Too often when people speak about their success journey, they love portraying the idea it was all smooth sailing for them by listing accolades and achievements. The reality is that behind the seemingly perfect Instagram or LinkedIn façade of many people, including myself, are failures, criticisms, depression and other mental health issues, and life circumstances that are rarely spoken about.
I was brought up in a lower-middle-class family with university-educated parents being my slight advantage, but as a family, we had gone through extreme life-disrupting events. When I started my DPhil, I also did not expect to face some financial difficulties but I choose to go through with it anyway because the DPhil is an important personal investment.
Importantly, I want to emphasise that things do not just work out for me the first time, every time. A powerful indicator of success is not just raw talent and ambition but a tenacious drive to solve difficult problems creatively in unfavourable circumstances.
So without further ado, my top three tips!
- Try everything, many times, with high intensity (the best you can): Maximise your output. Back in the day, when maternal and child health was in a precarious state and people dropped like flies, families were huge. This was so to increase the chances of a healthy offspring that will continue the family line. The same principle applies. Thomas Edison held a total of 2,332 patents in different areas of technology. Only a few became celebrated successes. Of the 20-30 scholarships that I had applied for, I can only count five that were successful. This does not mean repetition is the answer. Repeating the same processes many times and expecting a different outcome is a sign of madness. Rather, I am encouraging you to mindfully try everything many times. Actively seek creative solutions. So stop just hanging out with the same people or the people perceived to be successful by the conventional standards – read more here. Every person you meet is a lesson in life.
- Rules are not written in stone: By no means I am asking you to break the law and do as you please. No. Rather, I am encouraging you to reconsider some of the “rules” spoken or written that had been ingrained into you by others, including these top three rules/ tips that I am dishing out to you. One agonisingly annoying belief that I have heard from people is that “there is no point in trying, it has not been done before.” Imagine if my colleague who has a disability due to chronic illness, who is also incredibly intelligent, decided not to apply to the University of Oxford “because they will not consider people like him”. Sometimes, rules, guidelines, and laws are not written inclusively either intentionally or unintentionally, but importantly they are written by humans who are not infallible, who may hide behind organisations like the “government”. (This is why representation matters!). Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, Ruby Bridges, and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson had just followed the status quo. Nothing will change. So please challenge laws, paradigms, dogmas that do not make sense. By sticking to the status quo, you are doing yourself and society a disservice.
- Know when to pursue a cause and when to stop: Doing this is tricky and there is no magical answer to this, except to learn from previous experience. Over the last decade, I have been meticulously keeping a record of my life’s experiences so I could glean back and learn key lessons. There will be occasions that, despite the many ways I have tried, the problem would not budge, or as I would realise later, does not fit in with my life’s philosophy. Unfortunately, I cannot expect everything to follow my way and to not waste my precious energy and mental sanity, you and I should just get rid of the project. With humans, we have to sometimes respectfully draw the line and move on. In day-to-day operations, knowing to pursue and to stop means taking naps, or even taking a day off sleeping. I do not “work hard, party harder” most of the time. I work hard and sleep a lot.
- Networking: The Power Of Your Outer Circle
- Maintaining Boundaries As Women In Leadership: Oh It Is So Difficult To Be A Career Woman!
- Building Resilience: Dealing With Grief And Failure For So-Called Type A Personalities
Great books to read:
- “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant
- “I Am My Brand: How to Build Your Brand Without Apology” by Kubi Springer. I love this book as it has helped me identify my core values and therefore a map of my life’s philosophy.