Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

Instead of spending time in the annual routine celebration of New Year, I was lucky enough to squeeze time to finish this book: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig. As I previously blogged that time is too precious to be wasted by doing stupid or meaningless things, such as reading a bad book or watching a bad movie. This book is definitely a good read. Not only it is entertaining, I do feel like I can benefit from learning the lessons in this book.

The author is a female neuron scientist who became a management consultant. She has been giving life lessons based on her own experience and encounters. Those lessons are not complicated at all, some of them perhaps were told by others in some other forms or means. She patches her lessons together and wrote this book as a gift for her son who was gonna be 20 then. Though my 20 was long gone, I do find the timeless lessons in this book refreshing. The author is skillful enough to pack them up with vivid description and examples to keep my eyeballs from cover to back of this book.

The following are some extracts and lessons that I picked up from the book.

“If you goal is to make meaning by trying to solve a big problem in innovative ways, you are more likely to make money than if you start with the goal of making money, in which case you will probably not make money or meaning.”

Brainstorming sections should have no rule, boundary or limit.

“Rules are often meant to be broken. This idea is captured in the oft-used phrase “ Don’t ask for permission, but beg for forgiveness.” Most rules are in place as the lowest common denominator, making sure that those who don’t have a clue what to do stay within the boundaries.”

“It is better to know the few things that are really against the rules than to focus on the many things you think you should do.”

“…it takes practice to do things that are not the “automatic next step.” The more you experiment, the more you see that the spectrum of options is much broader than imagined. The sole rule is that you are limited only by your energy and imagination.”

“Instead of waiting to be asked and tiptoeing around an opportunity, seize it. It takes hard work, energy, and drive – but these are the assets that set leaders apart from those who wait for others to anoint them.”

“if you aren’t failing sometimes then you aren’t taking enough risks.”….creation of a ‘failure resume’ showcasing some of my biggest mistakes. “One the most basic level, all learning comes from failure.”

“The Da Vinci Rule” – It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end…”Quitting is actually incredibly empowering.” Quitting should be done gracefully.

“Don’t sit around waiting for a yes that will never come. It’s better to get to no sooner rather than later, so you can put your energy into opportunities with a higher likelihood of success….That is, if you continue to push the limits, and are willing to fail along the way, you will very likely find success.”

“There appear to be five primary types of risks: physical, social, emotional, financial, and intellectual.”

“Passions are just a starting point. You also need to know your talents and how the world values them.”

“…it is important to keep experimenting, trying lots of things until you find out what works. Being too set on your path too early will likely lead you in the wrong direction.”

“…you build a career in such a way that you optimize the quality of the people with whom you work, which ends up increasing the quality of the opportunities that flow your way. Great people support each other, build valuable networks, and create a steady stream of new opportunities. Essentially, the ecosystem in which you live and work is a huge factor in predicting the types of opportunities that will present themselves.”

“It is important to reassess your life and career relatively frequently. This self-assessment process forces you to come to terms with the fact that sometimes it’s time to move on to a new environment in order to excel.”

“…..identify the intersection between your skills, your passions, and the market.”

“the harder you work, the luckier you get.”

“lucky people tend to be extraverted. They make more eye contact and smile more frequently, leading to more positive and extended encounters….they tend to be optimistic and to expect good things to happen to them. This become a self-fulfilling prophecy...they find ways to extract positive outcomes from the worst situations.”

“…you never know when your experience will prove to be valuable.”

“Showing appreciation for the things others do for you has a profound effect on how you are perceived.”

“Your reputation is your most important asset.”

“…how you want to tell the story in the future is a great way to assess your response to dilemmas in general. Craft the story now so you’ll be proud to tell it later.”

“knowing how to apologize is incredibly important…if you wait a long time to apologize, the damage continues to grow.”

“The most common mistake in negotiation is making inaccurate assumptions….”

“The key to a successful negotiation is to ferret out everyone’s interests so you can maximize the outcome for everyone.”

“ if there is no win-win solution,…it is actually better to walk away….the best way to know whether you should walk away from a deal is to understand you other choices…”

“…to pick three priorities at any one time, knowing that these will change as your life changes.”

“…removing the cap and being willing to reach your true potential…acknowledging that you are ultimately responsible for your actions and the resulting outcomes…”

For most of the lessons above and others, there are real life examples that back them up. If I read the book critically, it is possible that the author came up with the lessons first and then try to back them up with selected examples. However, second guess the author’s intention isn’t something I usually do. I would rather go with the flow, enjoying the reading experience and learn whatever I can pick up from the book. The bottom line is that this is a good and easy read that I find it recommendable to ‘thinking’ people of all ages.


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