What Would I Tell a 22-Year-Old Today?

Fail fast and often.

IMG_0044Everyone your age gets lots of advice. And you’re not even asking for it, are you? Well, here’s the deal: when you ask for advice, you’re pretty much tapping into the stuff you already know, deep down inside at the gut level. You know it. Yes. You know it.

Here are five things I’d like to tell you. It’s a short list—so I hope you’ll read it.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Fail fast and often (like Michael Jordan!).
  3. Read (or listen) voraciously.
  4. Smile widely.
  5. Don’t forget to have fun.

We could go on for paragraphs. Write books (there are lots). And make long speeches. But those are the five that matter today. If you want my advice, see what books, speeches, podcasts, and  TED talks exist to expand on each of these ideas. Or not. Just having these five to think about should do it.

P.S. If you’re not 22, it’s okay. You might also consider the five suggestions above.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

Knowing

Knowing. Hah. That’s almost funny. No one really knows. We like to approach knowing, and as professionals we know more than non-professionals. However,  there’s a reason the doctors, dentists and lawyers all have “practices.” They practice  because they have not ‘mastered’ their professions. In fact, mastering is almost a nasty word to the good ones. Knowing—really knowing—is the opposite of what professionals profess. I don’t even think professors profess that they know everything.

Knowing
Image by  debo243

They are still or (they should be) continually learning. We can always be better, right? In fact this post on the word perfect riffs on this same fact. No one knows and no one is perfect.

 

So what is knowing? Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines it as: (1) having or reflecting knowledge, information, or intelligence; (2a)  shrewdly and keenly alert: astute <a knowing observer>; (2b) indicating possession of exclusive inside knowledge or  information <a knowing smile; (3)  cognitive; (4) deliberate <knowing interference in the affairs of another>

Trend Alert: More folks these days think they know things because they have access to so much information. Information by itself does not necessarily impart knowledge, because having access to it and owning it are two different things. I think we’re confusing access with acquisition. Just because you walk into a bookstore doesn’t mean you know or have a command of what’s in the books. Osmosis doesn’t work for knowledge (note the word deliberate in the definition above.) Effort and work are needed to attain a level of knowing that passes us off as experts.

Furthermore, society and academia sanction doctor or dentist, professor or attorney titles by administering tests and bestowing degrees and titles upon the folks that pass the muster for their industry. But true professionals don’t stop there. They begin there. True professionals know more than many, but we will never know it all. We can just hope to keep learning, and be better at our work and at our selves than we were yesterday.

This guy said it best:

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”~ Socrates