Michael is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues.
I need to premise this entire post with something, I already wrote it about an hour ago and then accidentally deleted it. So maybe the whole “better the second time around” thing will be true? I sure hope so!
It seems like recently, more so than ever before, everyone seems to be having these conversations about life and their future. Where they are going to go in life and who they will become one day. Well the truth is, being a teenager, you can’t really know what you will do or where you’ll end up. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to answer the questions of where you want to go and who you want to become. At this point you can’t have everything figured out and honestly, you shouldn’t. There’s no fun in that. There are a couple of things though that make being a teenager the best time to try and answer these questions by experimenting with different ideas. First of all, there will never be another time in your life when you aren’t dependent upon yourself for your own support. So whether you have to work anyways or not isn’t even that big of a deal, because you aren’t providing for your whole family. This gives you the freedom to try out your personal goals on a small scale. Experience you gain through doing these things can only be positive, whether the experience itself is negative or positive doesn’t matter, because the end result is still the same, you’re learning about the things you like and don’t like.
1. Focus on what you’re amazing at, but really.
I think people often fail to do this properly. People under estimate their talents, and over estimate their desire. For example, so many people think about doing something only because it’s what they know. Maybe someone in their family does that job, or they have a friend who’s in the field. They think traditional. If there’s anything I want to convey in this article it’s to stop thinking traditionally, and start thinking passionately. You can attain success doing nearly anything, but you can only attain greatness if you’re 100% invested into what you’re doing. That means you have to more than just like it, you have to be absolutely in love with what you want to. That’s hard. And there will always be points where you question your level of commitment. The important thing to note here is how you do this of course. Think of that thing that people say you’re really good at. It doesn’t have to be a subject in school, but it could be. Maybe it’s listening, or maybe it’s playing the piano. What it is doesn’t matter, but for a large number of people it won’t be a subject, and that’s where the magic is. The way we educate and parent kids today attempts to stick them in a mold. It attempts to find a profession and adapt them to it, rather than adapt a profession to their unique talents and abilities. I promise you, if you don’t fall victim to this strategy you’ll be happier.
You have to think without a template. If you want to go into a profession where you can easily define the path to it, awesome, you’re way luckier than so many other people who struggle to decide what they want to do. They often do because the available opportunities don’t present themselves as clearly or at all as many traditional roles do. If you know you’re not traditional, and you know that you won’t be able to give 100% to something unless it is exactly what you see yourself doing, then don’t settle. Keep reading. Think about people like Kevin Rose (he is the co-founder of Revision3, Pownce, WeFollow and the social-bookmarking website Digg), or Sir Ken Robinson (he is an internationally recognized leader in the development of innovation and human resources), or even Jonathan Ive (the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple, you know the guy from the iPhone commercials!). But they all share one thing in common, they’re atypical because they don’t feel like what they’re doing is working. They didn’t opt for a clear path, after all, how do you decide you want to one day be known for the best human resource management opinion on the planet? You have to follow the experience granted opportunities that help you get there, but you don’t do that by choosing something you are only OK with doing, you get there by choosing something that leaves you completely driven to find greatness. Now I dont mean you have to go work for some big company, in fact most big company jobs are boring as could be. But if you know that music is your thing, and simply keeping it on the side as a hobby will only give you so much happiness, then you need to make the decisions that will help turn music into your very being.
2. Learn to network really darn well.
I don’t care what it is that you’re doing, whether it’s becoming an insanely great musician or being the doctor that’s head of an oncology research center. The truth is that no one is able to achieve greatness without being able to network. Here’s the cold hard facts; There will always be someone smarter, more intelligent, and who’s been given better opportunities than you. Disregard that. You have a secret weapon. You’re ability to meet people and learn to become a people person will prove more valuable to you than anything else you’ll ever learn in school. Person to person interaction is the fundamental unit of all human existence. Learn to appreciate its complexity and you will already be way ahead of the game. When I say networking I don’t mean swapping business cards with someone or adding them on Facebook and Twitter. I mean learning to listen. You can learn something from everyone, whether it’s something positive, or something they do that you should avoid in your own life. The real heart of success is understanding that all of the people who have been able to defy the odds haven’t really defied the odds at all. They’ve just been people persons. You won’t get very far at all without the support of others. Here are some things you need to remember:
- Learn to respect everyone’s passions no matter how strange they might be
- Desire to gain respect by showing it to others
- Never assume you’re the smartest person, something someone else knows can and will always apply to your life in some way, and you’ll be able to use that to help you later on
- Write everything down or type it out, everything you hear, be a sponge
- Never over promote yourself, I’m guilty of this at times, let your accomplishments and actions speak for themselves, they will
See, networking isn’t about maximizing the number of connections you have, it’s about building relationships. The world is full of people who shortchange others, and the people who do that miss out on talent and intelligence. The people who get shortchanged have two decisions; they can give up or give rise with up new determination.
3. If the bridges aren’t there build them.
You may desire to do something that isn’t supported. Maybe it’s your culture, or even your family who seems to clash with your dreams. Only you know who’s right. It’s either you or them, and if you make the wrong decision you could be losing out on something potentially bigger than either. You could be losing out on yourself. The worst kind of defeat. So how do you know? Trust me, you’ll know. If you have to ask yourself whether or not what you’re doing is really taking you in the direction you should be going, and the feeling persists over time, then chances are, your not. You need to change direction. If there’s not a path to the next milestone, you need to make a bridge to get yourself there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently its that you have a lot more power than you think to make things happen. You just have to decide how badly you want whatever it is. If you want it bad enough, you’ll figure out how to get it. Sometimes coming up with these strategies are hard, and for those tough times I recommend falling back on people who you know support you. The reality is that you wont be able to make everyone happy, and someone is always going to think you’re making a regrettable mistake. If its not someone in particular, it’ll be you, and I would argue that that’s way worse.
4. Consider the alternative.
Major life decisions are rarely black and white, more often they’re in the grey area. This creates problems because when you find yourself unable to make a decision that takes you down one of two or even many paths, you lose the ability to feel the desired level of confidence in yourself. What you need to do is create criteria upon which you can evaluate potential decisions. In other words you need to establish a universalized approach to decision making. If you have three possible decisions you are considering, and after thinking about them all extensively you still continue to come up with pros and cons for all of them that keep seeming to balance out in your mind, you need to change the rules. One of the best ways to do this is to think down the road, say 6 months to a year depending on the decision that it is you’re making. At this point if the potential outcome of all scenarios still do not seem to be more apparent in terms of their positivity you can look at their negativity. Ultimately at some point you need to make a decision, and most likely you’ll have an inner feeling of which decision is right for you at the time. Making a mistake at some point is inevitable, and in fact can be a very good thing, it helps you refine your decision making for future things. So if you realize that you’ve been studying biology for two years and after those two years all of a sudden you simply don’t have the desire you thought you once had, all is not lost, what ever interests and inclinations led you to biology in the first place, will most certainly lead you to choosing something better.
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