A letter to my daughter
You are six years old. I am so proud of you. I know you will follow your path and learn from your own mistakes. And maybe what worked for me will not work for you. Or the world will change so much that my wisdom will become irrelevant. So hold the following lessons lightly. I came to them through trial and error and sometimes a few tears. Maybe you will find them helpful. Are you ready to hear them?
1. You will often need to say no to something good to make space for something better.
I said no to a good job offer while I was unemployed. If I hadn’t, I would not have been hired by Google.
You need to say no to projects every day to focus on your priorities.
You need to say no to meeting several people so that you can build relationships with those who matter to you.
Your time and energy are limited. Every yes means that you say no to something else. So choose wisely. You can only live a life true to yourself if you learn to say no. Even to me.
2. You cannot love others more than you love yourself.
A cottager and his wife had a goose that laid a golden egg every day. The couple got greedy and killed the goose, hoping to find a lot of gold inside. They found nothing. They simply lost the daily golden eggs. Aesop, who wrote the story, gave a fair warning.
You are the goose that lays the golden eggs. The art you create. The value you bring. The wealth you generate. You need to take care of the goose, or she will stop producing the eggs.
Take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live. Building your career while neglecting your health is like building your house in the sand. When the rain comes, and it will come, it will sweep away the house and your efforts may amount to nothing.
Take care of your emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Only then can you help others.
Take breaks. I have found that often the best way to speed up is to slow down. The years that helped accelerate my career the most were the years I took a career break. The year I did my MBA allowed me to land a job at Google. The year I took a Sabbatical in Thailand with you, your dad and your brother allowed me to get published, build a following, and launch a successful business.
3. You will figure it out
Your brain is designed to keep you safe, not to keep you happy. You may worry too much. You may want to protect yourself by playing it safe.
Know that whatever happens, you will figure it out. Most decisions are less important than you think they are. If it doesn’t work, you can change your mind later.
When I quit Google to launch my coaching business, I had no idea how I would build my income to a similar level. I could not predict the opportunities and the ideas I would have along the way. But I knew I would have them. I knew I would figure it out. That’s why I took the plunge. And it worked. And now we can take far-away vacations again.
4. You create your environment, and your environment creates you.
Do not count on your willpower. It does not last. If you want to achieve something, engineer your environment to help you.
I wanted to recycle for ages. I kept failing at it until I bought two identical bins and located them next to each other. One for organic waste and one for recycling. Boom! I started recycling and never looked back. Manipulating my physical environment succeeded where willpower had failed.
You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Upgrade your peer group. Reach out to the people you admire. I always strived to surround myself with high performers. Even if I had to pay to be around them.
If you want to improve yourself and your results, start from your environment.
5. Your ticket to having a career full of purpose and freedom is to become so good they can’t ignore you
You will want a job with meaning and autonomy. As Cal Newport argues, you can only have those things if you are excellent at what you do. People need to trust you. You need to be able to create an impact. The way to become extraordinary is by accepting the discomfort of being a novice. Dare to suck.
Invest in your education. Find mentors. Experiment and learn. Work and reflect. What went well? What didn’t? Hone your craft and add more tools to your toolbox.
Also, you need to let people know what you are doing. How else are they going to know if your ideas are good? Publish content. It is a way to get feedback, test your ideas, build your reputation. Becoming a content creator is one of the things that helped my career the most. It also allowed me to create a tribe with like-minded individuals around the world.
6. You can escape the drama triangle by becoming a creator and a coach
Most relationships suffer because we get trapped in the drama triangle. That means we take the roles of the victim, the persecutor, or the rescuer. You are caught in ideas of “poor me” or “it’s all your fault” or “let me help you.”
You can escape these toxic dynamics by becoming a creator and a coach.
I was passed over for a promotion once. Initially, I went into the victim-mode. Why had this happened to me? Life is so unfair.
Then I turned into a prosecutor. I felt angry with the person who had blocked my promotion. I wanted people to know him for the prejudiced person he was. Both of these states were extremely painful. I was trapped in these negative emotions created by my thinking.
I escaped by taking control of my own life and designing my next steps. I built an even better career as a result. I became a creator.
Escaping the rescuer role is a little bit more tricky. You are a rescuer when you give unsolicited advice. When you always sort out other people’s messes. When you feel you need to bear the weight of the worlds on your shoulders.
It might look on the surface that you are helping others. But most people do not need rescuing. It keeps them disempowered and dependent. They need coaching to figure things out on their own.
You do not need to do writing and coaching for a living like me. But you need to be a creator and a coach.
7. Life is not a journey. It is a dance. Happiness can only happen at this moment and this place.
“For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last, it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. ”
You will be lured to believe that happiness is in the future. After school finishes. After you get that promotion. After the kids grow up.
In a journey, you go from point A to point B. Alan Watts argued that life is more like a dance. You do not need to get somewhere. The purpose of the dance is the dance itself.
Life and happiness can only happen in the here and now. Yes, dream your future. Save for a rainy day. But, live in the now. Enjoy this moment. That’s how you make a great life.
This is all from me, for now, my love. I want you to continue finding life interesting as you do now. So I shared my best insights. Were they valuable? What will you keep, and what will you throw away? I cannot wait to hear the lessons that you will learn and teach me.
This article was originally published on Medium.