly understand.
28. One of your greatest fears should be succeeding at all the wrong things.The only thing worse than failing in general is failing at something you don’t love. The only thing worse than failing at something you do love is succeeding at something you don’t.
29. Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. If you’re a really good climber, you’ll bring many others with you up the mountain. The hike is much more enjoyable when it’s done as a group. It’s usually safe that way too.
30. Your background will never be as important as your current desire. One is history and the other makes history. Don’t ever forget that.