WDS2016: The experience of a lifetime

WDS 2016 closing party (credit: Armosa Studios)

Short Intro (skip this bit if you just want the juicy stuff…)
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about WDS, but it was sometime in late 2015 or 2015, when my general dissatisfaction with life came to a head. This was to be the start of a transformational journey (one that continues) which saw me get hooked on the science of happiness, initially as it really honed in on some of the things which weren’t being met in my own life and was helping to tangibly identify exactly why I was feeling like I was, and what I could better do to improve my situation, my wellbeing and my life as a whole.

One of the major factors playing a part in my “quarter life crisis” (yep, so “millennial” of me) was the dissatisfaction I had in the job I was doing at the time and the accompanying work-life balance (or lack of) that accompanied it.

In no particular structured order, my spiritual awakening gained momentum and I started delving into more and more books and blogs; from lifestyle design (Tim Ferriss), new ways of working (freelancing/solopreneurship, entrepreneurship, portfolio careers) through to happier living in general (from the concepts of mindfulness and flow through to minimalistic living), I was reading it all. There was also a big movement I was seeing in individuals who apparently felt the same, with job dissatisfaction often being the thread which tied us all together. “Doing work you care about” must have always existed as a concept, but it is in these last 2–3 years that this movement really seems to be gaining momentum. I became aware of the Live Your Legend movement, immersing myself in their blog posts and resources (this was before “Live Your Legend local” started, with dozens and dozens of in-person meetups in cities all over the world, including London), before I found “Escape the City” closer to home and was immediately hooked. It was a step into a whole new world of work, good living, focusing on what’s important, self improvement…the list goes on.

WDS main stage (credit: Anouslacalifornie)

Main bit (“the juicy stuff”)
In this last year alone, I consider myself so fortunate to have found myself in so many amazing communities of like-minded people. And I’d clearly been going through this career change/happier living stuff for a long time — did I really need more inspiration, did I really need to be part of yet another group?

I had booked my WDS ticket several months before, at a time during my “Escape the City” course and perhaps getting carried away in the moment. (Through Chris Guillebeau’s books, Live Your Legend, Leo Babauta/Zen Habits, and more — both WDS and Portland kept cropping up and calling out to me, so I knew I had to experience it at some point). As the August “WDS week” approached, With my attention on my Masters course and making the pilot for my education programme happen, I hadn’t had so much time to dwell on WDS and, though looking forward to it, I couldn’t help wondering whether the investment (time and money) had been a sensible decision.

How wrong I was to have even doubted it. For, whilst I remained to be a community member of the groups I’ve mentioned (e.g. Escape the City, my Masters Group), interactions with these groups had for the last number of weeks and months primarily been online, with courses at both ending earlier in the year. Those other groups I was a part of had physical meets once a month as a minimum, if that. And if there’s one thing I know, despite my introvert-appeasing tendencies to delve into things online and quench my thirst, there is simply no replacement for that real-life, physical human connection. There just isn’t, and there never will be. Human connection can’t ever be scale; in-person is always where the magic is, tech is merely an enabler to keep it going and carry it forward in between the bouts of non-in-person-ness (my word). Digital connections/apps are far more transient than real-life.

WDS proved to be a week-long real-life warmth-fest of positive, inspiring, unconventionality-embracing folks from all over the US and beyond (Canada, Europe, Australia, Asia) with meetups, academies, talks and tons and tons of serendipitous interactions.

Impossible to sum up in words to someone who has’t attended, here’s my best shot of what made WDS the best conference I’ve ever been to:

1. I got to meet some of my heroes…
I got to see, in-person, some of the folks whose blogs I’d been reading and podcasts I’d been listening to over the last couple of years, and gaining inspiration from. To name a few, Chris Guillebeau (the WDS orchestrator himself), Chelsea Dinsmore, Leah & Naz (of The Connection Effect), and Jonathan Fields.

LYL Meetup — my head is small, but my smile is wide… (credit: LYL)

2. … and see that they were just “regular” people, like me!
Throughout the week, the WDS speakers, team, and whole community would get together and mingle, let our hair down. There was no hierarchy, no “us and you”, no ego’s. And the fact that these were people, just like us, who — yes — had worked hard and down impressive things. But that could be us. (I was reminded of the “You are the average of the 5 people you hang around with” quote, and the mindset shift that Scott Dinsmore describes during his interview with Jonathan Fields when he was plugging away for 3–4 years on his blog with no luck, before he moved to San Francisco and found a real-life community of real people doing extraordinary things — one of my favourite interviews ever).

