Advice I got but didn’t follow

…and probably should’ve sometimes

We all have this piece of advice we received, deliberately decided to ignore and think of after failing a while. Here is my list.

1. sometimes it’s not about understanding but doing

In the last edition of my newsletter (in french), my interviewee shared something that really resonated with my experience. S·he said: « I have a had time disconnecting my brain. I have this need to know WHY I’m doing what I do which slows me down sometimes. ». In this case, s·he was referring to pastry – following her/his reconversion.

As for me, I have this running joke which states that « I suck at maths – or whatever topic which is calculus related ». I remember back in high school when, preparing for my SATs, my friends would give me advice to turn the tables around. They’d tell me the secret to maths was « to stop thinking about what you’re doing and just applying the darn theorem.» No need to say it didn’t work.

However, now that I’ve grown up, I – somehow – get what they meant with this opaque words. Doing stuff can get you a long way. If you’re like me, it’s easy to overthink everything you do and get lost in the hellish spiral of « WHY ». But – unlike maths –, sometimes you only get to the roots of things when doing.

Back in 2018 I wrote about having – and building – a vision which echoes this topic

2. but taking a step-back to understand is (sometimes) essential

I know what I wrote earlier, BUT. BUT. BUT. This doesn’t always apply. Take vocational and/or introspection for instance. When in doubt we might tell ourselves sometimes « let me just take that job / say yes to this person / do x, y,z and I’ll figure it out later ». This is a BIG NO. We learn in school that a pause on a curriculum is bad, that « making it » is about working hard, no matter the price. Fun fact, it often ends with the word burnout….

Indeed, how do you intend to know WHY you’re doing so if you’re not allowing yourself to think about it for a minute. in France we’re not really at ease with gap years and/or sabbatical. Yet, many people – myself included – will praise the benefits of distancing yourself – physically and mentally – from your usual environment.

So, take that break, go on a hike, grab your bike and explore your town. STOP DOING for a second to take a step back.

And might I even add that pausing is an essential part of the creative process? Without it, you can’t let your ideas / knowledge decant. There is the myth of « Good ideas come when you take a shower », because it’s a time of the day when your mind is wandering.

So take your time and let your mind loose.

3. choose your battles / start small

This one pretty much speaks by itself. If we follow the design thinking process, you quickly end up prototyping your idea.

Prototyping has this wonderful purpose of testing out the waters for you to (in)validate hypotheses for further product development. This step implies that one has

  1. understood the users’s main pain points to address them in the « best » way possible
  2. fully identified its initial WHY
  3. channeled this WHY to be able to transform it into a frugal prototype capturing the essence of its solution (and this is essential)

For instance, when Netflix started in 1997, the firm was a DVD rentals and sales by mail. Back then, internet was not really a thing and talking about a streaming might have felt like science-fiction – I might be exaggerating there but you get the point. Its business model evolved quite a lot before becoming the addicting platform we all know today – in 2010.

Same goes for Amazon. The company initially started as an online book selling platform. This allowed Jeff Bezos to test out its model before expanding into the gigantic monopolistic firm which HR and sustainable practises we question today.

Same goes in life. When we might not be Bezos, Hastings or Randolph – nor aspire to be for some –, maybe we can learn from their business approach by starting small. As an impatient tempered-person, this is not how I roll and I’m still learning to temper myself in many situations. When starting Our Millennials Today, I simultaneously launched a podcast, blog, instagram without knowing how to produce any of those. No need to say that I failed quite memorably to keep all of those medias afloat. After a little trim, I ended up « only » with the blog and an instagram account to set foundations before building the project back up…. but starting small!

4. if you have an idea, talk about it

Ok so I’m aware there are two teams regarding this piece of advice. The conservatives who – understandably – fear plagiat VS. the progressives who stand by spreading the word to gain more forces.

In theory, I’ve always been siding with the second. In practice… well, I haven’t always been. And, surprisingly not because I am anxious about plagiat (now that it happened to me twice, let me say that maybe I should’ve). It’s simply because I used to feel like my creations wouldn’t really interest people around.

BUT (again with the but), I learned – essentially through Our Millennials Today that if I feel something’s missing in my life, there are others who share this opinion. It might not be a lot as it can fill a stadium – or more what do we know? Simply, it starts with a niche. And to find that niche…. (you see me coming) you have to talk about your project. Because even if it might not talk to your interlocutors, maybe they know someone (who knows someone who etc.) who shares your concerns.

Moreover, talking about a project gets you feedback, new ideas building on each other and, well, a feeling of realness once you get it out of your system.

So – and this is easy to write for someone who’s not really the best in the matter –, go out there, beat your impostor’s syndrome and heck, talk about your ideas/creations!

And you, what’s the advice you got, never followed but (maybe) should’ve?

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