Looking back at the years since I left the University, I ask myself if I have achieved much. The answer is YES. Have I achieved the goal I set out for myself at my present age? The answer is NO. Am I getting there? Maybe. I am still at the bottom of the ladder looking up and definitely climbing fast.
But I know for certain that there are a few things I wish I knew years ago. Perhaps, I would have achieved more than I have.
So, here are my 7 things I wish I knew before I turned 25:
1. People are Willing to Help: People are more willing to help than you think; all you need to do is ask. This is very true, but fear of being turned down or lack of confidence in yourself would stop you from asking most times. I recently embarked on a project and while on it, I realised I needed help from people who are more experienced than I am. So I wrote a short list of the people I thought would help me achieve my goals. That was on paper. When it came to asking I developed cold feet.
“Why would they want to help? I don’t have anything to give in return. Why should they trust that I would not bug them to death?” All these questions ran through my mind before I asked myself a critical question: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
As long as I don’t end up dead, arrested or broke, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I finally sent the e-mails and made the calls. The result? All of them agreed to help out and they were quite happy to. What did I do to get them to agree? Not much. I managed to convince them by showing a proof of my work and I promised not to be a pest.
2. You Will be Disappointed by People and your Own Expectation of yourself: It’s only a phase. I have been disappointed many times by my expectation of myself and by people who are close to me. During those periods, I would withdraw and refuse to talk to anyone. But it took time and a healthy dose of self-confidence to assure myself that things don’t always have to go the way I planned. If they did, life would be perfect and I would get bored quickly, wouldn’t you? Disappointments are a part of life that should be faced with courage. Did you fail at entrepreneurship? Give it time and start again. Did you receive a mail stating that you are not qualified for that job? Give it time and start applying again. It does not matter that your friends laugh at you behind your back; it doesn’t matter that your parents look at you with pity. Those too will pass away. The greatest disappointment is not failure; it’s not getting back up when you fail.
3.The First Salary You Negotiate Will Set the Pace For Subsequent Ones: When you are out of the University and done with your NYSC(in Nigeria), the world appears to be practically at your feet, but hold on…not yet. While your first job may not determine what career you will pursue subsequently, your salary may determine the subsequent salaries you will receive. Except you are extremely lucky. Even your talent may not save you. It is important that when negotiating your salary, you do not come across as naïve and timid. Try as much as possible to volunteer or intern in an outfit you would like to work in while you have the time so that you appear at an interview with the knowledge and experience that will carry you through to the next level. Remember I said: knowledge and experience.
4. If You are a Straight-A Student, People will Try to Decide the Direction of Your Life: Remember that everybody is entitled to their own opinions, you don’t have to follow their advice. This is so common in most Nigerian homes. If you ace your papers, everyone will decide you need to become a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, etc. These are good professions to practise, but not necessarily the profession for you. If you have something else that stirs your passion, your family will become your biggest enemy for a while. But in the end, your passion will always fall through and when it does, you want to start early to run your race. The earlier, the better.
5. You are the Only One Who Can See Your Vision: Don’t blame others for not understanding. You can’t count on everyone to support your dreams. Forget it. Some may try to dissuade you with the best intentions; others may do so just to watch you fail. Only few will really be supportive enough to push you further to achieve your goals. And when you find those few, stick to them like glue.
6. Don’t Bother Competing with Anybody: It’s exhausting. Only compete with yourself. She just got a job that pays her millions monthly and she was your secondary school class mate. He just bought a new car and both of you graduated from the same set in the University. So what? Before you give yourself a heart attack for no good reason, you need to slow down and re-evaluate. The only person you should be competing with is yourself 1 year ago, 2 years ago, and so on. How much have you achieved compared with what you did a year ago? If there is no difference, I officially give you the permission to worry.
7. There’s No Rush in Life: Take your risks at the right time and finally, at every stage in life, you will face the opportunity to take risks. The older you become, the more responsibilities you will have and the greater your risks. In other words, take your risks at the right time and don’t keep postponing them. It’s always best to make your mistakes early so you can rectify them.
At the end of the day, decide where you want to pitch your tent and pitch the biggest tent you can find.