Home Business And Entrepreneurship A Conversation With My Younger Self

A Conversation With My Younger Self

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“Make the decision to be courageous, knowing that courage is the antivenom to regret”

If I could turn back the hands of the clock twenty-five years, what would I tell myself, as I set out to begin what would undoubtedly become one of the most unexpected career journeys? What lessons would be the most important? What experiences would be the most transformational? Which people would have biggest impact? I’m not entirely sure a conversation with my twenty-four-year self would have been well received, as that is the age when I thought I had all the answers. I thought my pathway was resolute and inflexible. I thought that success came from climbing a predesigned, institutionally accepted career ladder was the goal to business promotion, success and, ultimately, happiness.

How wrong I was.

As I reflect on the many years since my inauguration into business – and government, since that’s where my career journey began – there are some key points that my far-too-confident self might well have embraced, or at least filed away for future guidance, assurance, and perspective. No one wants to hear “I told you so”, and I certainly would not mentor my younger self in that way. Rather, I respect the fact that many of the most valuable lessons I learned, making me who I am today, came from those formidable years when I was just starting to figure things out.

Courage

Make the decision to be courageous, knowing that courage is the antivenom to regret. Every action you take in life, every juncture you face, from baby steps to giant leaps, will require you to make a decision, and making decisions requires courage. Too often, people lack the confidence to make resolute choices. We ask others for their opinions, approvals, or consensus, and all this does is muddy the water of thought, and force you to second guess yourself, or even worse… make no decision at all.

Be strong in your convictions, even if those convictions are contrary to popular opinion. Do not be afraid to swim against the current. Make your decision, believe in that decision, and follow it through to the end – regardless of the outcome. Do not doubt yourself. YOU are the one person with whom you can have complete trust. Have the courage to make mistakes. Mistakes are as much a part of life as successes, and they often teach you the largest, most important lessons. Do not be afraid to fail. Failure is one of the necessary stepping-stones of life. Follow your endeavors through to the end – sometimes the end is bitter, and sometimes sweet, but each conclusion you reach will leave you stronger than you were at inception. There will always be people who tell you, “It can’t be done”. Remember, the ones who can’t are afraid you WILL. But you will never know if you can be the one to “get it done” unless you have the courage to begin.

Take risks. To quote William Shedd, “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what a ship was built for”. Greatness doesn’t come from comfort zones. Dream big, work hard, and don’t give up. You may have to try 1,000 keys before you can find the one that opens the door, but if you quit, that door will stay shut forever.

“Mistakes are as much a part of life as successes, and they often teach you the largest, most important lessons.”

“..you grow and mature, so will your hopes, goals, and aspirations. Life is unpredictable, and ever changing. Be brave enough to change with it”

Flexibility

Follow your dreams, but do not be afraid to change those dreams. As you grow and mature, so will your hopes, goals, and aspirations. Life is unpredictable, and ever changing. Be brave enough to change with it. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change”. Do not be afraid to embrace change. The ones who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world, are the ones who do.

To be truly flexible, you must also remember that life never stops teaching so you should never stop learning. If you are firmly rooted in one contrived pathway, you will miss the most incredible, life-changing experiences and people that appear when you least expect them. To cast away old dreams and goals, and to allow grander visions to take their place requires both courage and a willingness to pivot, but in doing so, you will open imaginable doorways to opportunity.

Pay Attention

We often get so bogged down in ourselves – our technology and devices, our thoughts, or beliefs, our responsibilities, that we fail to pay attention to what – and who, is around us. Put down your phone. Look up. SEE that world. Destiny will walk right by those who are too busy taking selfies.

Take the time to strike up conversation. Get to know the strangers who are around you as you sit at a coffee bar, ride the metro, or wait in line at the supermarket. These meaningful interactions can often lead to the most impactful new friendships, business relationships, opportunities and can take you down extraordinary pathways. Always try to find a way to be valuable to the people you meet, making it more about what you can do for them than what they can do for you. This is how you build a substantial network – this is how you can come together to truly BE the change that the world so desperately needs.

Travel

Travel. See the world. Prioritize your spending on experiences, rather than material possessions. Appreciate cultures, foods, and landmarks. Recognize that people are people, despite differences in race, gender, language, tradition, or religion. There are good and bad people – good and bad behaviors – in all countries and cultures. Be respectful. You are the stewards of our planet, and you have the power to heal the turmoil that the past generations have created. We have no “Planet B”, and it can no longer be us against each other… it must be us together for a solution.

When you travel and embrace the differences and divergent perspectives of others, you grow, mature, and develop your own emotional intelligence and tolerance – making you an effective leader and compassionate human being.

“Always try to find a way to be valuable to the people you meet, making it more about what you can do for them than what they can do for you. This is how you build a substantial network – this is how you can come together to truly BE the change that the world so desperately needs”

“To be a true leader, you do not have to have all the answers. Value your team, respect divergent opinions, be open to innovation. Be an achiever, doer, shaper, impactor, creator, and most importantly, be a collaborator”

Leadership

Everyone is born with the capacity to be a leader, but few ever recognize, develop, and nurture the skills necessary to truly lead – courage, integrity, tolerance, and commitment to purpose. Leaders create leaders, but to be a great leader, you must learn from those in the past who have exhibited bravery under duress, kindness in place of cruelty, courage during crisis and strength when the tribe was weak.

We have all worked for bad leaders at some point. Be the leader you wished you had in that situation. To be a true leader, you do not have to have all the answers. Value your team, respect divergent opinions, be open to innovation. Be an achiever, doer, shaper, impactor, creator, and most importantly, be a collaborator.

In Summary

In this very disruptive future we are facing, remember that the biggest impact sometimes comes from the smallest gesture. The future demands a regrowth of our human development capabilities. Do not be afraid of adversity, as adversity is one of the steppingstones of greatness. Never seek comfort from those who have decided to be comfortable, because greatness does not come from being comfortable.

Be kind to yourself, while being kind to others. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself and start fresh with the sunrise. Make ‘being happy’ a priority and know that you can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to be happy. Set aside the things that you knew about the past and CREATE the things that will be true about the future. You are in competition with no one. Don’t worry about playing the ‘game’ better than others, simply, each day try to be a better leader, teammate, friend, parent, spouse… human being, than you were yesterday. If you can do this, then you will have achieved your ultimate success.

Larisa Miller is CEO of Phoenix Global, an award-winning global boutique consulting and investment firm based in Miami. With over two decades of experience working with heads of governments and business leaders in the US and across the globe, Larisa has the exceptional talent of developing mutually beneficial partnerships spanning cultures, countries, and industries. She started her career working for the Secretary of Agriculture in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and went on to work in the office of public policy with the Governor of Pennsylvania. Larisa later worked with the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, UAE, as their business development manager, with a focus on sustainable development, and also as head of their large non-profit foundation, which focused on women, youth, literacy and education. Larisa is an award-winning keynote speaker, and sits on several global boards. She is also Managing Partner of Akon Global, developing and facilitating Smart Cities, affordable housing and technology investments with Akon, multi-Grammy award nominated recording star, businessman, philanthropist and change-maker.

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