A old friend of mine gave me the idea of cataloguing all the articles I have been reading to help the transition from a 23-year-old college graduate to a graduate student and eventually to an full-fledged adult. None of the articles posted here are written by me. They are mostly written by outside sources who will be properly credited in each post. The main purpose of this blog is to put all of the articles that I feel will have an impact on my life into one main source to avoid cluttering my computer. This is strictly for personal archiving purposes only. I do not intend to plagiarize anyone. Please refer to the source link at the beginning of each post to find the original articles.
1. Time is Not a Limitless Commodity – I so rarely find young professionals that have a heightened sense of urgency to get to the next level. In our 20s we think we have all the time in the world to A) figure it out and B) get what we want. Time is the only treasure we start off with in abundance, and can never get back. Make the most of the opportunities you have today, because there will be a time when you have no more of it.
2. You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated – Congratulations, you may be the most capable, creative, knowledgeable & multi-tasking generation yet. As my father says, “I’ll Give You a Sh-t Medal.” Unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are simply wasted potential. There’s no prize for talent, just results. Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success. (Tip: read “Talent is Overrated”)
3. We’re More Productive in the Morning – During my first 2 years at Docstoc (while I was still in my 20’s) I prided myself on staying at the office until 3am on a regular basis. I thought I got so much work done in those hours long after everyone else was gone. But in retrospect I got more menial, task-based items done, not the more complicated strategic planning, phone calls or meetings that needed to happen during business hours. Now I stress an office-wide early start time because I know, for the most part, we’re more productive as a team in those early hours of the day.
4. Social Media is Not a Career – These job titles won’t exist in 5 years. Social media is simply a function of marketing; it helps support branding, ROI or both. Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue. It’s not an end in itself. I’d strongly caution against pegging your career trajectory solely to a social media job title.
5. Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person. It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities. And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home. Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.
6. Be the First In & Last to Leave – I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career. You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove. There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.
7. Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility. You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure. Err on the side of doing too much, not too little. (Watch: Millennials in the Workplace Training Video)
8. Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes – You should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career. But you shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution. Stop trying to justify your F-ups. You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes, and committing to learn from those experiences.
9. You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked – Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have. This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career. Working for someone that demands excellence and pushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success.
10. A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing – 1-year stints don’t tell me that you’re so talented that you keep outgrowing your company. It tells me that you don’t have the discipline to see your own learning curve through to completion. It takes about 2-3 years to master any new critical skill, give yourself at least that much time before you jump ship. Otherwise your resume reads as a series of red flags on why not to be hired.
11. People Matter More Than Perks – It’s so trendy to pick the company that offers the most flex time, unlimited meals, company massages, game rooms and team outings. Those should all matter, but not as much as the character of your founders and managers. Great leaders will mentor you and will be a loyal source of employment long after you’ve left. Make a conscious bet on the folks you’re going to work for and your commitment to them will pay off much more than those fluffy perks.
12. Map Effort to Your Professional Gain – You’re going to be asked to do things you don’t like to do. Keep your eye on the prize. Connect what you’re doing today, with where you want to be tomorrow. That should be all the incentive you need. If you can’t map your future success to your current responsibilities, then it’s time to find a new opportunity. (See: How To Know When It’s Time To Quit)
13. Speak Up, Not Out – We’re raising a generation of sh-t talkers. In your workplace this is a cancer. If you have issues with management, culture or your role & responsibilities, SPEAK UP. Don’t take those complaints and trash-talk the company or co-workers on lunch breaks and anonymous chat boards. If you can effectively communicate what needs to be improved, you have the ability to shape your surroundings and professional destiny.
14. You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops – Adding “Proficient in Microsoft Office” at the bottom of your resume under Skills, is not going to cut it anymore. I immediately give preference to candidates who are ninjas in: Photoshop, HTML/CSS, iOS, WordPress, Adwords, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, Final Cut Pro – regardless of their job position. If you plan to stay gainfully employed, you better complement that humanities degree with some applicable technical chops.
15. Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter – It’s who you know more than what you know, that gets you ahead in business. Knowing a small group of folks very well, or a huge smattering of contacts superficially, just won’t cut it. Meet and stay connected to lots of folks, and invest your time developing as many of those relationships as possible. (TIP: Here is my Networking Advice)
16. You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek. You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be. Their free guidance and counsel will be the most priceless gift you can receive. (TIP: “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Mentors”)
17. Pick an Idol & Act “As If” – You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does. I often coach my employees to pick the businessperson they most admire, and act “as if.” If you were (fill in the blank) how would he or she carry themselves, make decisions, organize his/her day, accomplish goals? You’ve got to fake it until you make it, so it’s better to fake it as the most accomplished person you could imagine. (Shout out to Tony Robbins for the tip)
18. Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts – Your generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters: all breadth and no depth. Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover. All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others. Make sure to read a book a month (fiction or non-fiction) and your career will blossom.
