11 pieces of advice that I would give my younger self

Drawing by Ryu Ho from daylightpotato

A few months before graduation, I vaguely remember questioning why the social norm was to study hard, get a good job, get married, buy a house and raise a family while being in debt repaying liabilities like school fees and mortgage for a few decades.

Eventually I came up with a theory: life has only two paths, either you work for someone, or someone works for you. I decided to choose the latter, knowing the fact that I could still go the other route if everything fails.

The entrepreneurial journey was gruelling and yet insightful. I got to learn every aspect of running a company: from admin, business, design, finance, human resources, legal, marketing, operations, technical and much more.

If I could go back to an old “save file” to give myself some useful advice, I would have been in a much better situation. Here’s what I would tell myself:

1. Aim to deliver the best product/ service

No matter what product/ service you are building, aim to deliver the best user experience over profits. Start small, listen and seek early feedback while making improvements to the design of the product/ service.

There will never be a product/ service with 100% positive reviews, so you do not need to be concerned or worried about negative reviews. Win the hearts of your audience instead of their wallets. Those who like your product/ service will remember you so long as you keep innovating and delivering new experiences.

2. Be adaptive

Countless things can happen in life. You can only wish that things would go according to your plan. However, no matter how experienced you are, there will be scenarios you could not have predicted, like a global pandemic for example.

Be flexible and adaptive to different situations that come along. Stay calm and learn to see things from a different perspective. Don’t expect different results using the same methods. Think creatively and go beyond the norms.

3. Be courageous in making decisions

There will be many occasions where you have to make difficult decisions, like which clients to work with or cut off, whether to hire/ fire someone or how to handle difficult stakeholders. Some of us have a tendency to be over worried about the outcome of these decisions.

Do not be afraid to make decisions as long as you maintain a balance between rational and emotional thinking. If the decision turns out to be bad, there is always something for you to learn and take away from so that you can do better next time. Everyone learns to fall several times before we can walk.

4. Know your strengths and limits

Do not try to do everything by yourself and take up too many responsibilities. Delegate, seek help or outsource tasks that you are not proficient in whenever possible to make more time for yourself. This way, you can be more productive by focusing on tasks more aligned with your expertise.

Know what you are good at and keep learning skills that complement your strengths. You will grow much faster than when you try to be good at everything.

5. You are the number 1 priority

Always prioritise yourself. You have to take care of your own well-being before you help others. Self-love and self-care are crucial and should not be overlooked.

You are the one who knows yourself best. Do not let any negative emotions like worry, fear, guilt, anxiety or anger stay in your mind for too long. These emotions cannot do harm to you unless you allow them. Remember the joyful moments in life and stay positive every day.

6. Keep reading and learning

Cultivate the habit of reading books and aim to read at least 1 to 2 books per month. There will not be a book that can answer all questions in life, but there can be hidden gems with invaluable lessons that you can learn.

Adopt a beginner’s mind: always aim to improve yourself, be curious and never stop learning.

7. Connect with like-minded individuals

You never know who will cross your path some day. Someone whom you helped or met can become an important client, colleague, referral for business or may grant you a favour of some form in the future. Build up your network by connecting with like-minded individuals.

Try to minimise contact with those who are negative minded, unsupportive, or are not there for you when you are in need the most. They will only drain more time and energy from your life.

8. Share more

Do not be afraid of sharing what you have learnt. Sharing your personal life experiences can benefit someone out there.

It does not matter what others will think or say about you. You cannot control anyone except yourself. As long as you are authentic and share from the bottom of your heart, others will feel it too.

9. Set life goals

Decide on what your life visions are and why you want to achieve them. Set audacious goals that are so scary and yet exciting that you will wake up looking forward to them everyday.

Think of what you want to experience in life, what kind of person you want to become, and what you want to give back to society.

10. Bad moments are unavoidable

Throughout your life, there will be moments where someone takes your kindness for granted, someone breaks your trust in them, or someone says things behind your back.

Be grateful for everything that comes into your life. Everything happens for a reason. Reflect upon and see these moments from a different perspective. Treat them as a learning experience and learn to forgive.

11. Slow down

Avoid crunching, working overtime, having late dinners, having insufficient sleep, or doing things to the point of burnout. If you fall sick, you will end up requiring more time to recuperate.

Slow down your pace and take a breather whenever needed. Take a stroll around the neighbourhood without thinking about work or anything that bothers you. Put on your favourite music, let your mind relax and be calm.

Some of the above advice may sound simple and easy to execute, but people tend to overlook them. Take baby steps and do not rush things.

Do not let the past hold you back and do not worry about what is yet to come. Enjoy and live in the present moment.

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