I’m about to tell you something that I wish someone had told me a long time ago. YOU ARE HUMAN. In life, you don’t know what you don’t know until you realize you don’t know it. That’s when mistakes happen. Guess what? You are going to make mistakes. You will fix them, and life will go on.
High school and college don’t set you up for success. They create a mythical “real world” that you think you are going to be stepping into that is so very different from reality. You learn about a subject, you take notes, then maybe a practice exam, study a little more and then perhaps you take a test or give a presentation and get assigned a grade based on how well you did. You learn the material over extended periods of time and have a teacher dedicated to ensuring you understand the material. Real-life rarely works like that. I take that back; real life never works like that. I don’t remember the last time I had six months to figure out how to put together a good presentation and my boss doesn’t have time to meet with me for an hour a day to take me through a tutorial.
Coming out of college, I felt like a Rockstar. I thought I was the bee’s knees. College and High School had really hyped me up. I had been in honors courses since third grade, National Honors Society, always got good grades, was in multiple leadership positions all while doing sports and holding a part time job. If this wasn’t hard then I don’t know what could be. WRONG. SO GOD DAMN WRONG.
I wanted to go into my first job and kill it. I wanted to prove to everybody that I was smart, educated, and valuable, but I didn’t understand the intricacies of the business and company I was working for or the way the “real world” actually works.
I walked into my first job like I was the Queen of England. I was untouchable. I was smart. I was knowledgeable. I was so god damn wrong.
For the first few years that I was working, every time that I did something wrong, I fell apart. I didn’t show it but I beat myself up if I made a mistake or didn’t know an answer. I would lay in bed at night analyzing how I could have avoided saying the wrong thing or what questions I could have asked. I would replay the whole situation repeatedly. Over and over and over and over. What I didn’t realize is that I had to get to the point where I didn’t know there was another question that needed to be asked in order to grow. If you’re not asking questions, you’re not growing. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable.
Screw up. Fall Down. Get Back Up. Learn. Repeat.
I heard a statistic one time that every time you switch roles or jobs it takes an average of a year for you to start to feel comfortable in your role and truly understand the ins and outs of what you are working on. Learning is an endless process. Your lucky if there are notes. Your lucky if you can find a good teacher/mentor. Your lucky if you have time to figure it out.
When you’re walking up a mountain all you see is what’s in front of you. You don’t know if there are mountains or a beach on the other side. You can use some context clues to make a good guess. But you don’t know what the view looks like until you get to the top and there is nowhere left to go. That’s when the magic happens when you can see the big picture. If you’ve never hiked a mountain (or a very steep hill with a good view) you should try it. There is this moment when you get to the top of the mountain where you naturally pause and take in the whole view. That’s what learning should feel like. That’s growth.
You are a tiny human trying to get to the top of a very giant mountain. It’s okay if you have to take breaks, if you trip and fall, if it feels so much bigger than you thought. Just keep going. The view at the top of the mountain is incredible once you get there.