Graduation season is in full swing. Last month, my brother and I presented the Rosca Scholarships at Buena Park High School. I returned to speak to multiple groups of students a couple of weeks later. As I recounted my journey, I shared the lessons I learned along the way. Do you know a recent graduate? Share these self-leadership lessons with them.
1. You don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life.
There is enormous pressure to know what you are passionate about. “Choose the right major for the rest of your life.” Very few people know exactly what they want to do and then end up working in that field. Don’t apply that kind of pressure to yourself. What are some of the things that you are good at and that you like? Start off with these. And yes, it is okay to be practical. I was good at so many things, I did not know what I wanted to do in life. I chose my finance major for a very practical reason. I was good with numbers, the college I went to had a strong business school, and I wanted to ensure I would have a job when I graduated.
That is exactly what happened. I got an internship while in college and had an employment contract signed before I graduated. I learned valuable skills at that job. It was that job that gave me the clarity for what I wanted to do. That is why I am now a leadership trainer.
Your path of finding the thing you are passionate about does not need to be a straight line. Be willing to be practical along your journey.
Some people might say it is more important to do something you are passionate about. I would add to that “if you are willing to live with the consequences”. If you are passionate about something that isn’t highly valued by society and people are unwilling to pay you, are you willing to live with the consequences of little to no income? Are you willing to find ways to make ends meet and not demand that others come to your aid? Part of being an adult means we live with the consequences of our decisions. A leader takes responsibility for their life.
Even if you know what you are passionate about, you might still need to work in a field that you might not like in order to feed that passion. For example, Brian Smith, the founder of UGGS, had to work for over a decade while building his company.
Great things take time. Be patient (not lazy). Don’t sit around waiting for the perfect answer to fall out of the sky. Take action. Clarity will come as you go along your path.
2. Dare to ask for more.
When I had my first performance review, I was asked to write my future goals. I figured I should seek the highest goal possible for a finance employee: Chief Financial Officer. I was a 20-year-old intern at that time. That got people’s attention.
Do you realize how few people dare to dream that big? One of my clients recently mentioned that of the people at his company who were flagged as “high potential”, only 1% of them responded “yes” when asked if they would want to be CEO.
Our brain's #1 purpose is to keep us safe. Part of keeping us safe means keeping us in familiar territory. Most people don't ask for more because they are too comfortable staying in the familiar.
Dare to ask for more! Dare to dream big! Dare to aspire to achieve more in life than what your parents accomplished. What better way to give back to your parents than to build on the foundation they gave you? My parents sacrificed everything to bring their children to the USA. They take such pride when they see us accomplish great goals. They celebrate it.
Dare to dream and ask for more.
3. If you want more, be willing to BE more.
Asking for more isn’t enough. You have to DO something about it. Are you willing to put in the work? Are you willing to EARN that “more”? When I set my sights on becoming CFO, I plotted out what are the likely steps I would need to take to get there. Then, I figured out, what did I need to do to get to those steps. I looked at the job role descriptions. What hard and soft skills would I need? What kind of person would I need to become? And then, I started working towards it.
I didn’t expect it to happen overnight. I knew I would need to prove myself. I volunteered for teams, took on responsibility and consistently delivered. When you ask for more, people notice. You will be tested. Rise up to the challenge! Don’t despise hard work.