November 18, 2019

Ten lessons I learned working for 10+ years

Since moving to my current city in 2009, I realized that it has been ten years moving out of my home, into a new city and starting a second life in another city. I think fondly about a podcast that Adam Robinson did with Tim Ferriss and he talks about how school is a game with rules but life beyond school has no rules and that is why experimentation is key. As I think about my last ten years, I wanted to reflect on what I have learned along the way in this concept called ‘life’:

Your first job may not be the perfect job

Work is about finding out what your strengths, likes and dislikes are and then tweaking your way to that perfect job. You may be lucky enough to find that perfect job right away and work your whole life there but in most cases, you are working to either pay the bills or to build enough experience to get to the next job and work your way up from there.

Your attitude is way more important than your skill or experience

Imagine that you are a manager and you have the choice between two employees: one is incredibly skilled, experienced, but does not have a great attitude and the other has average skills, limited experience but is incredibly enthusiastic and positive about all the work that they do. Who would you choose? I know who I would choose – the one that is enthusiastic and positive because you can almost always teach the skills to do the job.

If you need to find and make new friends, find the things that you like to do and be open and friendly

When I first moved to the city, I had no friends or family here but I kept myself open and friendly. I made a few work friends but where I really hit my stride was when I started playing badminton at clubs and speaking at Toastmaster clubs. I made numerous friends just being open to social events, drinks or meals after and generally being positive in my interactions with others. Well, friends may be a bit of an overstatement in some cases but I was friendly to everyone that was friendly to me.

Saying yes can take you to interesting places

Another way that I grabbed opportunities to meet others was through meetup.com. It would have been so easy to just say no, stay at home, play video games, sleep and get into a non-social routine. I instead decided to say yes to dim sum at a chinese restaurant which led me to meeting one of my good friends who was also from the same city that I moved from. We instantly connected, had a man-date (haha) and have been friends since. Saying yes can lead you to places you did not expect and help you meet people that you otherwise would not have met.

Exercise and keeping fit is absolutely key, especially as you grow older

I’m feeling really old! And I’m not even that old (I think). I do feel slow to recover and when I get in a really good workout, I feel like I have to take a moment to recover when I previously would just get into consecutive workouts without feeling any more tired than normal.

Just as your metabolism slows when you age and as you get busier and busier in your career (presumably you are getting promoted and getting more and more responsibility), keeping fit and being active is significantly more important now than when you had more free time when you were younger.

Finding something new to do every once in a while keeps you young

Speaking of growing older, I tried to make sure that I kept myself young at heart by doing new things all the time. One year I decided to write and self publish a book. Another year, I recorded and released an audiobook. Another year, I played around with drawing comics. Yet another year I signed up for Orange Theory and did classes for a year. Now, I’m getting into kettlebell workouts and High Intensity Interval Training on my treadmill.

Be yourself

Sure this is fairly generic advice but I mean this specifically around finding a partner. For the first few years that I moved to the city, I told myself that I was too busy to find a girlfriend so I did not really look for others and was not open to meeting others. At some point, I decided to reframe my beliefs – there was still quite a bit of work in trying to find a girlfriend but all I did was put myself out there into meeting new people. I did not try to look specifically for a girlfriend and I did not try to actively date. I met new people, was myself and I didn’t rush things. I slowly worked to improve myself and knew that the longer I waited to meet others, the better I would be.

Networking is a key skill

I’m not a big networker but I realized that networking is a key skill – it’s led to me finding a realtor, finding a good mortgage rate, finding a landscaper, finding someone to build a deck and many more things that I would normally go to yelp or google to find. Sometimes asking questions and keeping information in the back of your mind is very helpful.

To find good and new places for food, check out food blogs

My Dad recommended a few food blogs for me which I still subscribe to – they are my source of news for any new or interesting restaurants. I managed to find a great Shanghai place here that ended up being my good friend and I’s go-to place for years. I still rely on it to find new places and it has not disappointed although I rarely pay attention to the reviews as it can be quite subjective.

Get a membership at the local library

The library is such an amazing place with a vast number of resources. The local library here has of course books, audiobooks (CDs and digital), movies, online courses and subscriptions, video games, 3D printing, a maker space, a soundproof booth for recording podcasts or music and much, much more. All of this at the access of your fingertips and did I mention that the membership is free? (it started out at $12 a year but has now since changed to free!). I highly recommend getting a membership at your local library, and even if you only borrow one or two books a year, it will still be worth it (and a bonus if you use more resources at the library).

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