Evolving as a person you tend to come across different concepts which in some way improves your reality. They often come with a tag line like “stay positive” for positive thinking or “live every day like it was your last” when speaking of taking risks. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. And most of the times you think “F*ck that’s smart, why didn’t I think of that?” and then you have forgotten all about it the next day.
What I’m going to tell you about is my experience with one of these concepts thathave stuck for quite some time now. It might not be fit for everyone but I certainly think it should.
That being said, I’ve had a few really amazing things happen lately which are all thanks to this concept. I would like you to comment after you’ve read this article to tell me whether the message resonates with you or not.
Let the story begin…
“You create your own opportunities”
That’s the tag line. Think about it for a second:
“You create your own opportunities”
What it means is that at the end of the day YOU are the one responsible for your life. You are the one who has to make the tough decisions. You are the only one who can achieve your own goals. You are the one who makes sh*t happen.
Real life examples and benefits
I will explain the concept more later on. But before I do I want to show you a few ways that I have implemented this way of thinking and also other concepts which are closely intertwined.
Look at it as case studies of what has helped me and hopefully can help you too.
School life and why sucky teachers shouldn’t affect you
I loved math. It was my best subject, and something I really enjoyed. It was logically challenging and fit me like a glove. Until 7th grade. When I started 7th grade I switched school which meant new teachers, subjects and ways of doing things.
What I soon realized though was that some teachers were better than others and some were just awful. This lead me to hate math because the teacher would teach me things I already knew and created a somewhat justified hatred towards some teachers. Of course it wasn’t such a big deal but it still annoyed me that teachers, who were supposed to educate us, couldn’t.
In relation to the subject of this post you could say that I was relying on someone else to create opportunities for me. Opportunities to learn, to gain something of value that perhaps could give me a job some day.
Around 2nd year of high school I realized this. Even though I still disliked some teachers and sometimes fell for the peer pressure to “hate them” I realized that I had a responsibility for my own education.
The first thing I did was to remove courses I didn’t want to attend. I started focusing on subjects I really found useful and fun. Besides that I had lots of other interests, my main being computer security, which filled my time. To some extent school became a game too. In some courses it was about getting the highest grade possible with the least amount of effort. I simply didn’t care for the subject and the teacher didn’t really seem to care either.
All in all, I graduated happy that my last two years had been so much fun.
When I attended university this fall it was somewhat the same again. Two out of four teachers were seriously awesome. But I could almost have educated the two other ones. This lead me to a dilemma: Should I do the bare minimum to get the grades or highly overachieve? I chose the latter.
As I had chosen subjects which I was really passionate about I did projects which I’m now really proud of and really taught me a lot. This was my own choice and I wanted the knowledge so I set out to find it.
Teachers are merely for guidance, actively doing things instead (or additionally) is a whole nother ball game.
First off, no, I don’t have a job. Yet.
This is mostly because I’ve been studying and am soon leaving for Japan, but also because I hate doing shit I don’t love.
My way of looking at work is a lot different from others. First I read the 4-hour work week which introduced me to the concept that “you don’t have to trade time for money”.
My next epiphany came when I read Charlie Hoehn’s Recession Proof Graduate which talked about not being entitled to a job just because you have an education. I highly suggest you read “Recession proof graduate” after reading this post as it is completely free and will highly increase your success rate in getting a job you love.
What I learned and how I implemented it
In november, while studying web development, I was browsing the web and came across a local website. My security nerve was itching so I had to scratch it. I found myself checking the site for security holes and found a whole bunch of them.
I’ve been contacting website owners occasionally before but almost never get a response and even more rarely a thank you. This time I thought I’d do it differently. I looked up the company’s developers on twitter and sent them a message. They both responded and I asked to meet them to “discuss a few improvements”. As we were attending the same meetup a few weeks later that seemed like a perfect match.
One meeting lead to another which resulted in a two week paid consulting job in the field of web security. I had no formal education in the subject whatsoever. How did I do it?
