It has been almost five years since your mother and I were engulfed by immense happiness and pride when your sister moved to her new apartment in NYC to start her career at American Express. This week, we got to experience this again with you. Our visit to Washington, DC, was another wave of pride and pleasure as we saw you, our second baby, move into your new place and prepare to start your professional life this coming Monday.
To those who asked, I tell them that armed with an undergrad in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech with a concentration in Robotics, you are joining a small engineering firm where you will spend time helping design and build drones for the defense sector. You had the chance to observe your sister going about it for the last five years, which gave you a fantastic role model. You witnessed her becoming a young professional, passionate about what she does, exhibiting excellent work ethic, presenting herself with a maturity beyond her age, taking on greater responsibilities, leading others by doing, and becoming a precious team player. I am sure Deloitte’s product creation and cyber security group will happily count her among their current ranks.
In addition to being a role model to her sister, she is also contributing to shattering the reputation this new generation sometimes has of being entitled, impatient, immature, and in some ways lost in an adult world they are unprepared for. To build on this and as a continuation to my post of 5 years ago, where I suggested 8 “rules” to navigate this professional jungle, I decided to step back a little bit and try to capture what I think is the essence of a well-lived career ought to be – “Wave surfing and beach stories.”
So you may wonder why? Surfing? Stories?
Perhaps to lighten up the tone a little bit. Or because I have been missing so severely these vacation days, ages ago, where all I did was windsurfing and sitting on the beach. Or it is just that I have been binge watching recently the Apple TV show, “Make or Break,” which follows the lives of professional surfers, and thinking that when you love what you do, you surf from dawn to dusk, you want to be the best at what you do, you enjoy the thrill of it, and you want to share your passion and make it contagious for those that want to support you, follow you, or be like you. The adventures you lived, the stories you tell about them, and how they resonate authentically with who you are and what you do, on or off the waves, make a life well-lived.
Waves are all different. Embracing their variety makes the journey so exciting that looking for variety will soon become natural. The search will be motivated by the desire to remain challenged, the need to expand one’s horizon, and see how far you can stretch. This said, one can only fully appreciate variety if the “specimens” have been fully and thoroughly understood or experienced along the way. This is not about frivolously hopping around and trying things; this is about trying the next thing after mastering each thing along the way.
Small waves are just as important. In everything, there is something to learn. Those that succeed are the first to recognize it. Every experience is a blessing in disguise. The clever soul will nonchalantly enrich themselves, while the loud soul will complain about those situations that are beneath them and grow empty.
Waves come in streaks. These are only sometimes predictable, and between each streak, a fair amount of waiting can be involved. This is when patience is needed; don’t go back to the beach too early. Don’t miss “the streak of the day” because your mind got distracted or because you got bored. If you love doing this, find the patience to go through those lulls so you will never have to look back and regret it.
Paddling is an excellent time to reflect. It is hard work, it is needed, and it is probably when your memory of the previous wave you had is the most vivid. Was it a success? How do you define it? Can it be better? How so? What is a failure? Did it hurt? Is there something different I can do, or am I out of my league? Is there an easier one I can take next to fine-tune what I needed more time to be ready for on the previous one? Paddling to the next wave is as essential if not more than riding the next one.
Get back out there. Practice is all that counts, but it should be deliberate, well-designed, and purposeful, and yes, it can be fun too. Whatever works for you, it needs to feel good, most of the time, even when it hurts, even when it is stressful, even when it is scary…or crazy. Eventually, practice will make all of this become a part of yourself, your second nature. It will define part of who you are and the stories you tell about it.
Stories, indeed, if you feel it was worth living or it will be worth living, then tell others about it. We are social animals, and our storytelling abilities help us fulfill our social contract with the herd we live in. That may sound a little dry, but at the two extremes of the spectrum, we have the introverted hermit and the extroverted type-A. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, your audience will always be a mix of those personalities that you will either need in your life or need to stay away from your life. This too will form a complex mosaic of people you will surround yourself with. You can’t do it alone. In love, friendship, or work, you must bring others along to love, support or follow. The stories you tell will define that over time.
Stories are what convince others, but others also expect them. People want to be told stories for a variety of reasons. Some need it to help motivate themself, some because it makes them feel good, some to find new sources of happiness, and others to overcome past challenges and find a purpose.
Contribute to that universal desire and tell your own stories. Stories that are grounded in fact, capture the imagination, exert some level of personal modesty but simultaneously carry an ambitious goal. Stories that will force you to stretch outside of your comfort zone but at the same time make it worth experiencing for everyone. Stories that, over time, show some unique consistency and traits. Stories that eventually become your story. You might not know that story yet, and you should not stress about it. Not knowing is part of the mystery of life and the adventures it throws at us. All you need to do is to focus on getting to know who you are and do what makes you happy. You will see, those stories will shape into a fantastic tale that will expand endlessly, and the story of your life will become clear.
The constant attention to self and the relentless pursuit of happiness in your personal and professional life will help you balance what that story becomes. As David Brooks puts it in his book, “Road to Character”, your “resume virtues” and your “Eulogy virtues” are the essential parts of your character that will form those stories. These virtues are sometimes at odds with each other; hence, finding the right balance is essential. Your resume virtues are those practical and discernible qualities an individual lists on a job application. In contrast, your eulogy virtues are internal strengths that are not easy to observe from the outside. He calls it Adam I and Adam II and writes, “While Adam I wants to conquer the world, Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world …. while Adam I asks how things work, Adam II asks why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for …. While Adam I’s motto is ‘Success,’ Adam II experiences life as a moral dance.”
With that, go out there and make your own version of all this. Don’t lose yourself, have fun, surf the waves, and tell amazing stories about it.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in