Last week, I started my “What I Know For Sure: 50 Lessons Life Has Taught Me” list. Here are the next lessons I’ve learned.
6. If I ever have to ask myself, “Do I like this?” then I don’t like it.
I already have my answer. I’m self-aware enough to not have to ask that question. Because if I truly liked it, I would know, and I wouldn’t have to ask. There would be no question. I wouldn’t have to stop and think about it. I would just know. It immediately (or almost immediately) feels right and good and I’m at peace. If I like something, I’m already sold. It’s clear. I don’t have to take a step back and assess. I’d be too busy enjoying the thing. I’m only forced to assess if there is some uncertainty. Job, clothing, food, books, city in which to live… whatever. The question, “Do I like this?”, is rooted in a place of doubt and disconnect. It’s black or white, cut and dry — you either like it or you don’t. If you say “I don’t know” then you don’t like it. Move on.
7. Never make excuses for people
I’ve found that people are quite capable of making excuses for themselves, and that anytime I’ve tried to excuse someone for something they’ve done wrong, it’s because I don’t want to accept or be disappointed by who they have revealed themselves to be.
This is especially true with the guy stuff: “Maybe he was busy. Maybe he forgot – I forget stuff too sometimes. Maybe he didn’t get the text message…” Those may all be true and real reasons. But, by the same token, many busy people seem to be able to make time for the things and people that are important to them. If he wanted to see you, he would. If he wanted to text you, he would. It’s the hard facts but truth hurts. Even during my busiest moments, if my sister calls me, I drop everything and pick up the phone. If someone wants to show up, they will find a way. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If there is seemingly no way, maybe there wasn’t any will to begin with.
I don’t know their situation. Let me not make up stories to make myself feel better and protect my self-esteem. Let them tell me what actually happened.
8. Don’t wait on anyone’s phone call
Whether it’s the guy you met up with the day prior, your mother, your boyfriend, your best friend, your sister… Unless my imminent future actions depend on the phone call and I am in dire need of the call before I can act, don’t wait. I have wasted so much time and deferred the activities of my day because I didn’t want to miss a call or because someone had promised, “I’ll call you right back.” You always end up wasting valuable time. Nowadays, whenever someone says, “I’ll call you back,” I take it to mean that I still have time to go grocery shopping. I can still cook a meal, do laundry and go workout…and still get their call.
If someone says that they have to go and they say that they will call you back – never wait beside the phone. I’d dare say that even if it’s OCI (on-campus interview) call back day (it’s a law recruitment process common in Canada and the US) – never wait beside the phone. Go out and live life. Do the things you had planned on your to-do list. Don’t let a potential phone call take your day hostage (ok…fine…on call back day, at least be close to your phone or have your phone on you). If and when they do call, they can leave a message. It’s not the end of the world. That’s what voicemail is for. You don’t always have to be available to take the call.
9. Don’t sign up for something just because it is prestigious and will look good on your resume
I’ve gotten myself into so much trouble because I signed up for something for the simple fact that it will beef up my resume. There was a point in my life when I was obsessed with titles, but that has only provided grief. I wasn’t as invested in the activity as I needed to be. I wasn’t as engaged as I needed to be. Thus, I tired myself out unnecessarily and soured relationships with other people.
I confused and confounded excitement with this being on my resume with excitement over the actual project.
Thus, I’ve learnt to do the things I genuinely want to do. Do the things that are important to you and that stir you. Do the things you are passionate about — whether or not it’s impressive enough to put on a resume. If you do things you love, you will do them well and the right people will notice. Don’t do things you genuinely don’t want to do. I could have saved myself so much drama and stress if I didn’t get caught up in prestige and image-proffering and trying to impress people or prospective employers.
10. Grades aren’t everything.
I’m a recovering overachiever. I used to be the consummate overachiever, but law school changed all that. “You’ll do so well in law school,” they said. “No body fails in law school,” they said. I believed them… until I failed. I failed Judicial Institutions and Civil Procedure (JICP). I was the only person to fail in the entire class. But that first failure (and other subsequent failures in life) helped me separate my identity from my GPA. It is because I was able to separate my grades from my self-worth earlier on that when I failed JICP, I was disappointed but I wasn’t devastated. It didn’t cause me to question myself, my identity and my destiny. I had come to the point where I knew that I could still fail and still be smart. The two are not diametrically opposed. Being a good person and having a great personality still matter. In fact, I’m finding that they have taken me farther than my GPA ever could.
11. Don’t disqualify yourself.
I think the reason why I was so successful in the scholarship hunt while in high school is because I applied for everything, even if I didn’t meet all of the criteria. And if I didn’t win one year, I’d apply again the next. I’ve learnt not to disqualify myself. My job is to apply. My job is not to say no to myself. My job is not to disqualify myself. It’s the job of the selection committee or decision panel to disqualify or approve. It’s important you know your role, or you’ll end up doing the work of the decision committee by disqualifying yourself. Moreover, we often hold ourselves in less esteem than others, so to disqualify myself based on my own faulty self-assessment would be silly.
The worst the selection committee or HR people can say is no and then you’ve lost nothing. I remember attending a panel on women and negotiation in the legal profession, and I was shocked when I learned that women don’t apply for jobs unless they fit all of the criteria (while men will often apply, even if they meet only 60% of the criteria). We need to put ourselves out there. We need to apply (and believe me — I’m preaching to myself).
Don’t underestimate yourself (although, I’d rather be underestimated than overestimated — by others, but not by me). Your job is not to do the disqualifications. That’s their job. Your job is to apply or put yourself out there or volunteer yourself or pitch yourself or try.
To be continued…