Over the last nine years, I have learnt a lot. My best lessons are where strongly held beliefs are dispelled, or significantly changed. Now, I’d like to believe that these beliefs were held strongly because there was some truth to them. So, to dispel such beliefs, there must have been greater truth discovered and insight gained subsequently. My 2010s were certainly dotted with ups and downs, my faith rocked a few times. I’ll take stock in the first week of 2020, and journal some thoughts for future reference.
In 2010, I was still fresh in my first job, set on building a high-flying career as an international lawyer. I seemed to be busy all the time, but who isn’t, right? I had obtained good qualifications and credentials, and was quite pleased with my professional experiences at the time in Hong Kong, the U.K. and Australia. The right doors were opened, by and large.
Nonetheless, I yearned for greater challenges that were entrepreneurial and required innovation. In the early 2010s, thanks to guys like Steve Jobs, the unqualified mantra was “you must do what you’re passionate in, and when you do, it won’t feel like work.” I ended the decade in legaltech, a nascent industry that wasn’t even a formal career option in 2010.
This brings me to my first set of beliefs.
2010 belief: A rewarding life must be one well-planned.
2020 belief: We don’t have all the information to make the absolutely best decision in most cases.
Keep your ego in check. Work hard, be humble, and recognize the Dunning–Kruger effect.
2010 belief: The shortest path between two points is a straight line. Optimize!
2020 belief: Life is not linear. It’s circular, continuous, and sometimes a bit weird. Optimize, improvise, validate, and optimize some more!
We tend to over-optimize on quantifiable things like profit and work output, but under-value more intangible things like interpersonal experiences and our mental world. The latter ultimately bring us the most joy. Human psychology can be paradoxical, if not self-sabotaging, at times.
2010 belief: “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
2020 belief: You don’t always have to struggle to get what you want. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.
This applies to meeting the right people, finding your calling and doing things that really matter to your life, personal and professional.
2010 belief: Think innovatively. Bring innovation into what you do.
2020 belief: Do innovation, immersively. Don’t just tinker.
Great rewards often lie down roads less traveled.
2010 belief: Downtime should be minimized. It leads to nothing productive.
2020 belief: Downtime is necessary for reflection, consolidation, and growth. Even if you are highly productive, is what you’re producing truly valuable?
Wisdom comes from the ebb and flow of life. And, it’s a precious art to enjoy downtime in a high quality way.
2010 belief: Results matter. Be results-driven.
2020 belief: True, kinda … but how are they measured? Context and framing matters, and too often underplayed.
It’s a beautiful struggle to make the best of one’s opportunities.
2010 belief: Embrace Murphy’s Law. Everything in legal practice seems to validate this.
2020 belief: Stop being so anxious. Keep calm, and open yourself to all the possibilities.
2010 belief: Your destiny is in your own hands.
2020 belief: So many things impacting your life are outside your control, and may have long-existed before you were born. Shatter the grand illusion.
However, I’m glad to have remained naïve to this early on, for as long as I did. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
2010 belief: The life unexamined is not worth living.
2020 belief: Unchanged. But my experiences have enriched my perspective on this ten-fold or more.
*Bonus* new belief: Hope is a renewable energy source. And, a critical and curious mindset is the best key to unlocking it.
In this decade, I hope to become not only wiser but also more entrepreneurial. I’d loathe to see myself calcified by my own experiences. My beliefs are only ongoing hypotheses, and I’ll find ways to improve them. With these insights, I’m ready for new challenges and better wisdom in the 2020s. Bring them on!