I turned 30 this year, and I reflected on some life lessons about my relationships and the nature of love. It really does feel like a significant number, because I’ve learned so much in this time and yet I know there is SO much more to learn. (And re-learn!)
Looking back, I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her… well, a lot of things. But ultimately, it would be the lessons I’ve learned along the way – some learned the hard way, some were just brought out of me, and some of them I thought I’d never learn but eventually did.
Some of you are younger, but if you’re not, pretend you are – because you’re only as young as I think you are! Now that I’m at Level 30, if the Doctor could take me back to give advice to my younger self, this is what I’d share. (But as if he’d allow that!)
30 Lessons Turning 30: Work & Skills
WORK & SKILLS
1. Take one step towards your dream.
Take one small step towards your dream every week, even if it’s just writing about why you want it or reading an article on the subject. Offer to meet someone on LinkedIn for coffee. Ask loads of questions. Don’t talk yourself out of it. No one knows anything when they start. Don’t overthink it – just try it out. You’ll be amazed when you do. And at the end of the year, or on birthdays, look back at all your achievements for the year. I’ve found it’s one of the best things you can do to remind yourself how much can be achieved, and how much better you can be year on year.
2. Talk to your boss
If you’re unhappy in your job, talk to your boss and be as honest as you can about that. I’ve learned the hard way that not talking can lead to misinterpretation – so there’s nothing to lose. This might not be possible, depending on your boss, so only you know if you might lose your job if you do open up. But if you know it’s not right for you, start looking for a new job straight away. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up for feeling unhappy at a job you ‘should’ do and forget about your other goals. (Yeah, you’ll regret that).
3. A career shift is good.
If your career isn’t how you imagined it at 14, that’s fine. You’re doing this. Remember the skills and the reasons you wanted to do what you thought, and find different ways to use those skills. It’ll open up your world. It’ll be much better, ultimately.
4. A career break is good, too.
Taking a break from your career after redundancy (or any other reason) and doing something completely different to make some money is not failure. And if you’re in a book shop, and people talk down to you because they don’t know you, but you know you were doing their kind of job weeks ago, just laugh at them on the inside. Not the outside, because that’s really bad customer service. But it tells you way more about the kind of person they are than anything else.
5. Weed out feedback.
Take the most brutal criticism you ever received and weed out the points made, and work on these. The most valuable lessons are often from the most dismissive criticisms. Don’t give up just because someone was disappointed at the quality of your work. You will be better than you think soon enough, if you keep trying. Don’t give up on what you like doing.
6. Send it.
Submit, sell or pitch something you’re really proud of, even if you think it’s not good enough. Challenge yourself to be braver and more vulnerable with each piece of creative work, because that’s the best way to get better as a creator and as a person. LIKE THIS PIECE FOR ME – this is so personal, but that’s why I wanted to push out of my comfort zone!
7. Do the rough draft first.
Write a bad first draft, and expect it to be bad. (Level 1 is hard the first time, and your character will die, but starting over is the only way to get to Level 100). Good writing is just good editing. Don’t expect too much. Once it’s all out there, then you can improve it. Get it out of your head first, then you work on it.
8. Enjoy the process
Enjoy the work and how far it’s brought you so far. Big goals take a lot of work – but if you’re consistent and enjoy the process, that’s more important than the outcome. And if you feel that way, you’re meant to be doing this. There’s a reason you were interested in this, follow that.
9. Fight the comparison monster.
Be proud of how much work you’ve done to get to this point in life. Don’t compare yourself to others who are ahead of you or others who have different motivations. The only comparison that counts is with your past self.
10. Get it done, and make better promises for better deadlines.
Always expect creative work to take longer than expected and keep a buffer for emotions or anything that gets in the way. When you give realistic promises to people, with a buffer, you will never have to let people down and feel worse about missing deadlines. And if you allow more time than you think, you can use it to make sure it’s a great job that you’re proud of. It’s always better to have too much time, than rushing sub-par work at the last minute and beating yourself up over it. This is a lesson I REALLY need to re-learn, continually! Like this blog post… I think I ended up promising at least three different deadlines… !
Amanda Leek – feeling wise in her old age
Writes & draws: Coin Phrases