Here’s my Open Letter to a Young American. Feel free to respond.
I graduated 10 years ago, bounced around 3 different advertising agencies until 5 years ago I started my first company with my best friend. 36 months later, he fired me after I informed him that I felt he was incompetent.
I started my next company a week later with 2 partners. 36 months later, I realized they were practicing unethical business practices. With $500 in my bank account, I started over in November of 2017. Today our company is on track to do over $1M.
Here’s what I’ve learned from all of that.
First Of All
Get your shit together. You don’t need to know what you want to be when you grow up. Just get started. Most of my friends didn’t know what they wanted to be at age 25, and the most interesting people I know are still trying to find that out at 65.
America is a video game set to destroy your ambition. It is something to be endured and survived. If you learn how to grab life by the throat, to conquer, you’ll realize what success truly means.
Unless you grew up wealthy, your network and your net worth will be closely tied together. I have built mine off a concept of 50 cups of coffee a year and never eat lunch alone. I connect with people on LinkedIn and meet them for coffee. The ones who inspire me – I follow up with to have lunch.
Good jobs get filled before they get posted to Monster or Indeed. If an employer posts a job, they will get 800 resumes and likely only 10 qualified applicants. More than ever people are likely to reach out to their network first to get referrals before going down that black hole.
This, again, is why your network is so important. If you’re a little more ambitious, go to the owner of a company and show them why they need to create a position for you.
Things To Remember
Your GPA Does NOT Matter.
When you’re up for a job and you’ve got the same shiny new diploma that everyone else has, what is it going to be that differentiates you?
You need experience. Get as many internships as you can.
There are over three thousand nonprofits in the southern Ohio region that need your help. If you are self-centered like me, it will help you far more than it does them. You’ll become a more well-rounded person and learn to appreciate that other people have it way harder than you.
Take risks and be reckless in your youth. Learn to accept that there is no such thing as failure. You either win or you learn.
Pablo Picasso once said that all children are artists, the trick is to maintain that when you become older. We are told at a young age to be careful. Not to make mistakes. It is without a doubt the worst advice we as humans pass along from generation to generation.
If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t growing as a person. You corner yourself into only doing what you know you can do well. It is only through mistakes that we develop new skills. Many of life’s failures come from people who gave up not knowing how close they were to success.
Stop Worrying About The Opinions of Others.
I encourage you to heed the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt who suggested that, “People would worry less about what other people think about them if they realized how little they actually do.”
pIn full transparency, I told my parents I was living my life for me in 2001 and am still trying to convince myself of that.
You Are Not Going To Be Good the First Try.
You won’t start off being able to do the level of work you aspire to.
It has been suggested that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of time to reach mastery. If you’re putting 40 hours a week into your craft that equates to 5 years. Or if you’re mildly insane like me and work 80 hours a week, you can achieve those same results in fewer than 3.
Either way, the best time to start is now.
No one wakes up expecting a spontaneous moment of fitness, “Wow, I suddenly have a six-pack.” The same is true for creativity and intelligence. You also won’t wake up one day and be suddenly brilliant. You need to be exercising your mind and creativity.
If you–like most people–are not a child prodigy, you’re going to have to work for it.
I am a germaphobic, bipolar, OCD, recovering punk rocker with ADD, so most things I have to read three times to understand what some people get the first time through. Like children, if you aren’t good at art, they say, “Well maybe that’s not your thing,” but if you aren’t proficient at math they give you more homework.
Others can give up on you, but never give up on yourself.
I have said time and time again that I don’t have talent, I have tenacity. I would rather die in a trailer park broke and alone knowing that I played the game as hard as I could and died with no energy left in my body, than living comfortably in some mini-mansion in the suburbs.
Feed Your Brain.
Read. Every. Day. Religiously. Business books, fiction, poetry. These will make you smarter and a more interesting human being.
Learn to turn off your brain. Meditation isn’t something I thought would be of any use to anyone until I started doing it. It is arguably the second-best thing you can do for your brain after reading.
You Are The Company You Keep.
Yet another annoying cliche proves out to be capital T, true. Think of the five people you surround yourself with most often. You are almost certainly the average of those five people.
If you want to be driven and in control of your own destiny, then you need to surround yourself with those kinds of people. My business is successful because of the team we have built.
I like to say, “A general without an army is just a guy taking a walk.”
I never would be where I am today without some very wise people around me, guiding me along my path. Likewise, few of them would be where they are without their own mentors. It is an obligation to play that we pay it forward.
Finally, I will leave you with a mantra that I have come to live by: “You were meant to do more than pay bills and die.”
I promise you that knowledge without mileage is bullshit. You can read every book in the world on the Eiffel Tower, but until you stand there in front of it, you will never truly understand it.
You must venture out and see the world to truly appreciate it–and the people in it.
One of the most impactful things I have done is to start living life in a way that my autobiography would be worth someone’s time to read. That concept alone has projected me to focus more on taking risks, traveling, and ensuring that I am living life to its fullest.