"The problem with our generation is that we are too impatient," N said. We were in a cab driving west along the Seine. "We are too damn impatient, to be rich, to be successful, to have it all in life, when all of that takes time."
I looked at her, this gorgeous 25-yr-old petite Asian girl, an art curator for the Singapore government who was traveling every three months to Paris for her projects, absolutely speechless. She had summed up in just one sentence, the single greatest cause of failure that will plague our generation, the first generation in history that may end up less well-off than our parents.
We, our generation, grew up in a time of peace and prosperity, the richest this world has ever been, in a bubble surrounded by loving parents, teachers and relatives, who told us nothing but yes. Yes sweetie, you can have it, you can have it all. You're so smart, you can do anything, the world is your oyster!
But what they don't tell us is that no, it is not easy; no, it is not immediate; no, you will not be handed a job on a silver platter after graduation; no, med school is not like Grey's Anatomy, nor is law like Suits, nor is business like Wall Street. And no, you will not be the boss at your first job and have major responsibility and ohhhh, change the world. No, you are at the bottom of the career ladder, nothing but a replaceable piece of nothing. No, to get far in your career, any career, you have to pay. You have to earn it. And the first prerequisite for paying and earning it? Time.
So why are we so hard with ourselves? So impatient? Because information today is moving at faster rate than ever before. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flipboard (you name it) feed us everyday with news - news of success everywhere around the world. And in psychology, this is the availability bias, whereby such readily available information gives us the false impression of a world in which success is ubiquitous, and therefore easily obtainable. When in reality, the probability of such successes is one in a million.
Does that mean that we are doomed to a life of shitty work starting at the bottom of the career ladder? That we must hate our jobs before we can love it? Not necessarily.
Giving time also means time for ourselves, to develop our interests, to find our strengths and weaknesses, to understand how we can best be of use to our world (because after all, you are only as successful as you are useful - sad but true). But growing up, we were always taught to be well-rounded, to take an interest in everything. So what if nothing really interests us?
The Right Question
Well, we have been asking the wrong question all along. We cannot wait mindlessly for something to interest us (because hate to break it to yah, but things are not people - they won't just come up to you and ask you out on a date). But rather, we must go out and seek out the things that may interest us. Just like how a terrible soccer player will never love soccer (but a good soccer player may very well love it), we love what we are good at. And we cannot be good at doing something without first learning. And learning takes time.
For sure, some things will come more easily to some than others. And so here is where we must do what our ancestors have always done since the dawn of civilization - specialize. We must specialize and do what we are good at, because sorry - but if you can only make two clay pots per hour and your friend can make three, everyone will hire your friend and fire you.
The first step to finding the right specialization is exploring - indulging in learning and soaking up information around you. What are some observations you've made about our society? How could you contribute to make our world a better place? How can you use your skills to produce a good that society would want? What skills do you need to accomplish those goals? How can you acquire them?
The second is to try, and fail. Seek out an internship, try a part-time job, talk to a mentor in the industry, and see what it's really like to be in the field. Now ask yourself - are you using your absolute best skills? Do tasks in this area come easier to you than for others? Perhaps you love reading/writing and can produce works faster others (writer, journalist); perhaps you are very detail-oriented and enjoy being meticulous (accountant); perhaps you're very good at communication and enjoy solving interpersonal problems (human resources); or perhaps you love fashion and can easily put together outstanding outfits from anything in minutes (fashion)....the list goes on. If so, then you've find the right job. If not, keep looking. It's okay to fail.
Oh, time. Time we don't want to spend.
And finally, the last step is to remember that everything, everything takes time, even the things that we excel at, really excel at, always excelled at. It will be hard, and we may hate it from time to time. But as long as we are learning and growing in our chosen path, we can be sure that one day, yes, one day, we can and will be great at what we do.
Oh, we just need time.