A year into my first full-time corporate job, my energy was flailing everywhere. Young, naive and having watched too many episodes of Suits, I wanted to be like Harvey Spectre so badly. The respect, the responsibility and the ridiculously good looks.
My roadmap consisted of working super hard until I was 30. I’m not exactly sure why I decided on 30, perhaps because 40 sounded too far away and 27 wasn't a round number. The logic in my brain was flawless as usual.
Part of this roadmap was becoming an expert in everything that sounded like fun. After a year of running entrepreneurial programs, this led me to sharing a chicken sandwich with our Investment Director. I saw my next challenge as learning the nuances of early-stage investing.
I’m not sure if it was me speaking a million miles an hour or the mayonnaise that found itself on the sides of my mouth. But Dan delivered a one-liner that snapped me out of my respect-thirsty trance.
“20s are for learning, 30s are for earning”.
There was a way to live that didn’t involve me feeling like a greyhound chasing a rabbit?
The logic is captured in a quote by Macaskill, “going out to dinner takes a few hours and you spend 5 minute working out where to go. It seems reasonable to spend 5% of your time on how to spend the remaining 95%. If you did that with your career, that would be 4,000 hours, or 2 working years.” This mantra takes the analogy and extends it to all of your 20s.
My highly logical brain kicked into overdrive.
Our 20s are the most unique time in our lives, they provide us with once in a lifetime freedom. We have minimal life experiences to anchor our identity around and minimal responsibility. No mortgage repayments, no kids to feed, nothing to permanently tie you to a location.
Why spend this freedom climbing a corporate ladder?
It’s not that climbing a corporate ladder is the wrong path, rather it’s an opportunity that I’m going to have for the rest of my career. Why submit to it before I have to?
I felt like I’d just been given the cheat codes to Grand Theft Auto for the first time. It unlocked a new perspective on the adventures available to me.
My goals evolved from a wanky job title and a salary with a certain number of zeroes by my 30th birthday. To diverge and collect dots. To experiment with as many different interests so when I reach 30 I know what I want to double down on.
My greatest fear has become staying in one career, only to find myself unfulfilled but without other options because I’m not willing to sacrifice life without $10 beers on the weekend. Not to mention the need for an extra bedroom with a baby on the way.
The KPIs for myself have evolved to prioritise this collecting of dots.
I’ve embarked on a series of personal and professional experiments to see what I enjoy.
What you’re reading is one of those experiments. My english teacher would laugh if she knew I was now writing online. I was a troubled English student. My year 12 essays were a mismatch of direct quotes and long words I found in the thesaurus to make myself sound smart. Who knew writing about something other than Shakespeare would be enjoyable.
Another challenge is running self-knowledge Zoom workshops for the Framework community, home to hundreds of creatives located all over the world. The people I thought I had the least in common with have turned out to be people I deeply connect with.
Most recently, I’ve started a community to help people answer the question “what do they want to be when they grow up?”. An experiment where I give all that I learn from my own coaching away for free in an attempt to earn trust and attention.
None of these have brought about any fiscal reward, however it led to discovering a love of writing, new creative friends and delivering my first keynote. Three new dots I’d be unlikely to have if I continued on the path I was on.
On a professional level this attitude led to a scary conversation with my manager. Over a coffee I explained I didn’t want to leave but I’d be forced to if I couldn’t experiment working within other areas of the business. To my surprise she was receptive and over the past twelve months I’ve completed three different placements.
I’ve worked with portfolio management and learnt about the different problems that arise when scaling a business. I’ve worked within investor relations, familiarising myself with the investor sales process. I’ve worked with our talent manager and deep dived into creating a talent marketplace.
In this time I’ve failed to climb vertically within the business. I even find myself paid almost half of what my friends are. However, I now know I enjoy working with founders and have a strength in understanding systems but they fail to give me energy. I’ve learnt that I strongly oppose completing back-end process orientated sales work but enjoy creating strategy for new products.
Have I found my calling yet? No. But I’m not concerned, I’ve learnt more about possible career opportunities in the past twelve months than I did in the previous four years. As I pass my 25th birthday, I’m excited for what the adventures the next five years of learning will lead me on.
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