Do you ever feel misunderstood by others? Maybe you feel that people at work don’t get you. Or that your friends are not on the same page.
Maybe others truly don’t get you. But that’s not because of them, it’s most likely because of your own behavior. I’ll tell you why.
When I started working for a major IT research firm in London several years ago, it was the first time I worked in an organization with thousands of people.
On my floor alone, there were probably two hundred people at work. For me, it was the first time that I was a part of such a big team.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from my mentor about working in large teams is this: People can only judge their perception of you. And often, there’s a difference between perception and reality, right?
When I got my business degree in 2011, I was ready to start my career.
I wanted to start a business, earn money, and also invest. Those were my main priorities for the past seven years.
I did all those things. You know what I found?
Every decision you make in life is either an investment or a waste.
Here’s what I mean:
- Browsing social media for hours is a waste of your time
- Eating junk food is a waste of your health
- Having a job that makes you miserable is a waste of your energy
- Working out is an investment in your health
- Spending time with people you care about is an investment in relationships and personal wellbeing
- Reading, taking courses, watching informational videos, are investments in your education
Those last three things are all good. And investing in your education has the highest return on investment. Why?
Do you ever get upset about the nasty behavior of your co-workers, friends, or even family? Well, if you let others upset you, it’s not their fault.
“It’s not me, it’s him!” is what most of us say. We’re always quick to blame others for how we feel.
We say that others make us feel that way. But that’s false. You decide how you feel about the things that happen in your life.
Events can’t harm us. Our perception of an event harms us. That’s one of the most important ideas of Stoic philosophy.
In other words, you decide what meaning you give to the things that happen in your life. If your friend tells lies about you behind your back, and you get upset, that’s because you decided to get upset.
What does success look like? What do you want from life? What career do you want?
Most of us answer “I don’t know.”
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. And yet, we think it’s the worst thing in the world if you don’t know what you want to do in life.
We say: “OMG! I don’t know what I want!” And then we have a full-on panic attack. Be honest — it happens to all of us.
Especially, when you see that your old college friend just got married. Or that your co-worker, who started at the same time as you, just got promoted.
It’s at those moments of weakness when we shine a spotlight on our own uncertainty about life.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reading books, interviewing smart people, and having conversations with my mentors is that questions are more important than answers.
But that goes against everything you learn in school where you’re rewarded for the quality of your answers.
However, that’s not what you should judge a person on. Instead, look at the quality of a person’s questions, like Voltaire famously said:
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
And one of my friends who’s a consultant at one of the big three management consultancies, once told me that, “my job is to be ignorant.” He was referring to Peter Drucker, arguably one of the greatest management consultants of all time, who said:
You can easily measure a business by looking at the numbers. Turnover, profit, costs, employee churn, etc.
But how do you measure your life? There are no universal metrics to assess your life.
So it’s up to every person to create their own way to measure where they are in life.
Some do that by looking at how much they earn compared to their peers. Some look at how far they climbed the corporate ladder. Others measure themselves by how they look.
I have studied how the most successful thinkers of our time measure their lives. The answer is surprising. You rarely hear that successful people measure their life by the size of their bank account or any other conventional measure.