3. There were lots of introverts! (Impressive, given the 1,000 “main-stage” attendees — reduced from 3,000 last year)
I decided to test my theory (of there being lots of introverts there and also trends in the Myers-Briggs profiles of attendees; I take all this stuff with a pinch of salt, but I also love to spot a trend) by asking various people where they sat on the introvert-extrovert continuum; there seemed to be a whole lot of mid-scale “ambiverts”, many of whom favoured the introvert side, and some of whom identified as being extroverts. But it was a big conference and there were lots of introverts, just like me! Interestingly, there were Myers-Briggs trends too… in particular, I recall speaking to a number of INFP/ENFPs.

4. It felt like a family
Outside of the various meetups and events, us WDS-ers were recognisable by the smart tags we proudly wore around our necks as we wandered around Portland. This led to lots of warm smiles and serendipitous interactions.

5. Portland is just a really, really cool place
Living in SW London, I have often though that if I ever moved to London (especially the City), I would find it quite a lonely place to settle and establish solid social relationships. (My friend, Amy, who I actually met on the first night at WDS — thanks to the WDS app which helped link the “early arrivals” — lives in LA, and admitted that it took a while there to find “the good ones”. I imagine it’s a similar story in any large city, and especially so in those where average earnings are higher (simplified explanation: more competition/keeping-up-with-the-Joneses effect, less togetherness/community). Portlanders are so cool and so friendly. On the street, at the Windows store (I bumped into it looking for the Apple store!), and at bars and restaurants. (This made the WDS Hero’s Journey a lot more fun and friendly too — a Friday morning series of group tasks we had to complete, many of which involved engaging the friendly folks of Portland).

6. There were lots and lots of warm, supportive, helpful, loving people
who were just like me! Different ages, from different walks of life, doing different things, at different points in their life, having had different stories, and inevitably on different journeys. And yet we were pretty similar. That alone was pretty magical.

WDS closing party — MJ + jellyfish (credit: Armosa Studios)

I could go on and on. WDS was magical (I decided not to edit the double-use of the word magical, for added magical effect…). Though it was such a powerful experience is so many ways, the 2 biggest takeaways for me:

  1. When you surround yourself with amazing people, it makes the “amazing” seem more normal, more possible. Do that!
  2. 2. Being PHYSICALLY around “your” people is so important. There is no replacement for it, even if you’re very active and connected on groups/blogs/podcasts online. Perhaps monthly meets aren’t enough… if we all procrastinated less online each day, though committed to a weekly meet, wouldn’t that be better for us all?! We’re always “so busy”, yet this business is often unproductive and the multitasking-form of business, which just isn’t good at all.

Some other notable highlights for me
– On arriving for Registration, I found myself sandwiched in between Chelsea Dinsmore and Corbett Barr. #starstruck
– After Registration, Chelsea & Steve (another LYL team hero) invited me to the LYL Local Meetup in Portland later that day!!
– I told Chelsea how incredible she was and what an amazing job she has done with Live Your Legend (I even bought her a drink at the closing party and 100% agreed that the DJ needed to play some Pitbull & Kesha) #wow
– Mr. Money Mustache inadvertently knocked my drink out of my hand and insisted on buying me another — until he realised he only had 3dollars in his pocked! #walkingthetalk
– I was lucky to have spent time with Leah Hynes & her awesome husband — Leah even invited me to join The Connection Effect’s community #badasscouple

– Experiencing Portland and, with an extra day after WDS ended, taking in some of the scenic side of Oregon when I visited a couple of waterfalls.

View from Wahkeena Falls trail, Portland, OR (credit: Lauren Roerick — WDS friend + hiking buddy)

Personal takings from WDS2016
I am blessed to know a number of inspiring individuals, mainly through the groups and communities I am a part of. But it’s left me wondering – ought I concentrate on cultivating a handful of these interactions, making more of an effort in real life, rather than aim to “keep in touch” with lots of individuals — no matter how positive and inspiring they are? I feel this is something I need to act on right away.

