"The only difference between those who succeed and those who fail, is that the latter quit too soon," somebody once told me.
I still remember the day I got my first legitimate corporate internship (well, one that didn’t involve cleaning toilets as a cashier at Staples that summer of 2008*). The man told me that I wasn’t the most ideal candidate, but he took me because I was the most persistent. I told myself that day that if I would be anything, I would be just that - persistent. But it seems lately that I’ve already forgotten my own words.
After the grill of high school and undergrad, and now with another ever-more impeccable diploma added to my resume, my standards seem to have ever more risen into a cloud of non-existent jobs available to wishful thinking young graduates. I look at job descriptions, and stop at something as tiny as “highly proficient at Excel”, because it vaguely reminds me of my time of being a slave to spreadsheets sorting through incomprehensibly tangled (not to mention partially erroneous) data. Too much data crunching, not enough problem solving, I would tell myself.
It’s not totally unwarranted. This was one of my few opportunities to choose again, and I wanted to choose wisely. But I couldn’t help but think in my mind, am I being too selective?
Two years ago, I wrote about the ubiquitous quarter life crisis, and I, myself had advised that all we needed was time, to be patient with ourselves until we reach the level of success we take to be the norm. But I feel myself getting impatient already again.
I want to see results immediately. I want to do a job where my inputs of a, b, and c will invariably lead to results of x, y and z. But the chance of me being allowed to immediately make the kind of (very important) decisions in a company that actually lead to the kind of results I’m looking for, basically has a probability of 0.1. And that 10% being that I start my own company. And even then, with all that is at stake, it's still unsure results would happen immediately.
Perhaps this is the one lesson school failed to teach me – that not all equations are solvable. The real world doesn't operate on the fairness rule, by which my efforts will be invariably compensated for the level of inputs I put in. There will be times where my efforts will be disproportionately uncompensated, for better and worst. Worst yet, this disproportionate appropriation also happen to be distributed across different people. Some people may never be compensated for their efforts, at least maybe not in the short term. Because success, at least so I’ve learned, is as much about being at the top of your game, as it is about simply being ready at the right time and place, and in company of the right people. There are many talented unsuccessful people in this world who simply just missed that window of opportunity.
Life is unfair. And as the French would say it – C’est la vie.
But like the law of randomness would happen, a dip is invariably followed by a curve upward (because in the end it must fall on a probability distribution**). It’s impossible for someone’s efforts to go totally uncompensated in a time frame of infinity. At one point, it must, somehow, happen.
And that is exactly why, we must remind ourselves, to be patient, because quitting today may very well mean we had just forfeited the game right before winning.
*Always think twice when your parents tell you that something would be "a good experience".
**Assuming all variables remain constant and all that is missing is that one elusive random variable called...luck.