Act Like You're 35

Don’t just network with people your own age

Beware the whiz kid syndrome. Smart, young people have a habit of forming communities of other smart young people and feeding off each other’s energy. Argghhhh. Are you not just making mistakes made by older people again? Make original mistakes

Youth enclaves can actually be restrictive. In fact their networking should be about meeting useful mentors and career champions who can open doors and fast track careers.

Some of the best functional leaders in India are now in their 40s. They built India’s telecom and Internet 2.0 (Flipkart, Amazon) and are looking for ways to give back. You at 20-something is ideal fire for them to light.

Learn to build a network. If you are in SaaS, Go to SaaS events.

Learn from your seniors at ChargeBee, CleverTap, Haptik, Freshworks, WhatFix, BrowserStack. Don’t be a moron on an island refusing help. Shout. Ask for help. If not, hustle.

Take the time to understand what your business does

I love the story of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to NASA during which he asked a cleaner what his job was. The cleaner replied that he sent rockets to the moon.

All of us should feel part of what we do at work. We might not have an exact wording or understanding yet. That is even better, we get to co-invent this on the journey!

Don’t wait for someone to tell you or lament that internal communication is crap. Find out for yourself.

Never sacrifice personal ethics for a work reason

If you work on something that compromises your personal ethics and values, get out of there as quickly as you can.

Good people will be unnerved by things that don’t feel right. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Bad things only manifest when good people don’t take a stand.

Most success comes from repetition, not new things

Malcolm Gladwell’s brilliant book Outliers, promotes the idea that you needed to spend 10,000 hours on something to become truly expert at it. This applied to the Beatles and their Hamburg gigs and Bill Gates who, through a series of fortuitous accidents, ended up spending more time than almost anyone else on a computer.

I want to call bullshit on that. People forget that Bill Gates was among the best mathematicians of his age. Mark Zuckerberg was among the top 20% programmers and psychologists and CEOs of his time. The best idea is to be a triple threat.

The lesson here is to get good at few (greater than one) things before you try to move to the next thing. Genuine expertise belongs to an elite few. They seldom have superpowers. They usually have endurance, patience and take a long-term view. They also love what they do. If you find that, don’t let it go.

In the workforce, always act like you are 35

A recruiter gave me this advice some years ago. It is quite inspired. What she meant was, when you are young in the workplace, don’t act as a novice. If you are smart and competent, step up and do whatever you are capable of doing in a mature way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or help people aim for a higher quality.

Similarly, when you are an older worker, don’t act like it. Approach your day with youthful energy. To quote a famous Frank Sinatra song:

You’re 35 and it’s a very good year

  • “Frank Sinatra”
  • (Hattip Shane Rodgers)

End Notes

I barely follow 1% of this myself, and would consider it a major personal win to get to 5% in the next 10 years (when I’ll actually be 35).

If you think I can help you in anyway: making introductions to others as mentors, figuring what to do to unlock your potential, or how to grow - please know whatever you share with me, stays with me.

This is a contextualized essay, which riffs on and rips from:

Build your own playbook: