Gert Scholtz & Dean Owen Presents - 20/20 Hindsight
Twenty things I wish I knew when I was Twenty
This is a historic moment in International relationships. Two bees collaborating across a whopping stretch of South Asia and the vast expanse that is the Indian Ocean – ultimately publishing on beBee in Spain – a roundtrip of more than 20,000 km.
While neither of us have reached an “advanced age”, we both have seen and experienced some ups, and many downs. Were we 20 again, here are the 20 things we would tell our younger selves. Some are from Gert, some from Dean – you decide which.
1. Scream! – If you want something - a job, a promotion, brand visibility, investors, recognition, help, a girlfriend - scream as loud as you can and make sure they hear you. I see too many job seekers waiting for a job to fall in their lap. Well who is going to offer you a job if they don’t know you are looking? Want that girl? Well tell her! I just sent off an email to a startup accelerator who had been ignoring my emails for weeks.
We scream but nobody hears. I know recruitment is not sexy, but we are tech. We have built a graduate supermarket and we just need help filling the shelves. If you could point us in the right direction, any direction, sushi on me next time you are in town.” Ten minutes later, I got an email inviting us in for a pitch. If they don’t respond, bang on their door!
2. The Internet and communication technology is the way to go. At 20, the fax-machine was an incredibly futuristic device and rumblings of the Internet and cellular technology just started. Little did we know this would be the economic sphere where most new wealth would be created in the next twenty years. It still is.
3. If you are better at your job than your boss then open a channel of communication with his/her boss. Do not circumvent your boss. Instead, draft your bloody good email to them and cc their boss. Get the recognition you deserve, from the top.
4. Don’t take work problems too seriously. Most problems you fret about beforehand never even arise and instead other crises happen, all which eventually get solved and blow over. Nothing is as permanent as you may think and all events at work, good and bad, up and down, are soon irrelevant.
5. If you are not indispensable you will end up redundant. Business conditions will turn, they always do. Make yourself invaluable. In a company merger, don’t be the “restructure”, be the “restructurer”.
6. Compound interest is a certain way of building wealth. It is never too early to start putting something away every month and then not spend it on the new car or overseas holiday; just forget about it. The interest on interest, and the cumulative effect of dividends capitalized and share price increases are exponential, and become enormous after another twenty years. Just ask Warren Buffett.
7. If you are not happy with your life, change it – sell everything, hop on a plane, and find a job, any job. And work your way up.
8. Be less goal driven. While setting goals and chasing after them is widely proclaimed as the way to go, it detracts from enjoying the moment and the unforeseen. Enjoy the ride life throws at you and take the unexpected not as a distraction, but as a potential spark of a new adventure and exploration.
9. Email not working for you? Pick up the damn phone! Or better still – go and see the person. Old-fashioned meetings are still the most effective way to get things done, and they are more pleasant than staring at a screen.
10. Study drama. Life is a stage and that means sometimes immersing yourself in the role or place you are. You know your authentic self and there is no need to try and be it. The call to be your authentic self seems like a paradox anyway. You will find yourself in many roles; acting the part often becomes being the part. Ronald Reagan a case in point.
11. Have a million dollar smile and use it! When you meet someone, smile. When you see the postman, smile. When you see your boss, smile. When you look in the mirror, smile.
12. Networking is important. Breaks in life, a new job, a new venture – all benefit from and more often originate from a good work and social network. Work the network and socialize the work.
13. Learn a unique skill and practice it – whether it brings you money or not. Ultimately work satisfaction is applying yourself to that which you like and which you are proficient in. Most skills have a market value and can be applied to earn money. It’s not always easy to stick to what you like when the market demand is for other skills, but in the end, doing what you love means you have succeeded.
14. Don’t study accounting, sociology, or law. You can always hire an accountant. Instead learn Chinese and Hindi. That will make you unique and grant you access to over 2 billion people.
15. If a life as a career professional does not appeal to you, join a startup. You will learn more in one year in a startup than you will in 5 years as an accountant.
16. Lead by example even if you are not the leader: be the first in the office in the morning and the last one out. Be the one to tackle the tough problems even if you don’t initially succeed. Don’t be like…whatever…
17. Put yourself in their shoes – Whomever you interact with, take a moment to understand their perspective, their motives. A good chess player will always be anticipating their opponent’s strategy.
18. Be open and transparent about your failures. Be accountable. Hold a meeting and tell your staff your failure. Then tell them why you failed, what you learnt, and how next time, you will do things differently.
19. Mathematics is beautiful. Concentrate in math class and stop playing with the pigtail of the girl in front of you – it is not a paintbrush.
20. Don’t choose the pretty girl, choose your best friend.
Gert Scholtz works at a merchant bank and researches behavioural economics as applied to business. He also lectures part-time at business schools and is a published author.
Dean Owen, is a two-decade veteran of the Global Capital Markets having served major roles at Credit Lyonnais, Credit Agricole Indosuez, and more recently as China Country Head of Newedge, the brokerage arm of Societe Generale. He recently quit banking to do something real and meaningful and has since founded Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.
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