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Sometimes, you learn the most precious lessons when chatting with friends. Last Saturday I met with my classmate from high school who recently returned from Singapore. We got to talk to each other about what we’ve been doing the past few years, future plans, the stuff we learned in life, and many more. I normally don’t talk about those things with friends, but there are some exceptions – those who offer wisdom and deep conversation. With them, a few hours can bring as much value as a great book.
7 Life Lessons learned on a Weekend chat
We will always face rejection. Learn to deal with it.
One of the things we’ve talked about was how often rejection happens. She’s done a lot of marketing for events and she’s also a professional performer, so naturally she’s had to face a lot of rejections (if you’re in sales or business, you’d know what that’s like – it’s an unavoidable part of life). No matter how good you are or how well you do, people won’t always like you and you won’t always find the right fit. Aside from that, we all have different perspectives and values so the things we do and the decisions we make won’t always make sense for others. Whenever we decide to do or try something, people won’t always agree with us and criticize it regardless of our results.
The best we can do then is to keep learning, keep improving, and keep going.
There are no wrong decisions
My friend told me that she needed to make a big decision soon: She would either take a “key position” job offer at a big startup in Singapore, or she’d stay on break for a while before studying in London. She’s willing to try the job since it seems fine, but she doesn’t really want a “key position” (read: suffocating responsibilities) and the “stay long term” part of it. She’s only willing to assist if there’s someone else in that position, and she’s considering rejecting the offer if she can’t get the terms she wants.
You might face big decisions like that yourself. Whenever you do, remember this: There are no wrong decisions.
Stop worrying about failure or missed opportunities. Whatever happens, life will go on as normal. Don’t be afraid of skipping “great opportunities” – you’ll find a LOT more of them soon enough, and you can always create your OWN opportunities. They’ll be different, but they’ll be just as great or BETTER.
Let your passions lead you
One thing about my friend is that she’s multitalented: she did ice skating (she was part of the national team for 7 years), singing (she’s an international performer), cheerleading, jazz, ballroom, gymnastics, acting, piano, guitar, poetry, and many others. As she told me, whenever she sees something that she likes to do, she’d pursue it with all heart and soul. That’s how she becomes quite skilled at it.
As she told me, she’d often reach the point of becoming a professional at it, but as she reaches that point she’d move on to the next thing she fancies. Somehow, I understood how that feels. Although you like doing something, you wouldn’t want to make it your whole life.
On a side note, I know that “I wanna try this thing” feeling myself: I remember watching a cooking anime as a kid so I tried cooking, I watched a fishing anime too and so I bought the gear and tried it (never caught anything though), I saw Neji from Naruto and Ma Gangryong from Veritas so I became interested in martial arts (I’m terrible at it), I saw this clip of Initial D and that’s why I learned how to drive, I watched a clip of a very well animated sword fight so I tried Kali/Arnis, and I watched another cooking show and I’m currently learning how to cook (see a pattern guys?).
In my opinion, it’s important to keep trying new things until you find something you DO want to do for the rest of your life. In “The Millionaire Mind”, Thomas J. Stanley said “almost all millionaires will tell you that the seed of their wealth is their vocation.” That’s a lesson I’ve learned in other classic self-improvement books as well. Find your passion and try to make money from it. Unlike “work” or a job you don’t like, you’ll practice it during your free time, you’ll be able to do it longer, and you’ll keep practicing and improving until you become one of the best at it (and you’ll command higher pay as a result).
Find your passion and build your life around it. That’s one way to achieve success. All you have to do now is keep searching, and just remember that you’ll know it when you find it.
Follow your gut
One major lesson I’ve learned from multiple leadership and management books is that you should always “follow your gut.” Yes, this is something even world famous CEOs like Jack Welch (it’s in chapter 5 of his book, “Winning”) advocate. If you want to get scientific about it, Daniel Goleman (author of “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence”) said that it’s because your subconscious mind can make an absurd number of calculations that will generally lead you to the best possible result.