19. Spend 25% Less Than You Make – When your material needs meet or exceed your income, you’re sabotaging your ability to really make it big. Don’t shackle yourself with golden handcuffs (a fancy car or an expensive apartment). Be willing and able to take 20% less in the short term, if it could mean 200% more earning potential. You’re nothing more than penny wise and pound-foolish if you pass up an amazing new career opportunity to keep an extra little bit of income. No matter how much money you make, spend 25% less to support your life. It’s a guaranteed formula to be less stressed and to always have the flexibility to pursue your dreams.
20. Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It – Over time, your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business. It’s the invisible key that either opens or closes doors of professional opportunity. Especially in an age where everything is forever recorded and accessible, your reputation has to be guarded like the most sacred treasure. It’s the one item that, once lost, you can never get back.
1. Don’t listen to what they say any less than you did your college lectures. Pay attention to what they tell you, no matter how insignificant or mundane. Don’t turn the conversation back around at yourself by using an example from your own life to compare to theirs. Stop comparing all together. Don’t just talk to them, have an actual conversation– an art that is waning. Don’t pepper your responses with mindless head nods and a high pitched “yeah” or “nice.” Engage.
2. Withhold the blame-placing, even if you know you’re right. There is an incredible emotional buffer in starting sentences with “I believe” rather than the accusatory you-are-wrong-and-I-am-right. Nobody deserves to feel like they’re the lesser in a relationship, especially not for something they think or believe.
3. Be selfless. Not just by monetary means or anything like that, but in the way you remain faithful if you say you will. In putting your damn hardest effort into giving them things that aren’t emblems of wealth or things you wish they’d like, or that you like, but of how well you know them and how much time and thought you put into getting or making or finding something that lets them know that you know them and love them for who they are and what they are right now.
4. Genuinely wish them well and don’t harbor resentment or jealousy for their professional or other successes. Also don’t look down upon their chosen field of work. It’s one thing to argue about not paying the bills, it’s a whole other to insult them for pursuing something they love. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
5. Speak to them like they are someone you respect. To not correct them in public, or yell at them like a child, or berate them like your inferior.
6. Forgive them and acknowledge their humanness more than you do whatever issues you take with them. Love makes us see people as these perfect creatures who are supposed to continually perform in the role that we expect them to fill and to remain doing so for any given period of time. This, of course, isn’t only unrealistic, it’s simply not feasible.
7. Learn to enjoy your time together without complaining about anything. After the fact, learn to look back on said time together and not focus in on what was wrong and the instance that they annoyed you and whatever other issues you find, but be grateful for your great dinner out, or the thing you laughed about, or that you just got to see them in the midst of their hectic schedule.
8. Take their word for it. Don’t require proof. If they aren’t being honest, that’s on them, not you. It is, however, on you to trust your partner.
9. Learn how to fight clean. Know how to tell them you’re upset without having it blow up into a huge argument. Don’t revert to childish name calling or yelling across the apartment over something silly that’s really a symptom of a larger problem. Learn to work through things as they come, not let them drift off to collect and build into a mounting heap that seems impossible to get over– because many couples often don’t.
10. Appreciate who they are and what you have right now, and stop only seeing them through the filter of the bigger picture if said picture is your expectations and the ways they don’t fulfill them. It’s the worst way we cheat ourselves out of love.
1. Start saving money. Put away $20 a week. Pay yourself with every paycheck. Keep a jar of change on your desk. Give yourself a dollar every time you work out. Ask your company about the ins and outs of 401(k)s. Whatever it takes, it’s better to get a handle on your money now rather than sing all summer, grasshopper.
2. Learn how to do your taxes. There is a land in between handing them off to your parents and being able to afford someone to do your taxes for you, and it is called self-sufficiency. Set up camp there. There’s tons of software and services that will help you. But if you can do it on your own, you’ll never find yourself stuck if you can’t get help one year.
3. As much as it’s financially and otherwise possible, invest in the things that matter. Buy a piece of luggage that won’t fall apart midway through your trans-atlantic trip. Keep an emergency box of bandaids and matches and handwarmers and Plan B — yes, even if you’re a guy. Put emergency numbers in your phone. Research the symptoms of heart attacks and strokes. These may seem like boring wastes of your precious, young time, but these are the things that save lives. More likely than not, your own.
4. Decide that once and for all, you’re letting go of the dating checklist, and practice doing so now. It’s always so tempting to just go after “your type,” but if you keep doing that, you really have no room to wonder why you’re still single. (You are the constant in every relationship you’ve ever been in, after all.) Shake it up a little and date around if you haven’t already found The One. At the very least, it’ll help you refine your list of deal-breakers so that you’re better equipped to know a home run amongst the duds when you see one.
5. Get your medical basics aligned. Get a general practitioner, dentist, eye doctor, gyno — whatever it is you need. Have an initial appointment for a base checkup, and then schedule what matters throughout the year. They’re usually the things that don’t seem important, like full body dermatological checks. The best way to keep yourself healthy is to get attuned to what “normal” feels like to you. Don’t push healthcare off until it’s just sick care.
