I am going to be either a philosopher today, or I’m just going to sound a little whimsical. So, if you’re not into that kind of thing, click away from this article right now. 1…2…too late. =)
OK. You’re still here.
I was just reading a friend’s account of what he did to start his own business, the mistakes that he’s made along the way, and how he barreled on to find his footing in an industry he was deeply passionate about. He recounted all the times he had less funding that he needed, the wrong investments, the times of busted trust, disbelief of family members, and his lonely night with a bottle of Jack Daniels where he poured liquor over cubes of ice and his heart out to the stars. He vowed never to make the same mistakes again. It was the kind of ruminating that made those of us with similar insider experiences cringe.
To newbies, his message of despair and hopelessness served as a balm that inspired them and kept them pumped.
Instead of reminding ourselves of all the wrong forked roads we’ve taken, I’d just like to note 5 things I’ve done right in my life (so far). Bear in mind, my life is nothing extraordinary; it is peppered with both successes and failures. While others find my work to be ‘unique’, I think of it as ordinary. But being ordinary IS a special kind of extraordinary because everyone else is trying so hard to be special.
So, without further ado, here are the top 5 Best Decisions that I’ve ever made in my life.
- Leaving Law
No, I am not a lawless person. In fact, I try to toe as many lines as I possibly can. The thing is that I took up law because of a very ‘noble’ reason — I wanted to see justice. I wanted to help people. Snigger all you want, that was me at 18, all wide-eyed and full of unicorn fluff.
The problem lies in the fact that justice often doesn’t exist and when you’re tasked with upholding the law or implementing it, it either gets boring or you’re hated to the core. I worked in a bank for four years as their Legal Officer, clocking in every day to threaten people with legal letters and action. I make phone calls nobody wants to take, I formulate ways to get money back from debtors, and I made sure I was super imposing whenever I entered a room.
That was my job. And I hated it. The work often led me and my colleagues to long, stretched-out nights of Bacchanalian Happy Hours…which, needless to say, sucked the next morning(s).
The department I worked for was called the Factoring Facilities department; a simple search on the internet will reveal to you that it’s basically a legal loan shark business. People sell their accounts receivables to you and you chase the debtors down of your debtors on their behalf and take a huge chunk of their profits. In business, we all know how easy it is to fabricate invoices and purchase orders and that’s also why we, as the lenders, would often come down really hard on our clients when their debtors failed to comply or respond.
Some people may like the power trips that came with the job, but I didn’t because it often ended up with paresthesia of the soul. I abhorred being hated and the four years were mind-numbingly miserable.
So, I jumped in the opposite direction…which was…
2. Becoming an Entertainer
Even with all those nasty pop culture tropes that came along with being an entertainer (it’s no fun when you’re forced to have fun, drink, and groped for money), it proved to be one of the biggest eye-opening experiences in my life.
I was a natural people-pleaser and I liked making people happy. At the end of the day, I often came home feeling like I’ve touched lives in a positive way even when, at a high probability, they won’t remember half of it the next day. But people remembered my name, face and greeted me with a wide grin and a beckoning heart. In short, they were happy to see me, which is a far cry from what my previous job entailed.
It also taught me about grit, emotional intelligence, how to say ‘NO’, how to see through people and learn more intelligent ways of doing things I don’t like doing without offending said persons. I went from someone who was paid to intimidate people into submission, into someone who people enjoyed being around.
Although I didn’t like bending to the whims of everyone all the time (it’s part and parcel of being in the entertainment industry, they say), it was a personal plan in motion. I was socking away personal lessons.
|Image source: Jens Lelie on Unsplash|
3. Entering the internet earlier than most people today
During the dial-up days, the internet was a blur. A simple image file took forever to load, and an all-new, better, faster and more accurate search engine or directory was popping up every day, everywhere. I took on a job to keep up with them and tried to understand their developments and behavior. We have a name for it these days — algorithm. Back then, it was la-di-da-whatever-they-doing.