I showed them that I had knowledge that they could benefit from, then I gave it to them.
What I didn’t do was wait for someone to call me up and offer me a job. That would likely not have happened anyway.
Building an online presence
The next thing I did was re-read “Recession proof graduate”. The tip about creating a presence and a brand for yourself online caught my attention this time. When I later read that “According to a recent survey by Harris Interactive, 45% of HR professionals utilize social networking sites to research prospective employment candidates and 11% plan to implement social media screening very soon.” the tip didn’t seem that bad at all.
I started out by typing in “Jonas Sandström” into google. Great, a well respected architecht on first spot with quite good SEO-optimization. The rest weren’t that bad though so I thought that I could at least rank 2nd for my name.
Off I went and ended up creating this site. At first I tried to make every little design detail perfect but I soon realized that this wasn’t the deal breaker. The important thing was that people could find me easily and that they could see that I had abilities and knowledge beyond what was measurable in a CV.
Next thing was to clean up all my old internet accounts and start being active on those that mattered. I changed my bio on twitter to better reflect who I was while linking to this site as well. I opened up my facebook page and added more info about myself and of course linked back to here.
I wasn’t trying to hide who I was but simply trying to remove all the noise and project who I was in a better way.
Being active in a community
The site was gaining little to no traffic but I still believed in the idea of an online presence.
I soon realized that I had to contribute. People aren’t curious unless you give them something to be curious about. Therefore I started to participate in a community I found fascinating: social media. I’ve always been fascinated with the snowball effect of new media and the way it allows me to transparently connect to seemingly unreachable persons. As I had been lurking around the “gurus” of social media I had gathered some knowledge which now seemed to be of interest.
I wrote the post “You don’t care because you have to” and shortly after that I got a response from “LG Wallmark” at TeliaSonera (the biggest telecom company in Sweden) telling me how he found my insights really useful. He also said that he’d forwarded the link to his colleagues and that one of them, sitting in Spain, had found my insights “brilliant”.
This was a deal breaker for me. I had genuinely helped a person through my writings.
Fast forward to present time and I have now been offered by InfoTech Umeå to write a few articles at their site. I’ve also been in touch with dozens of interesting people who all share similar interests as me and might be doing a few exciting projects in the near future.
For me to write down my knowledge was also quite eye opening. It has lead me to a bigger understanding of what I really want to do, at least for the moment. I’ve also realized that things don’t change over night, but they WILL turn if you are determined to work for it.
Another thing I found was that lack of entitlement is good. Realizing that the only thing that matters, is the true knowledge that you have I now know that I will have to work hard to achieve what I want. Education is nothing without knowledge (and yes, education is possible without knowledge).
What you have to realize is that no matter if school/life/work is good or bad it still IS. If there are ways you can change it for the better, do it. If you can’t change it then accept it. Accept the problems as facts and move on. There are better things to do out there than complain about things that won’t change. Don’t wait for anyone else to change anything.
What it all came down to was me. When others can’t help you, help yourself.
Whining is trying to avoid taking responsibility for your own life.
Whining is a way to justify inactive and dull behaviour. Behaviour that neither benefits you nor anyone else.
And finally, to contradict myself a little: Don’t beat yourself up. Change takes time, but it is my full belief that you can achieve whatever you want. It won’t happen over night but try to keep at it.
I spent almost half a year planning to “start changing”. I was furious at myself sometimes for not taking action as much as I wanted to. You will meet resistance at first, just stay persistent.
This post is not meant to brag or anything like that. What I want you to realize is that I am no different than anyone else. I don’t measure my success and only see where these concepts have taken me thus far. I don’t care if they are small or big, but I sure like what I’m doing.
What I deeply hope is that those of you out there who are who are waiting for something to happen, please don’t. Life is way too short to wait for someone else to create opportunities for you. Go out and do what you like the most.