Nobody owes you a career

When I was training for competition during my CCA days, our coach taught us an important lesson about working for things you want.

One of our team mates was complaining to my coach and this is how he responded:

Team mate: 
教练,S 抢走我的位子
Coach, S stole my position in the school team)

The position does not belong to one person. It is open for everyone. It is up to you on whether you want to fight hard for it)

This lesson stuck with me and I knew that I had to fight hard for any opportunity I want.

I saw it in action with my bestfriend who was interviewing for a job.

In this current climate, competition for roles in SaaS is extremely stiff.

She was up against three more candidates who were incredibly strong and with more experience.

However, eventually, she got the offer with a good company. It came with a > 30% increment was well as broader scope.

This is the level of effort that went behind her preparing for interviews across an entire month:

  • Multithread-ing and trying to get insights from those on the ground: She spoke with many employees internally to learn more about how to position herself better. For some, she asked friends to introduce. For others, she reached out proactively via LinkedIn

  • Crazy level of prep: For the panel round, she did dry runs with 2-3 different people and acted on their feedback on how to improve. She came over to my office on an evening and we worked together on it

  • Alignment: She took the initiative to source and listen to the podcast of CEO and how she can weave insights into the interview

  • Thinking out of the box: She thought of many creative angles on how she could stand out during the interview process. Things like injecting humour; coming up with analogies and including references.

  • Constant self-reflection and ownership: She reflected upon every setback and journaled things down. She had been interviewing with several companies. However, she did not land the role due to various reasons. After each interview, she’d reflect, come up with areas she can do better and then run them through her peers. No blaming, no excuses.

To me, this entire effort was all about extreme ownership; proactiveness; self-awareness; humility; hardwork and really going above and beyond.

I thought about this against some of the comments I have read online.

People want to 躺平 and have worklife balance but at the same time feel like they deserve good salary and opportunities etc without being strategic and putting in the same level of effort as other do. The level of entitlement is too high.

Opportunities are out there and open to everyone. It is all about how much effort you want to put in to stand out and seize it.

In this case, she brought her A Game and exhausted all effort to win the position.

“The sad news is, nobody owes you a career. Your career is literally your business. You own it as a sole proprietor. You have one employee: yourself. You are in competition with millions of similar businesses: millions of other employees all over the world. You need to accept ownership of your career, your skills and the timing of your moves. It is your responsibility to protect this personal business of yours from harm and to position it to benefit from the changes in the environment. Nobody else can do that for you.”

Andrew Groves, Founder of Intel, Book: Only the Paranoid Survives

Taylor Swift

Don’t let others tell you what you can or cannot do

Taylor Swift now has the most No. 1 albums of any female artist in history.

Her guitar prowess started after a jerk teacher told her that her 12-year-old hands would be too small for a 12-string guitar so there was no way she’d be able to play it.

She didn’t listen.

She practiced every day until her fingers were calloused and bloody... and that hard work paid off.

At 14 years old, she signed a record deal with Sony/ATV Publishing making her the youngest person ever to secure a deal with them.

At 33 years old, she’s a billionaire with a sold-out worldwide tour, movies about her success, and 212 ranked songs on the Billboard Top 100.

Rather than believe false ceilings or ‘either/or’ situations, it is critical for us to challenge statements of what others feel are bad for us.

In my personal life, I have encountered a few examples of proving others wrong and eliminating this type of ‘either/or’ thinking.

When I was in my early 20s, someone close to me told me I could not do well in sales because I was introverted; too direct and did not know how to schmooze others.

I am still introverted; direct; poor in small talk. However, SaaS requires a way different skill set from a traditional sales person.

The lack of role model causes limiting beliefs. I am grateful I did not listen to him.

Why you need strength training?

One change I made to my schedule recently was to replace some of my swim sessions with strength training.

Strength training is any physical movement in which you use your body weight or equipment (e.g., dumbbells and resistance bands) to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance.

The reason for this change was because I did a DEXA Scan a few weeks ago and found that my muscle mass was really low. This is a result of a more plant based diet as well as lack of strength training.

I decided to replace two of my swim sessions with strength training so that i can get a good mix between strength and cardio.

Strength training is likely just as important. A study looking at nearly half a million patients in the United Kingdom found that grip strength, an excellent proxy for overall strength, was strongly and inversely associated with the incidence of dementia

This is also aligned with longevity expert, Dr. Peter Attia’s advice:

Half of the exercises you do weekly should be strength-training. This means if you're working out eight hours a week, you should devote four hours to developing your strength and stability.

Peter Attia

It is difficult to put on muscle mass later in life. Hence, you can think of strength training as a form of retirement saving.

Just as we want to retire with enough money saved up to sustain us for the rest of our lives, we want to reach older age with enough of a “reserve” of muscle (and bone density) to protect us from injury and allow us to continue to pursue the activities that we enjoy.

It is much better to save and invest and plan ahead, letting your wealth build gradually over decades, than to scramble to try to scrape together an individual retirement account in your late fifties and hope and pray that the stock market gods help you out.

Like investing, strength training is also cumulative, its benefits compounding. The more of a reserve you build up, early on, the better off you will be over the long term.

Peter Attia
  • Stability: 5 to 10 minute blocks done before your other workouts

  • Strength: full body workouts targeting all major muscle groups

  • Aerobic Efficiency: zone 2 cardio workouts

  • Anaerobic Performance: one 30 minute VO2 max workout