What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’ve been asked this question so many times, and I absolutely despise it. Mainly because most of the adults who ask it are disappointed if your answer isn’t something like “I want to be a doctor”, or a lawyer, or an accountant, or an engineer, or a computer scientist, etc. And it’s far worse if it’s your Indian relatives constantly bugging you about why you aren’t in medical school yet.
The reality here is that some people know what they want to do from a very early age, and they follow through with it, like my mom who has wanted to be an accountant since she was 5 and has been in accounting for 27 years. But most people don’t. Even if they say they want to do something, they’ll change their mind a million times after that. The average college student changes their major 3 times.
So it’s completely all right if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. And there are still several things that you can do now to prepare yourself for success anywhere.
1. Understand Yourself. Because it will change your life. And you won’t be able to successfully implement the rest of this list if you can’t.
You need to understand how you think, and what your skills are, and what you need to work on, and what your goals are, and a whole host of other things about yourself before you can even think about implementing the rest of the suggestions in this post.
Obviously everyone has a certain understanding of who they are and what they are skilled at. But usually, no one ever understands their greatest strength because it comes so naturally to them and they don’t realize that not everyone has their special ability.
There are several tests to take, such as Myers-Briggs or Enneagram Types, that will give you a general idea of things. But the tests can be wrong and sometimes assume that they can predict exactly how you act based off of too little information, like a Buzzfeed quiz. So don’t take them too seriously, and read the descriptions to see if it fits, remembering that the general concepts will often apply. I didn’t know why I was so frustrated about people, until I tested INFJ and found out that I was pretty good at “reading” people and understanding them. And that, of course, they didn’t want me to tell them what I knew because they didn’t know it themselves.
Which brings me to another way to understand yourself: Listening to people when they give you constructive criticism, but also being wary of those who are just trying to feed your ego. Sometimes it might not be what you want to hear, but if you trust the person it’s coming from, it might be worth listening to.
2. Communication: Being able to both write well and speak well is essential for becoming great. And it’s a skill that, as expected, is hardly taught in school.
It’s an essential one because without communication, you can’t connect easily with other people. Although emojis are great 🙂 , they aren’t helpful when you are trying to email a successful person to ask them for help. Being able to connect with other people, both face to face and by means of written communication, opens up doors for wherever you want to go.
You can send an email to any successful person in the world if they have their email on their website, but your writing skills determine whether or not you’ll get the response you want.
3. Learn to Tell a Good Story: It’s what makes you stand out.
You could have perfect writing mechanics and be able to speak confidently and concisely, but if you can’t tell a story it really undermines your communication skills. Stories are how people make their advice interesting and unique, and it also makes you memorable.
Who’s read the Chronicles of Narnia? All of C.S. Lewis’ books, including the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, have underlying themes and messages that he wanted to convey. So he told a story, knowing that tons of people would read and remember what he was trying to say because who can forget an epic lion named Aslan?
4. Learn to Systematize. And also to hack all the systems around you. And also find people who can do it better than you.
I don’t mean “hack” like the weird guy who’s on drugs that sits in his messy apartment all day computer hacking into the government’s systems on his laptop. I use hacking to mean getting to the core of something and using that information to figure out the (normally unconventional) steps you need to take.
If you look at everything as a system, you only have to figure out how to manipulate it to do what you want. Example: check out my post on Penelope Trunk’s blog on how to hack the SAT System.
All of the best people have someone behind them that helps them get their systems in place. You’ve hear of Warren Buffet, but have you ever heard of Charlie Munger? They’re usually INTJ’s, because INTJ’s are boss at systems. Growing up with an INTJ father means that everything from mornings before school to birthday parties was systematized. And believe me, everything was and still is so much easier when you have systems in place.
5. Most Importantly: Don’t be afraid to challenge and go against the grain. Even when people bug you for not following the status quo.
Everything great happens outside your comfort zone. And, duh, it’s super uncomfortable at first.
If you learn to deal with the discomfort that comes with great things, especially early on, it’s easier to continue to jump and take the leaps that will take you where you want to go. Challenging the ideas and people and systems around you is often uncomfortable, but it is what will take you where you want to go.
And often times, people will give you issues: “why are you doing that?” “why can’t you just be content staying inside the box?” “why are you so weird?”
But if these people aren’t living the life you want to live, or being the person that you want to become, there is absolutely no reason why you have to listen to them. And many times they don’t actually understand what you are doing because they fail to look beyond the surface and only see bits and pieces, rather than the whole.
These 5 things and more are what Help Me Be Great is going to cover. There are so many skills for success that apply regardless of what you want to do or where you want to go.
Because as you may have noticed, I’ve given you a whole list of what you should do without telling you how to do it. It’s coming.
This is just the beginning. Subscribe for updates on how to be Great. More content (including podcasts!) coming soon.