Anxious about your career choices? Struggling to navigate your 20s successfully?Worry not! Here are Do’s and Don'ts by Mr. Ankur Warikoo, an entrepreneur, mentor and an educator, that will help you become successful in your 20s.
Spend your 20s Exploring, Not settling.
“I think the most common mistake and frankly it was committed by me as well to a great degree was the mindset that in the 20s I should try to focus on settling down in my life as soon as possible.” - Ankur Warikoo
While we all know that it is not a healthy mindset, we can’t really blame ourselves since this is the ideal path advised by our elders.
The generation that our parents belonged to measured success by how fast they could settle and how long they could survive. They had a really hard time growing up and it wasn't very clear if the next month's meal and the bills would be paid for at all !
However that is certainly not the case today. World is completely changed now and if you were to follow the same steps and just very quickly finish your education, get a job followed by a car, house etc, you're going to set yourself up for possible failure and disappointment.
So it is really important to understand that it’s in our hands to make a conscious choice at every step of whether we are doing something out of curiosity or simply because that's how it works. If it's the latter, take a step back and contemplate its worth.
Limiting our conception of college/university as a place of education ONLY
“If you think of college as a means of course curriculum and classroom you are possibly setting yourself up for failure, however if you think of college as a way for you to get exposed to everything that you possibly can, it's the best decision you will make.” - Ankur Warikoo
When you are in your 20s, you are freshly out of school and you still, very rightly so, view college through the same lens of studying hard, attending classes, giving exams and moving on to the next grade.
But college has so much more to offer. For starters, you are going to meet so many people from different backgrounds having dreams that you may have been too scared to even think about. Being with these people, observing them, interacting with them itself is going to teach you so much about the outside world and in a way about you, IF you have that attitude.
As Mr. Warikoo says, “Nothing that we do which goes wrong during those three to four years is going to screw up your entire life, genuinely nothing! And yet students want to take up the comfortable path.”
How true is that!
If you are afraid of public speaking, you will never get up on the stage in a conference and if you are afraid of networking and cold emailing, you will never have enough courage to that as a working professional, if you are afraid of interning or picking up freelancing gigs, you will never do that!
You know why? Because a conference is a big deal and so is your first impression when you try to network with people. You will obviously hold back, but you know what is the solution? Try all of these things while you are still in college!
It’s almost as if there is this fear that paralyses us but that very fear will liberate us because we have millions of opportunities in college without much serious repercussions.
So make sure to grab them!
Do not compare your story to someone else’s
This is something we all are guilty of and not only in our growing years, but also probably for the rest of our lives. We keep comparing ourselves to others who come from completely different backgrounds, have different experiences and they just happen to cross our paths and we hold on to the comparison at that moment which will most probably never even matter in our lives going forward.
To quote Mr. Warikoo, “We are all very different and we all are blessed with very different capabilities, very different skills and that means that the only person you're competing with is yourself and that is why it is very important for you to know who you are.
I remember going into ISB for my MBA, I didn't know who I was and I spent that one year just devoting myself to know who I am and that one year just fundamentally changed my life because I tried to answer questions which were very hard to ask but needed to answer.”
If we think about it, there is always so much scope for self development, however we just tend to not do it because, first, we waste time in comparing ourselves, but also maybe because self development requires asking some difficult questions.
Each individual in their 20s should ask themselves:
- What are the things am I good at? What are the things am I not good at?
- What are the things I should double down in life?
- What are the things I should avoid in life?
There will always be people who will appear to be more productive, focused and clear about their goals in life and honestly the only productive thing you can do about it is to take inspiration and start exploring your life goals and things that you are passionate about.
Stop obsessing about your weaknesses
“There is so much advice out there that goes into focusing on your weaknesses, but the truth is that your weakness by definition is something that you are behind on and others are ahead of. So why would you want to start a race where you're behind everyone else that you are racing against? That doesn't make sense!You wouldn't do it in practical life, so why would you do that in your professional life?”- Ankur Warikoo
This is a very interesting way to look at it, right?
Yes, it’s important to know your weaknesses for sure, but not because you get anxious and fret over them, but so that you know what are the areas that can be a bit lower on your priority list of self development.
The biggest fallacy is that, as we mentioned above, students begin their college life with comparison and unsurprisingly end up fixating on the things they are not so good at as compared to their peers. This happens because we are all asking the wrong questions.
When we ask “Why am I not as good as someone else”, what we inherently do is fixate on other people’s strengths and our weaknesses, which obviously is not going to yield anything for us.
So in order for us to land on our strengths and our passions, we need to change the narrative to “What do I think I am good at as compared to other people”. This way the focus of your energy is towards yourself which will help declutter your mind and allow you to make a reasonable judgement of that particular skill.
As Mr. Warikoo mentions, “Nobody gets hired for their weaknesses, they get hired for their strengths.”This statement sets things into perspective and we can all agree that obsessing over our weaknesses is not going to land us in a good place: professionally and mentally.
Don’t fret over the how, brainstorm over the why
“The manifestation will change and it will change on the basis of how the world is changing but the core principle will remain the same.” - Ankur Warikoo
The manifestation of “how” you can do a particular thing (a job, a startup, a hobby or anything else) will keep on changing over time as new technology and strategies keep on coming, but the core principle or the “why” you are doing it will always remain the same.
What you do and how you do it will keep on changing but you must center yourself on the “why you are doing it”.
This can only come from self reflection, observation and self awareness.
And if you stick to this, you will have the best guiding light in your life. ‘The what’ and ‘how’ can be discussed with mentors and experts and they can advise you on the best paths to take, but the fundamental reason, the “why” you should take that path can come only from yourself.
This piece of advice can be used by students who often have questions about what should be my career path? Or how do I know what I am passionate about?
As Mr. Warikoo suggests, “As I said the best part to take is exploration because there isn't any other! There is no set direction or parameter or design that applies to everyone. So what you should do is give structure to that exploration, you need to know north east west south, you can't just randomly go anywhere.”
So every time you come across something new, ask yourself the question: Why should I do this?
Eg. If you want to apply for a position at a company, don’t fret over how you will do in the interview, first ask the fundamental question of Why you want to apply, then focus on your strengths, develop your strengths and the How will pan out through the process!
The various life-changing experiences shared by Mr Ankur Warikoo here is like a guidebook which we always wanted but never had. His views of how one should navigate through their 20s and his numerous accomplishments set a very realistic and inspiring example that all of us should aim to incorporate in our life.
Here is some food for thought for all the folks that are looking for courage to make hard decisions, Mr. Warikoo talks about dropping out of his PhD.
“So what I knew when I was a PhD student in the U.S. was that I wasn't happy and that was it. It was visibly clear to me that it didn't give me inner joy. Did I know what I could do in life? No! Did I have a plan, a direction when I dropped out of the PhD? No!
At the age of 24 when most of my friends were settled and had nice jobs, I dropped out of my PhD, came back to India and was absolutely clueless about what I wanted to do in life. I had no sense of direction, nothing whatsoever and at that point of time based on the suggestions of several of my friends,I applied for an MBA program, got through and that one year just fundamentally changed my life because I spent it in self-exploration!”