What I would tell my 20-year-old self

I will reach an arbitrary milestone this year i.e. I will turn 30. This is my attempt to share what I have learned in 30 years about life. I wish I had known these when I was in my early 20s. Well, better late than never. 

I have learnt to appreciate how lucky and fortunate I am. There are thousands (if not millions) of other people who are equal or better than I am in abilities but did not get the opportunities that good luck bestowed upon me.

I have come to realise that winning or losing/becoming successful or unsuccessful is not in my hands. Lingering on the last successful project or getting obsessed with the next one is fruitless. It has taken me 30 years to learn how important it is to remain poised and put things into right context. No win is eternal or no loss is permanent. Sooner or later, life will throw series of bad dices. I have learnt to treat both impostors (win and loss) in the same way. Life has taught me to work hard and always give my 100%.

It is human nature to look for 'reasons' and 'patterns'. I used to be blinded by success stories. I looked for reasons or causes behind those success stories. Self help books and numerous other business books (real life case studies) are written on things that are extra-ordinarily successful like Southwest Airlines. Interestingly not all of them say the same thing. Ironically, sometimes the advice can be quite opposite. For example, the investing strategies of two of the greatest investors of all times - Warren Buffet, who practices buy-and-hold investing strategy versus George Soros who is a trader. This is not to say that such books and research articles are useless, rather I have learnt to take their findings with a pinch of salt. I have learnt that there is no silver bullet. I have learnt that it is human nature to extract meaning from simple experiences even though sometimes none exists.

Rarely, if ever, would a successful person in their right mind admit that their success is due to luck. Don't get me wrong, I do not mean to imply that the person did not put in hard work. Without a doubt, hard work is necessary but not sufficient alone. Over the years I have come to appreciate the enormous but hidden role that luck and others (people) play in my life.

A lot of things in life are due to what economists call fruitatious circumstances. It is important to break free of the idea of good decisions/bad decisions or good strategies/bad strategies. It is more useful to categories them into what works and what doesn't. Truth is, when it comes to complex systems, beyond certain basics, nobody really knows anything. My lesson here is to remind myself to learn the basics and decide for myself. Or as Steve Jobs puts it, "You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever." 

It is important to keep things simple by avoiding whatever can be avoided. It means reducing complex non-sense jargons to simple terms.

Life has taught me that I cannot afford to take what happens in business or in my professional life too seriously and be defined by it. Fight Club's Tyler Durden says it best, "You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You are more than your jobs"

I strive to remain calm at all times and not lose my cool. As Krishna says, "One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind." I enjoy and take pleasure from material things in life but I try to not get emotionally attached to them. 

I no longer dwell too much on the past success or failure, rather I try to live in the present. I no longer take work related stress home and have learn't to switch off. I see no point in wasting my energy thinking about situations or problems when I can't do anything about them.

This one might be controversial, but I have learnt to avoid over planning and to trust my instincts/gut feelings. In other words, I put my trust into my subconscious mind. I do, however, realise that to have that gut feel, I have to have experienced that thing before. Gut feeling comes from past experiences of all the situations I have faced. It’s not something I just feel for a moment without any logic. It is an educated chance I take based on my past knowledge, and learn to really believe in that feeling.

It is very important to stay focused, have short-term goals, not look too much in the future, and try to do justice to every opportunity that comes my way. By not looking too much in the future I can avoid fixed notions and go with the flow (subconscious mind). At the very least explore the idea - the best goal is no goal

I have learnt to stop trying to compare yourself to others. I have  given up trying to compare one project to other. Just as I am unique individual, every project and every circumstance is different and unique. I have learnt to appreciate them for their uniqueness. Nowadays, I take my lessons and move on.

Hope my readers found something useful there. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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