I was good at school, top of my class, with grades well beyond my parents’ expectations. I thought I nailed it. I figured life out and it was going to be this way forever.
Until… the harsh reality of the “adult” world hit me and nearly knocked me off my feet.
You see, what it takes to be good at school and successful in the real world are two completely different skillsets, which are contradictory actually.
The other day I complimented on my client’s musical talent, to which she said “oh, it’s nothing special”. I was never able to play music by ear myself and it cost me a tremendous effort to learn to play piano by reading notes, so I thought her talent was amazing! The problem was though, those creative talents were rarely celebrated at school. Most of our parents, including my client’s ones, were expecting academic achievements of us, as those supposedly were the key to success.
Mind you, I thought the same way. I graduated from one of the most challenging faculties in my university, mathematics and information technology. I thought I’ve got my ticket to the riches. A few years later (skipping the early stages of my career here), I landed what seemed like a perfect job in investment banking, in the City of London!
Having figured out school, math, and computers, I thought – nothing could stop me from climbing the career ladder in this new world of big corporations. Ha! Not so fast, girl!
In my mind, I was doing everything I knew how to do, and even more. The work tasks given to me were completed exceptionally well, I studied at night after work, trying to figure the banking world out, yet three years later, there was still no sign of promotion, no “well done” tap on the shoulder, nothing! Hence, I started questioning my methods of achieving success. They had worked for me before. What was wrong now, I wondered.
To answer such questions, we need to dig deeper into our mind, analyse our behaviour, challenge ourselves, and look around to see the reality for what it is.
And so I did.
My old approach and work ethic (adopted back at school) meant I was good at resolving problems, predefined by others (just like the tests back at school), mechanical and sequential (no creative thinking required), with one correct answer only and no mistakes allowed. So, I became a good executor, perfectionist in details, I was dreading failure, and was in need of constant reassurance (that I am indeed doing a good job, just like back at school I was praised by teachers).
Then I looked around, at the people who were succeeding in their jobs. To my surprise, they portrayed an exact opposite image to mine: creative, outgoing, fearless, and quite happily sharing their achievements with anyone who would listen. Whilst in my mind, the achievements, just like the grades, were supposed to speak for themselves.
On top of it, they focused not on perfecting their work’s execution, but on building connections, learning different fields, jumping from one project to another, and speaking their mind, which often required thinking outside of the box or even facing failure. All of which I could hardly imagine doing myself.
With these realisations, my whole world streamed down crashing. I had no idea if I would be able to change, to become that type of person who can be successful in her job, change my methods, challenge my “perfect standards”. But I knew what I’d been doing so far was not going to work, and I either needed to accept my “doer” role or change my beliefs, behaviour, approach, and hope that one day I too will figure out this new game of life.
I will leave the rest of the story for another time, but for now, I’d say that now that I am in an entrepreneurial world, the very skills that my client said were not celebrated at school, are the exact ones I most need: creativity, thinking outside of the box, finding many possible solutions to a problem, speaking my mind even if my opinion is different to a million of others, and most importantly – letting go of the fear of failure, because failure is not the end but in fact the beginning of the new phase.
My story shows how powerful our identity can be. The identity, shaped by the life experiences, expectations of the family and society, our culture, all of which oftentimes conceals the real you, the one that had flying dreams with no limits or obstacles.
I’d love for you to re-discover your true self, to reconnect with your true desires, to feel the pleasure of achievement from a place of joy and not greed for more.
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