I’ve started using upstart.com, a wonderful site that let’s you back young people in exchange for a small percentage of their future earnings. It’s structured to be incredibly fair to the upstarts and is a wonderful marketplace for talent and mentors to find each other. Part of me wonders if all of us, no matter how senior, should be considered both Talent and Upstarts! Congratulations to Dave Girouard and team on a wonderful concept and platform. Here’s my profile.
As a part of each backer profile, @TeamUpstart asks for a Letter to Yourself at 20. As I’ve been mentoring talent and thinking about my own career both past and future, I’ve started taking notes to myself on what I frequently say. When I e-mailed this over to a friend, he wrote back and said - you should really publish it … so, here goes:
Dear Younger Self,
A few things that I’ve learned in the last sixteen years:
(1) The future is uncertain - The only knowable thing is that the future is unknowable. Embrace that. Enjoy it. It’s an opportunity.
(2) You have more time than you think you have - People will try to rush you into decisions in work and love (and real estate, but that’s another story). They are generally good intentioned and don’t mean to rush you, but they’ll do it anyway. Take your time, think, seek out counsel and take a deep breath before making big decisions. Big decisions are important.
(3) Wait for your pitch - You are smart and you’ve worked hard and knowing you, you’ll always work hard. It’s not enough. The best baseball players not only have the best swing, but they also have the best eye. Think of your life as a 3-1 count. Narrow your zone. Look at a lot of pitches and only swing at the one in your zone. Give yourself a chance to win.
(4) Work for small places that are growing fast - Small, fast-growing opportunities give you the chance to do all sorts of things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. Seek those out. Pick something (or start something yourself) because not only will it be fun, but you’ll have to do things out of your comfort zone because no one else will be around do do them.
(5) Trust yourself (and your psychiatrist) above all else - Everyone in your life (including your parents, your mentors and your friends) will give you advice based on their own experience. Sometimes it will be conscious, sometimes it will be subconscious, but it will always be colored on how they view themselves, the world and you. It is incredibly helpful and warm and loving, but know that it is biased. You know either consciously or subconsciously what is best for you. Don’t be afraid of that. Go do it. On the psychiatrist, the point is to seek out neutral parties who you pay to give you advice on only you and will really help you in their area of expertise. Psychiatrists, career counselors, physical trainers, golf pros - you pay them and they listen to you and help you. You’ll need the help. Use it!
With much love,
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