14 Brutally Honest Lessons I Learned After 2 Years in the Real World

Most of what they teach you in school is worthless, so this is the least I can do.

Last summer I published a list of lessons I learned after a full year of working in the real world. Since then I started a new job, moved, made some money, lost some money, and spent time around a lot of interesting people (some admirable, others complete trainwrecks). Like last year, I wrote down the lessons I learned along the way — mostly from people smarter than me. The ones on this list had the most impact:

1. Study the people you don’t want to be like just as much as you study people you admire. A reverse role model tells you precisely what not to do.

2. If you find yourself chronically procrastinating, you don’t need productivity hacks or another cup of coffee. You need a new job. Doing what you love gives you a virtually unlimited supply of energy.

3. Deliberately making yourself uncomfortable once a week (if not daily) helps you feel alive. Our lives are entirely too convenient and cushy. Try waking up at 4 am, walking home (the long way), or cooking something that isn’t categorized as “easy.” Anything to break up the malaise.

4. Giving yourself a raise is more gratifying than receiving a raise from an employer.

5. Instead of saying “See you later” or “Take care,” say “It was good to be with you.” It’s more intentional, and you can tell it resonates with people you care about. I picked this up from a mentor of mine, Matt Hall.

6. Resist the impulse to take a stance on every hot button issue. 99% of the time, saying “I don’t know” sounds a lot smarter than whatever flimsy opinions you hack together after reading a few headlines.

7. If you knew the extent to which brands objectify you in marketing meetings (“our target consumer craves a sense of belonging”) you wouldn’t buy from most of the brands you love.

8. When you can’t define what you want out of life, you copy what other people “want.” That explains the millions of miserable souls with generic business degrees, fitness Instagram accounts, and Patagonia quarter-zips.

9. Making your accomplishments appear effortless is more impressive than bloviating about your early mornings and late nights.

10. The employees who survive — and thrive — are those who can sustain the same levels of energy, resourcefulness, and hunger as they had when they first got hired.

11. If you feel insecure when someone tells you how much money they make, consider that they had to tell you how much money they make.

12. You will never regret supporting a family-owned restaurant instead of eating Chipotle, Dominos, or Jimmy John’s for the umpteenth time.

13. If you work 9–5, you have about three hours of pliable time daily. Your life is the compound effect of how you put those three hours to use every day.

14. Nobody has it all figured out, especially the people who look like they have it all figured out.

Storyteller, provocateur, bibliophile. For book rec’s and history lessons 👉 DominicV.net

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