This was the 6th year of WDS, and I met equal numbers of previous and new attendees at WDS2016. WDS keeps getting better and better it seems, and in 2017 they are hiring a whole “WDS lodge” for the community, with rooms for WDS attendees to stay :) Never has the introvert in me been so excited by the prospect of prolonged, continuous interaction and stimulation…

And finally… what the heck is World Domination Summit anyway?

It really is pretty difficult to sum up. But after reading this article, I would encourage you to google “WDS2016” or World Domination Summit and engage in different perspectives online. Chances are, if something there resonates, it’s for you. And if in doubt — do it. Take it from me, it’s well worth it. And it might be the start of something pretty special for you.

Wisdom: Bertrand Picard

“Why don’t we dream more? Why don’t we try more? When you see the results today, it’s because our team dreamed. A lot is starting today. A lot is possible because we have dared to fail, when you dare to fail you can succeed.”

01-solar-impulse-bay-area

Bertrand Picard
–> First to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe
–> First to complete the first round-the-world flight powered solely by sunlight

 

Wisdom: Chris Pine

“On Instagram, there’s also a curated sense of life that I don’t know if I agree with.”

He pauses.

“I’m probably thinking about it too much. Maybe I am missing out, but it gives me anxiety. There’s that wonderful Louis CK skit where he’s dining and constantly checking his phone, the idea being that this is an ego device. ‘How many people are liking you now?’ If it’s not buzzing, then you’re not existing. In that, I’m completely fallible – I google myself and all sorts of weird, awful shit.”

Chris Pine (actor)

What you know now is enough

Photo: PublicDomainPictures
Photo: PublicDomainPictures

I used to fool myself into thinking I needed to know everything, before beginning on everything. That that person who I saw as successful, who was on stage speaking, or on a panel offering his opinion, or online writing an article, somehow knew more than me and was better placed than I was – and more worthy – of offering their views. That, even though I know intuitively that all opinions are just that, no matter which “experts” they may come from, somehow those individuals have some sort of magical-know-how, more “experience” and therefore know what they’re talking about (especially when they say what they say or write what they write with a sense of conviction – which is often there, to the outsider looking in at least; though not always on the inside).

I say “used to” as if this has now completely passed; it hasn’t, but I have been managing to keep it more at bay, to step back and look at the situation objectively, as I am now, and not to let my brains and emotions (“chimp chatter”) take hold and control over me.

They say your biggest strengths are also your biggest weaknesses. In my top-5 list of “Gallup strengths”, I have Input, Learner and Intellection – all of which allude to taking in a whole bunch of information and enjoying letting it simmer and trying to make sense of it all. They certainly are strengths, and I wasn’t surprised with the results – I love to learn and I love to read, and I have interests in so many different things. However, taken to the extreme it means I crave more and more information, in order to form what I perceive to be “better” and “more valid” conclusions; a dangerous cycle as, whilst it leads me to keep bettering myself and being open to knowledge-gathering (I can’t see it any other way, seeing as it really is my natural disposition to learn and wish to take things in), it also means I keep chasing those magical conclusion, those magical insights. Those answers which will make me feel legitimate and valid and as if I can take to the physical stage, or perhaps to a metaphorical stage (like this one) and offer my opinions.

The fact is that even those “experts” who you see talking with conviction, and with all of those followers on their blogs or social media profiles, are really just offering their perspectives – based on their own limited knowledge-gathering. I say limited because it can never be unlimited…

What you know now is enough. Especially so if you have a tendency to spend time learning and inputting, and have thus accrued hours, days, even weeks of doing that in your lifetime already.

But even if you haven’t, even if you’re just starting from the beginning. You still have lived experience, your own perspectives, which equal or can even be of more value than what you read about from others.

Ironically, when I was in primary school, and to go and learn it either had to be through borrowing/buying a book, or by putting Encarta or Brittanica into the CD-ROM (remember those?!) and finding out about whatever it is you wanted to find out about.

Today, the blessing and the curse is that we have the internet. The blessing being is that we have information at our fingertips, and from so so so many different sources. The curse being just that. Information there, at out fingertips, for us to get sucked in, to want more and more, there and then. To distract us and fool us from thinking that we “know enough”.

