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What does an IIM graduate say to his 20-year younger self?

Source | QUARTZ

On July 1, 1996, exactly 20 years ago to the day, I entered an office for the first time ever in a full-time job and began my career in the corporate sector.

On that day, as I contemplated what my boss would be like, what work I would be given, and what was for lunch, I don’t think I imagined the journey that lay ahead of me. After 20 years, 10 bosses, five moves, four kilos, and a journey that has spanned experiences across many different businesses and countries, I am back where it all began—Mumbai.

Did I ever imagine I’d be working in the corporate sector for 20 years? To be honest, perhaps not. But back then, a time horizon of a couple of years was long-term thinking. As I think back to that 22-year-old me, sitting at the reception, waiting to collect my visitors’ ID badge, if I had the chance, what would I say to myself? Here’s an attempt:

Dear me,

Congratulations on the first day of this new phase of your life. I’m that wiser, better-looking dude (those extra four kilos went into all the right places) you will one day become. Till you become me, you have in stock many memos and presentations that make you curse Microsoft Office, many meetings where you doodle poetry and your share of good times and bad times. Let me not spoil it by telling you all that is in store, so if you’re expecting me to tell you exactly what lies ahead, you’re in for a disappointment.

However, here are some tips on what I wished I had done or perhaps done earlier, and what you can still do.

  1. Congratulations on getting your dream job: Enjoy the moment and the feeling of freedom that comes with starting your career. Just keep in the back of your mind that one day you’ll realise that true freedom comes with being able to walk away from something you once coveted, instead of sticking to it at any cost.
  2. A writer in a cubicle: You’re a writer sitting in a cubicle for a living, not a cubicle-dweller who dreams of being a writer. Perhaps much later than I should have, I realised that our identity does not come from the designation we have at our jobs but what inspires us, what makes us feel alive. Today I am a husband, a father, a writer, and those identities don’t take away from my day job, but in fact help me bring my full, authentic self to it, and do better at it.
  3. You will never have “enough” money: A few months from now, you’ll make a ridiculous spreadsheet and pretend you have it all figured out and when you’ll retire after you have “enough” money. It’ll all be a waste of time. If money is what you chase, the goalpost will keep shifting. I figured that one out pretty early—you may as well get started on day one of your career.
  4. Meetings are a waste of time: If you find yourself thinking that long meetings, where people debate endlessly, are a waste of time, you’re right. Twenty years on, I still find them a waste of time. So don’t feel guilty about doodling. In fact, use these meetings to get working on that novel (see point 2).
  5. Good bosses and bad bosses: You learn as much—if not more—from the “bad” bosses as the “good” ones. You’ll have bosses whom you adore and those whom you wish you could somehow make disappear. Bitch about them. But remember, you have a lot to learn from them—even if all you learn is what you will not do when you are in their shoes. Speaking of shoes, put yourself in their shoes once in a while and you may realise that they are not quite the trolls you imagine them to be. They’re just people trying to do their jobs the best they can, perhaps very differently from how you’d want them to.

Read On…

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