6. Start eating a few more greens. Try kale, or collards if the whole “kale” train smells like a conspiracy theory. If you can aim to get a little more produce into your diet, that’s always a good idea. I like to do the lazy hack and get a massive salad with tons of different vegetables for lunch every day, so if I’m less than virtuous at either breakfast or dinner, it’s not a big deal. Salads make everything net zero, as everyone knows. (And getting in the habit of eating your fruits and vegetables might not have stuck when you were 6 and just ate your broccoli to get to the ice cream after, so this is good to put into practice all over again.)
7. Find a workout you don’t hate. Whether it’s running, kettle bells, tennis, spin class, acroyoga, a pick up basketball game at the park — whatever it is, if you could see yourself going three times a week without going postal, then you’ve got something good. Your body naturally hits physical peak in your mid-20s, and it’s harder to retain your fitness level (not to mention healthy body percentages) as you age. Put in the work now, and who knows — you might wind up being one of those septuagenarian marathoners who are lapping people literally less than half your age.
8. Do your homework on disease in your family. Keep a sheet of this info around, too, and tell your doctor about all of the things you learn. Research the hereditary effects — not to freak yourself out, but so you can be proactive about your health and stave off problems before they arise. We’ve come a long way with medicine and research, and it’d be a shame to not take advantage of all of those advancements just because we’re ignorant of what runs in our family histories.
9. Begin to put money toward something that will benefit you long-term. Whether that’s your very own house and the land to go with it, the kind of car that is going to last you for years, or even shoes that are going to last through their investment rather than their $30 knock-off, begin investing in things that will actually get you more bang for your buck. (Should you buy those $700 monkstraps if you can’t afford it now? No, but maybe seek a pair on consignment and watch how they outlive every other shoe ever.)
10. Connect with people in your career who can take on mentor roles. And chances are good you’ll find them in the most unlikely places. (And yes, Twitter counts — I’ve connected with tons of people who are doing really amazing things in a number of fields, and their advice and guidance has been instrumental.) Use LinkedIn as constructively as you can, send emails and letters introducing yourself and saying why you’d like to learn from them — most people are really nice, and love to pay it forward to those coming up in the field if they have the time.
11. Make a list of places you want to visit. It’s the vision boardprinciple — collecting your thoughts in one place, and keeping them in a place that you can either see or access easily (Pinterest, anyone?) turns it from just an idea to something you can potentially act on. Saying you want to visit some great place in some far corner of the world is all well and good, but it’s just talk until you put your words into a plan. Write down that dream vacation. Make it real.
12. Invest in actual furniture. God bless IKEA, really and truly, but if you can begin to scour places for solid deals, you’ll wind up with stuff you love — and it won’t disintegrate the minute you try to move even just once. I once found a leather armchair at West Elm for $100, but lots of places are bound to offer steep discounts on stuff because they literally don’t have the room to store it anymore. (Plus, then you can really begin to curate a home as opposed to just a house.)
13. Start living within your means. Not “budget your credit card so that you can pay off your balance and still have enough to eat” but actually within your means. Like if someone took all that pretty plastic away from you tomorrow, would you still be able to make ends meet between paydays? Yeah. Those means.
14. Learn how to cook a meal or two. Buy a cookbook — hell, buy 10 at a secondhand bookshop — and invite people over for a from-scratch meal. Go full on Julie & Julia with it, if you want. (Instagram everything.) Take a specialty class with friends if you can find one in your area. Ask your mom for her recipe for mac & cheese. You know how the saying goes: give a 20-something a pizza, feed him for a day. Teach a 20-something how to make pizza, and well, he might just open an artesian fire-grilled, gluten-free joint where every other 20-something gathers to lo-fi filter brunch. Or something.
15. Let yourself make mistakes, even though you know better — and learn how to be resilient in the face of them for the future. Really. As long as you learn from them, you’re doing something constructive and worthwhile. If you’re making mistakes, at least you’re trying, and if you’re trying, well, chances are very good you’re trying something new, or at least a new way to do the same thing. That’s innovation. That’s not just keeping up with the trend, but getting ahead of the curve.
16. Learn how to be self-sufficient. The point of rock-bottom isn’t to humiliate yourself, but rather a good gauge of how far up you can go from there. (Take it from me: four years ago, I went broke trying to fund my eating disorder, got help for both, and am in a much stronger place than I would have ever expected possible.) I’m not saying you should willingly run yourself into the ground, but if you can manage to figure out the phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes plan in case you ever need it, well, you’re better off than a lot of people with no exit strategy at all.
17. Get a therapist. At the very least, find something that constitutes as therapeutic, whether that’s dinner with a friend once a week where you hash everything out, or a group like AA, or something in between. Seek out low-cost therapy if you need it — a lot of therapists and social workers work on a sliding scale — and if you decide you need medication to help out, explore your options. Learning to talk about what you feel and what you need in the moment and how it relates to your past is healthy, and you need to do that work yourself if you want to move forward as a healthy adult.
18. Begin to determine what is important to you. Ask yourself the big questions now, so that while you might not figure out the answers until years later, you know at least which answers you ought to look for. And that way, when you find them as you go through your life, you’ll treasure them all the more.