You enough now to get started on that thing. So for goodness’ sake stop reading. Stop thinking. And get to doing. You’ll be glad you did. And it might get you onto that stage. You might just change the world.

Some reasons to write in the morning

– Writing is cathartic
– Writing is freeing – especially if you do “stream of consciousness writing”, which is literally just writing things down as they come to you, without too much thinking/dwelling
– Writing can help get you out of the habit of perfectionism
– Writing is a good start to the day – setting you into “creative”/active mode rather than reactive mode (i.e. checking emails, scrolling through news articles, social media)
– Writing is arguably essential to everyone – even for those of us who don’t have a typically “write-y” job as such
– Writing gives you clarity

Wisdom: Chris Guillebeau

“You don’t have to know your life purpose when you’re 20, or even when you’re 30 or 40 or 60. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes the journey itself is the purpose.”

Chris Guillebeau (entrepreneur, nonfiction author, blogger and speaker)

Wisdom: Benjamin Franklin

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”

Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States & renowned polymath; leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat)

Turning 27: Lessons so far

Credit: Tyler Mullins via Unsplash

Saturday 4th June, 2016

I looked into the mirror this morning and I was 27. Twenty-seven. Though I look no different from yesterday, and not even so different from 5 years ago (I’ve pretty much had the same face since I was a toddler – blessing/curse?), there has been a lot of growth and learning in my twenties.

I thought I’d write a list of 27 things I’d share with my younger self (there are hundreds of them – these are the ones that first came to me sitting here after a long day at around 11pm), and to other “younger selves”. Here are some of those most significant breakthroughs/lessons learned in the last 1-3 years:

1. Love is really important

From parents, siblings, family and friends. It’s such a basic need and transcends pretty much everything else. As The School of Life tells us, “next time you see a guy driving by in a Ferrari, don’t think it’s someone unusually greedy, think it’s someone with a particularly intense vulnerability and need for love.”

“It’s said that we live in materialistic times, but it’s more poignant than that. We live in times where emotional rewards have been pegged to the acquisition of material things.” — The School of Life: Status Anxiety

2. Self-acceptance is really, really important

We all have flaws, imperfections, things about us we’d like to change – usually because we’re so damn intent on comparing ourselves to others and dwell on the negatives and what we don’t have, in comparison to having working limbs, a nice smile, etcetera. But self-acceptance is more than just the physical, but also about our personal characteristics and perceived “flaws”. Again, work in making positive changes, but focus on your strengths and the good stuff too.

3. Quality over quantity when it comes to relationships
At school, I used to wish I was less geeky and more popular and better with the opposite sex. Over a decade later and the same can often apply. With the media (celebrity), social media (“friends”, “followers”, etc) it’s so easy to believe that having the most friends, the most connections, the biggest network is what it’s all about. And despite writing this, I keep getting fooled into thinking that’s the case. Until I have a great evening with a small group of friends (e.g. my Monthly Mastermind group), or an amazing 1-on-1 conversation with someone, or, like today, a really nice family day out.

I’ve come to realise that there’s no harm in knowing lots of people (in fact it has all sorts of benefits having a diverse group of relationships), but fewer, stronger social relationships are far more fulfilling, and better for wellbeing (and less overwhelming to manage – especially as an introvert!).

4. There are many different types of intelligence (with schools/educational institutions only focusing on 1 or 2 forms at best; there are many more)

5. Being different beats being dull/boring/“normal” (whatever “normal” even means!)
It’s the “different” ones which stand out, whose weirdness causes them to see things from a different point of view, and perhaps even inspires them to change the world.

6. No one has their sh*t totally together or life figured out
I used to think that there was a magic age at which you became adult/grown-up and just had everything figured out, job, kids, where you lived, everything. No one has it all sussed, and often just has to go through with it and deal with it as best as they can, no matter what it might seem like on the surface. This is both extremely reassuring and terribly frightening at the same time.

7. We all need to open up more … or be given the platform to do so (once given “permission”, it’s amazing how open we are)
Mental-health wise – we all go through really sh*t, terrible periods. And that’s whether we have/are diagnosed with mental health conditions or not. This is what I loved about Positive Psychology, and (partly) why I quit my job to do a year-long Masters in the subject.