I was being paid to jump into things and hit the ground running. If I screwed up, it was my job to backtrack and reverse everything that I’ve done. If a campaign was accidentally successful, it was also my job to find out why and how to keep up with the breakout performance. Even if it was pure accidental, it was easier to keep the lead.
Every day was like being on Wall Street and I loved it. Everything was new and nobody knew how things worked…it was Game On for everyone and there was absolutely zilch pecking order. The downside is that there was no template for anything, no blueprint, no reports, no references, no guides, no manuals, and no teachers.
This was when, I personally think, we started guiding each other in forums. People were more supportive back then.
4. Learning to Cook
I was a pampered child and teen. My mom didn’t really let us into the kitchen to experiment with food and I get it. I really do! To this very day, whenever my kids asked me ‘Can I help you?’, I inwardly groan. I’ve got beautiful children and I know they mean well but still…. XD
It often means mustering up courage, patience, and tolerance for mess-ups and spills. In my defense, I’ve become more tolerant as they have better motor skills now — although…a spill here and there still occurs.
Instead of thinking of it as a major irreversible mishap, I just thrust a mop into their hands, shrug and look the other way.
But I am glad I learned how to cook for, not just myself, but for my kids, because it gave me an outlet to be creative, experimental, and forgiving. It’s where if I effed up, it’s fine, it’s the recipe’s fault, let’s order McDonald’s.
Although I still don’t like the cleaning up, cooking for people and watching them lick up the last spit from their plates gives me immense pleasure. A friend once commented, “OMG, you look like you’re totally winning the Pulitzer or something!” when she was watching me watch my kids stuff their faces during dinner.
I’m not sure what I looked like but I suppose I could have been filled with ABSOLUTE joy.
And I also love discovering new recipes or new techniques like how to pickle stuff, prepare food, and create shortcuts. I am not perfect and am no Martha Stewart or Gordon Ramsay but it makes me happy and THAT says it all, doesn’t it?
5. Having my kids
I left the best for last.
Yes, it’s not been a bed of roses and we still struggle with many things like their grades, their questionable talent in vacuuming the floor, their inability to wake up early, and constant ‘secret’ late-night gaming sessions with their friends.
But without them, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.
It’s strange that these perfect strangers, two men no less, should come into my life when I was only in my mid-twenties. They’ve not only anchored me to life when I felt like everything was worthless, but they’ve also shown me how beautiful life can be even when you have nothing.
It’s when you have no money for toys but let them play hide-and-seek in a Toys’R Us. It’s when you’re scraping by but enjoying the New Year’s fireworks together. It’s when you have a little extra money for a holiday but the three of us are holed up in a one-roomer. It’s watching them take the first step. It’s clapping at their ‘magic tricks’ when it’s absolutely, deplorably transparent. It’s hugging each other after an argument. It’s when I grumble at them for not answering my calls when they’re out with friends and then having them grumble back at me when I come home at 4am.
It’s the little things that others don’t get to experience. It’s exclusive and I treasure every single moment I’ve had with these people. I know it’s not going to last forever because…I’m not stupid. As impermanent as they are, these moments will never be replaced and I am sentimental that way.
Make The Younger You Smile Again, It’s OK
So, in conclusion, here’s what I’d like you to do too — write down the top 5 or 10 or 100 best decisions that you’ve made in your life and I hope it makes you feel happier with whatever it is that’s on your table right now. There are many things to regret, but if you dig in, you’ll find reasons to give your younger, less-experienced self an approving nod. At the very least, a pat on the back, and at best, a HUGE hug.
Every time you regret something, the child in you cries in regret. So, go ahead and make that version of You smile again.
This article was also published on Medium.com.
If you find grammatical or spelling errors, or somehow, I've misquoted someone, please let me know via email. I TOTALLY appreciate it! If you have comments, feedback or alternative ideas, I would also like to hear them. In the meantime, feel free to catch up with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Linkedin. I'm pretty active on one or the other. See ya!
BTW, my Monday was rotten gutter rot mixed that reeked of horror-movie gore and internal violence. It wasn't the best of days. I wholeheartedly hope today is better.
Happy Tuesday, people! It's all a mindset, they say, and I believe them!