When my friend said she wanted to study in London even though there are similarly talented instructors here in the Philippines simply because there’s “something there” that’s “calling her,” I support it. I personally don’t know what it is (and she likely doesn’t either, or she forgot to tell me), but if her intuition said it’s the best, then I say go for it.
That goes for you too. If your gut/intuition tells you to do something or to avoid something, listen to it.
*Note: This “sixth sense” will keep you out of danger too. If you want to learn more about that, try reading “Left of Bang” by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley.
It’s not all about results
“What’s the end point of it all? Why do you keep practicing if you don’t plan on doing it professionally for the rest of your life?” My friend told me she gets asked that a lot, and she doesn’t like it. I say setting long-term goals is a great thing, however there are lots of times when you do something just because you want to.
For example, I spend a lot on quality ingredients and on equipment for things I want to try cooking, I exercise every morning (similar to yoga), and I practice digital art sometimes. Is it because I want to become a professional chef, a health instructor, or be a graphic artist? No. I do it just because I want to and because I think it’s fun.
While some people say that you shouldn’t waste time on “useless” activities (and spend time on things that make money instead), you should always make time for the things you love doing. Former president Dwight D. Eisenhower spent time painting even during his busiest days to relieve stress and clarify his thoughts.
It’s great to spend time on things that create value or make money (e.g. you main career, saving and investing, self-improvement, etc.), but that doesn’t mean that you should spend ALL your time on them. As long as you don’t harm anyone, it’s fine to spend time on things you enjoy. Who knows… you might just find your vocation there!
Whatever you think, you’re right.
I always thought personal finance was easy. It’s just earning money, saving a part of your income, and investing it. When my friend told me that the word “finance” is scary for her and that a lot of people think the same, I was surprised. Then again, I can understand how it feels. If there’s something you don’t know or practice, it can be scary. For example, I’m somewhat scared of performing on stage since I’ll likely be an embarrassment, but for professional performers like my friend, it’ll be easy.
This is a lesson I remember from Robert Kiyosaki (“Rich Dad, Poor Dad”): Instead of thinking you “can’t”, learn to ask “HOW.” If there’s something we “can’t” do or there’s something we’re scared to do, we can always LEARN it.
*Note: She just gave me an article idea: “Personal finance for absolute beginners.” I’ll likely write it sometime soon.
On inconsistencies and contradictions: Just do what you think is right
I was somewhat shocked when my friend told me that she “gave up” on self-help books. I remember it was because a lot of advice are contradictory and that several of them didn’t seem very good. I remember that she told me about how one book advised that “if you have a problem with your significant other, you should pretend that everything is normal” (i.e. be passive aggressive about it). That advice didn’t sit well with me either, especially after reading and learning from leadership books that emphasize honesty, integrity, and open feedback.
I’ve read a lot of self-help and self-improvement books and there’s a LOT of contradicting advice out there. Some say you should always say what you think is right, others say you should keep quiet and pretend to think like others (“be mad with the crowd than wise alone” said Baltasar Gracian). Some say you should share your goals with friends, while others say you should keep them a secret. Some say you should promote yourself and your abilities, while others say you should hide what you’re truly capable of.
I suppose I just learned to be comfortable with differing ideas and inconsistencies (e.g. different “best stock investing techniques”). From what I’ve learned, you just have to use what you think is right. For example, you should be open and honest with your beliefs, but when you’re with people with different yet equally valid opinions, you have to resist the urge to argue in order to “prove them wrong”. You can share your goals with people who are supportive, but you don’t need to tell your life plans to EVERYONE. You should promote your skills, business, and services to those who might need you and people who can help you, but you don’t need to reveal EVERYTHING about yourself.
You can learn what others did to succeed, but you have to remember that what they did might not work for you. Like what Bruce Lee always taught, you have to learn what you can and only keep what’s useful.
There’s a saying: “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.” Spend time with people who are better than you are, and you’ll be as great as them or better. I’ve learned several things from my friend, and it’s likely that we can all learn new things from one another.