8. The quarter-life crisis is a thing
For some reason, a whole bunch of us in our 20s and 30s have gone through/are going through it. Lots of debt, being told we could be anything we want to be, having high expectations, expecting a family, job and mortgage by our early-mid twenties like our parents/the generation before us, an increasing desire to do work that we care about, lack of jobs due to the economy/the generation before us living for longer/retiring later…. Whatever the reasons, it’s happening, and it almost has been silently for lots of us. I felt like an anomaly when I had my own, which culminated in quitting my job, beginning a Masters, and using that year for self-exploration. It’d have been nice to have known I wasn’t “alone” when doing that, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to connect with so many likeminded people. It turns out they were there all along.

9. There are so many more career options that I knew of back at school (and they are becoming more common too)
Unfortunately, the “careers advice” of today is generally stuck in the dark ages.

10. Even introverts need interaction!
Again, social relationships – high-quality and close – are so important for our wellbeing.(PS. Discovering I was an introvert in the first place was a significant breakthrough — thanks to Susan Cain — it’s all about where you get your energy from, not how shy/outgoing you are).

11. Growth really does happen outside the comfort zone
As cliched as that sounds. Feeling the fear and doing it not feels really satisfying afterwards (short term benefits), but also leads to personal growth (medium-long term benefits)

12. Career transitions are scary but exciting at the same time
There’s no right answer. Both frustrating and beautiful at the same time.

13. Your 20s really should be about exploring and experimenting
You can’t be expected to commit to a job/career when you’ve got no sense of what “working” is like; and you don’t know what you enjoy until you’ve tried it (and like it/discount it). On another note, I think it’s incredibly risky to choose a career path where you’re investing a lot of time/money up front to get there – especially given the world we live in today and all of the options available.

14. In the 21st century, we no longer have to choose
A job isn’t a job for life, and it’s predicted many of us will have several jobs even at one time (freelance economy)

15. Some (many) of us are naturally generalists/multipotentialites/scanners, rather than specialists.
Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk and blog have been eye-opening.

16. Money determines happiness/wellbeing only up to a certain extent, however…

17. Money does buy happiness…
In the way that it affords freedom from stress about paying bills/mortgage/etc (and a bit left over to spend on the right things is good too). As Gretchen Rubin says, “Well, money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy lots of things that contribute mightily to happiness”. The Money vs Happiness relationship is certainly a complicated one.

18. Money is better spent on experiences rather than things
Event better, on shared experiences with the people who matter most. (You look forward to it, dwell on it afterwards, and it has the double effect of combining the “social relationships” element – so lots of good for your wellbeing/happiness)

19. Minimalism is really interesting and probably good for us
And there are plenty of millionaires (and even 1 or 2 billionaires) who opt for a simpler, less-materialistic life and seem far happier for it. (Less paradox of choice when it comes to your wardrobe, and your life in general, too; hence the reason Steve Jobs wore the same jeans & turtle-neck sweater every day).

20. The pursuit of more and more stuff, in isolation, is empty.
We get used to those shoes, that car, that house, and need bigger and better. And then the same again. It’s a never-ending pursuit. Stuff like the richkidsofinstagram page is utter crap and damaging for impressionable young minds. Richard Layard writes about that, and even George Lucas has spoken about it – referring to “pursuing pleasure over joy” (from 8:10 in this short video).

21. “Work hard, play hard” doesn’t have to be the way
It connotes doing work you don’t particularly enjoy/put up with, only to drink heavily at the weekend as an escape. Better just to “live well” all the way through (doing “work” you enjoy, so you don’t necessarily have to “play hard” away from work)

22. In the western world, the top of Maslow’s hierarchy is becoming more important
Probably as we are more materially abundant than ever before, thus the bottom layers are sufficiently met, but leaving us increasingly deprived of the upper layers.

23. “You are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with”
A famous quote by Jim Rohn, which also happened to be one of Scott Dinsmore’s all-time favourites. Find your tribe. Consciously choose who you want to be with. (It takes self-awareness and understanding to first know who you are, and then find similar people with the same values, beliefs, mindset, etcetera; I’ve only really started doing this in the last year. Before that, I used to hang around with mostly anyone who came my way, whoever I worked with, whoever was in my class/group, etcetera).

