This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share lessons from their youth.
Got home from work, opened my email and there is was; an invitation to write on #IfIwere22! Hmmm! 22! Who was I at 22? What was I at 22? So I looked up an old picture of me at 22 for inspiration and oh boy, was I skinny – standing on the far right of the picture! Hmmm! 22!
At 22, I was still giving myself excuses instead of officially starting my Social Media/Tech Start-up – Matrix Designs – with my brother because I was undertaking my bachelors. After all, we had dreamed up the name of the business and what we wanted to do when I was 16 (6 years way before I turned 22). So why did I delay 10 more years (after 22) only to arrive at the place again?
The truth was that I was giving myself excuses because of two main reasons:
- First, I had not fully discovered who I was and what I was capable of. Being multi-talented meant I could do almost anything and that made it very difficult to discover me. After all, I was a student leader in (then) the biggest faculty on campus with hidden aspirations to become the President of the Students’ Faculty. Simultaneously, I was in many student groups with many roles and responsibilities here and there; General Secretary, Organizing Secretary, Choreography Director/Assistant Drama Director, Assistant Technical Director, Sound Editor, just to mention a few.
- Second reason for my excuses was Fear. Yes, Fear! Fear of the unknown! Fear of the unforeseeable future! I was always challenging the status quo in areas that I knew or felt comfortable in. I could not fathom pushing the boundaries into the unknown (especially my unknown future) and hence, stayed comfortable.
#IfIWere22 I would not change much, especially since I had the most fun times of my life on campus and made very cool friends and connections. After all, I choreographed and danced with one of the best dance crews then; and they are currently the best of friends a man could ask for.
So these are my lessons for all the 22s struggling with self-discovery and fear “If I were 22”:
Force my self discovery: I would have achieved this by talking to my parents, older family members, siblings, friends, acquaintances, teachers/lecturers, pastors, counselors, mentors to identify my strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats to me and finally, perform a critical self-evaluation. Simply, I would have performed a SWOT Analysis on myself. This would have helped me with a 360-degree view of myself and help give me a sense of direction to narrow my interests and extra-curricular activities around my core strengths.
Perceive My Future: At 22 and in the university, it was very easy to waste opportunities because I believed “I had all the time in the world” but unfortunately “time waits for no man” and as one thing is certain for sure, “time changes”. So after forcing my self discovery, I would have gone on to talk to persons in the area of my core interests and strengths and found out what new trends were taking shape in their industry of work/careers, allied industries and industries that were of interest to me. Armed with that knowledge, I would have pursued as many short courses (as possible) aligned to my core interests and strengths alongside my bachelors degree and started my company with the help of friends who had “time to spare”. After all, fast-forward 10 years into the future and technology would have made my skills and company relevant!
The time to do anything is Now!: For all the potential and budding entrepreneurs, business leaders and the next generation of African Influencers, the time to get working on that vision, dream or idea is now. Stop procrastinating for “tomorrow never comes”, be true to who you are and start building your dream job or business empire. After all, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. For the young African at (or around) 22 reading this, Africa is still taking its shape in the 21st century because the continent is buzzing with enormous opportunities. So here is a lesson I should have discovered when I was 22:
Look around; the African continent (or your country) has many problems that need solutions. So get up and look for a way to address one or some of them. So that in the future, you can look back and say that “I started this when I was 22” and not “#IfIWere22”!
So there it is, “If I Were 22”, I would force my self discovery and not wait for it to discover me. “If I Were 22”, I would find ways to foresee and perceive my future and not just stroll into it. After all, I will only get one chance to ever be 22 in my lifetime!