24. “Keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t do us any good”
Economist Richard Layard said something along those lines in his book. We compare ourselves with our peer group, and our intrinsic self-worth gets defined by what we “do” for a living, and what our status/earnings are with others around us. Being aware of this can make us be more mindful/accepting/realising of how these things don’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things, and we mustn’t let them take over our life/self-worth! Otherwise it keeps us from living how we want, doing the work we love, and even staying stuck and earning (and spending!) more than we really need to.

25. Societal/cultural/parental/school/external/all expectations can be felt MASSIVELY, but…
That’s all they are, expectations. Live life how you want to live it, and not defined by others. Easier said than done.

26. We’re all human beings and we really aren’t so different from one another.
Some of us are male, some female, some younger, some older, some western, some eastern, some business owners, some teachers, some short, some tall and yet… fundamentally we’re all the same and have the same needs. e.g. love, belonging, social relationships, purpose/meaning and so forth.

27. The best is yet to come
Life tends to get more beautiful the longer it goes on as you grow and develop as a person. At least it has for me, and long may that continue…

young me
This post also featured on Medium.

The best way to start your day

I went to an early morning rave yesterday. MorningGloryVille is really good fun. Highly recommended.

What that meant was, for the first time in a long time, I got an early train with commuters to Waterloo, before continuing onward to Bank and then Bethnal Green, before the short walk from there to Oval Space. This meant lots of people in suits reading, scrolling or sleeping. And it also meant 4 minutes of Waterloo & City-line bliss (I’m being sarcastic, obviously).

Trains are a funny place in the morning. Aside from the snoozers inevitably catching up on sleep, perhaps still catching up on sleep-debt from the busy bank holiday weekend, the vast majority of people are either reading the Metro Newspaper or scrolling on their phones – most of the time reading news or on Facebook.

Now I’m not going to judge – partly because I used to do exactly the same thing. On my morning commute, I used to devour the Metro cover-to-cover (especially looking forward to what Justin Bieber et all had been up to in the “Guilty Pleasures” section), or used to read BBC news or social-media-scroll.

In the last few months I’ve made some changes. Firstly, I’ve decided to consciously decide upon what I put into my brain – especially so at the start of the day. Is reading about the ills of the world really the best idea? Will it really make that miserable commute better – or more miserable? Don’t get me wrong – ignorance is not the answer, and it’s a good idea to generally be aware of what’s happening in the world – but do we really need to be bombarded with it constantly? Through the newspapers, through the news itself, through our mobile phones?

I initially had this unjustified fear that I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on and I would be caught out and embarrassed in a social context. This hasn’t happened for 2 main reasons:

1. At the weekend, I’ll flick through The Times
2. Through snippets on the TV/snippets of conversation/etc. it is pretty difficult not to have a general gist of what’s going on in the world!

If you simply have to know what’s going on, why not try Positive News instead? Shining a much-needed light on the good that’s happening in the world…

Second, comes the mindless Facebook-scrolling. Whilst my FB consumption has now reduced and is more controlled, Twitter has become my latest social-media-platform-I-really-need-to-manage. In today’s busy world, we are being bombarded more than ever before, and not just in the physical world, but in the digital world too. This information overload is such that we can’t properly process it nor are yet aware of its effects… one thing I know for sure, it’s a good idea to A) Limit what’s going in and B) Consciously decide what’s going in rather than being fed it!

Again – do I really need to know what’s happening (through a curated lens) in other people’s lives? There’s evidence to suggest that the more we spend on Facebook, the worse we feel. I can relate to this! There’s so much going on, and quite often you feel terrible that you’re not partying on that rooftop or standing atop that mountain (bizarrely, even if you don’t even particularly like rooftops or mountains!). Social media does have its uses and its advantages, but too much of it can be detrimental. (PS. whatever happened to making phone calls and meeting people? I’m trying to get better at this myself – and take more of a “quality over quantity” approach when it comes to my social relationships).

So, I guess I would question whether in the morning:

A) News bombardment is a good idea
B) Social media / general mindless scrolling is a good idea

Read some positive news instead :) Or do some exercise. Read a book. Write.

Oh – and once in a while – you really need to try a sober rave. You’re likely to be on a nice buzzy high for the rest of the day. Try it!

Credit: Heiyeuiu via Pixabay

Career options in the 21st century

I completed my A-Levels in 2007, almost a decade ago. It’s fair to say that:

A) There were a whole host of career options which I had no clue about at that time (which I now do – and only really have gained a proper appreciation for in these last 12-18 months)
B) In the last decade these “other” options have become increasingly typical, as others have woken up to them and transitioned careers to reflect what they care about, and the sort of lifestyle they want to live

In fact, according to the folks at Escape The City, a “21st century career” looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.25.30

At my grammar school in southwest London, as someone who had been reasonably “academic” at school with my grades being pretty decent (and also with the 2 hard-working generations whom had come before me), I had narrowed my career options to the following:

– Medicine
– Dentistry
– Law
– Banking

And that was pretty much it. In other words, something reasonably prestigious which I envisioned would be a safe and steady option and would lead to a well-paid career.

One major downside to “careers advice” and “career options” in 2016 is that we still live in outdated times where options seemed to be very fixed — e.g. “lawyer”, “doctor”, “builder”, “butcher” and stuck in the times when a job used to be a job for life, which is now not the case. In the last 40 years, we have gone from “a job/employer for life” to “several jobs in a lifetime (across different industries)”, and we are now moving towards “several jobs at any one time” with the “freelance economy” on the horizon. (Hence the conformity which school encourages is only becoming increasingly inappropriate & detrimental).

Careers/jobs are simply not fixed like this any more — here’s what’s possible in today’s world:

1. These traditional “identities” can now manifest themselves in a number of different ways

If you want to be a “writer” — you can be a blogger, you can write content for a company, you can be a journalist, and so on. If you want to be a “doctor” — yes, you can go down the traditional GP/consultant route, yet you can also work for a healthcare startup, you can find a way to scale your medical knowledge to reach a wider audience over the internet.

2. The portfolio career

As mentioned, there is now no need to “choose” between one career or another. Have multiple interests? You can now go for a “slash” career comprised of 2 or 3 (or more) parts. You can be a coach/speaker, you can be a writer/teacher, you can even be a lawyer/teacher.

Indeed, many of us are not specialists by design, and have a whole host of interests. (This TED Talk by Emilie Wapnick — “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” is eye-opening).

Recommended reading:
Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher
And what do you do? 10 steps to creating a portfolio career by Barrie Hopson & Kate Ledger

3. Solopreneurship

It is now possible to carve out your own skillset in whichever field / based on whichever interest(s) you may have, and then either build your own online audience from it, or work for yourself and take on your own clients. You don’t have to build a huge company, you don’t even have to have a business partner or any employees. Many people disillusioned with working in the corporate sector and choosing to transition in this direction.

Credit: Unsplash (via Pixabay)

Recommended reading:
The $100 Startup Chris Guillebeau
Screw Work, Let’s Play by John Williams
Escape from Cubicle Nation, by Pamela Slim
The Escape Manifesto by Escape The City

4. Entrepreneurship

I had no idea it was possible to pursue business at a young age, having been under the impression it was for “older people” who had experience under their belt and then magically went on to build successful businesses. With the rise of startup/accelerator programmes, enterprise schemes at school (e.g. Young Enterprise), entrepreneurship courses at universities, as well as programmes/funding for entrepreneurial students at university, in addition to programmes like NEF (New Entrepreneurs Foundation) — entrepreneurship, though not for everyone, is now accessible to graduates and young people in general.

Note of caution: there is a certain amount of glamour attached to entrepreneurship and startups. It’s really important to know the pros and cons and understand the bigger picture, before jumping into either one of them.

5. Working for a startup

If I had known that startups/small businesses was “a thing”/a genuine option, that may well have been the option I had chosen coming out of school. Being a small business, you get to learn a lot, work closely with some amazing individuals and really feel close to the mission of whichever business you are joining.

Startups are emerging not only in London but a number of other UK cities, and across every sector: from the “traditional” sectors of education and healthcare, through to “new” sectors such as Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing.

Recommended reading:
Why young people should seriously consider working for a startup

Though the landscape has changed a lot in the last few years and these other options have since “emerged”, careers are probably the farthest from linear and defined that they have ever been. The 21st century career is all about exploring, experimenting and zigzagging.

2016 is an exciting time for young people, whether coming out of school, college or university.

PS. Despite (hopefully!) being wiser now than I was 10 years ago, it’s been a fun journey :)

I originally wrote this article for the Thriva blog (it also featured on Medium)