The Truth About Starting Your Life: What I Wish I Knew About Careers & Finances At 22

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A recent AmericanExpress.com article highlighted 10 highly successful people in business who also shared what they wish they knew when they were 22. I wish I had known and totally accepted that everything I wanted would not come easy. That was definitely a hard lesson to grasp.

Thinking back to when I was 22, the naivety that permeated my existence is now laughable. I was finishing my last year at the School of Business and Industry 5-Year MBA program at Florida A&M University while interning in the marketing department of Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals (later acquired by Pfizer).

I had already determined that I did not have any interest in working in finance or accounting, or for any “typical” corporate America entity for that matter. I was on my way to law school that August. I managed to save what was, at that time, an immense amount of money. I was living in corporate housing that was paid for by the company I was interning with. I had no bills other than my cell phone and I partied and ate out just about every day. I traveled to Miami whenever I felt like it on AirTran’s X-Fares for $45 each way. I also thought that my every goal would totally unfold in front of me the way I had planned it.

The good news was that I was optimistic and confident. The bad news was that I had no idea that everything in life does not go as planned. I started to realize how it felt to not win at everything during my 22nd year of life. I was on the Honor Roll and Dean’s List 95% of the time. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and was involved in some of the most reputable extra-curricular and social organizations. I had great friends and a little money in my pocket. However, I did not feel my first real sense of failure until the age of 22.

Saying that I did not get a great score on the Law School Admissions Test is an understatement. When I opened the envelope that carried my score, I literally sat on my bedroom floor and cried like a baby. I just knew I would not get into law school. In fact, my mother had to talk me into just applying to some schools, “just to see.” I got wait listed at two schools, turned down by four and accepted to one. My decision had been made for me; I was going to Houston, TX.

Years of getting good grades came to a complete halt as I was struggling to maintain a C average in my first year of law school. Why I thought I could party the way I was accustomed to and make all A’s in law school is beyond comprehension. I had blown through all of the money I saved up at my internship and had to get a job at my school to pay my bills. I was not winning. That unintended plan continued for an extended period of time.

Looking back at my 22-year-old-self, I had such high hopes and minimum execution. I would offer this small piece of advice: Try harder and stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you truly want something, you have to give your full faith and effort to obtain it. Everything does not come to you because you simply want it to. You have to go out and get it.

A few of the sentiments shared in the American Express article included:

  • Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group – “If I were 22 today,” Branson says, “I would embrace the opportunities technology has given us. While I am in my sixties, I am incredibly excited about the transformative power of the Web and all sorts of new technology. From opportunities to tackle climate change to research to beat terrible diseases, as well as inventions to improve everyone’s lives, I am sure the coming years will be a period of tremendous innovation.
  • Sallie Krawcheck, Owner of 85 Broads – “Over the months that follow, you’re going to be rejected by all of the major Wall Street firms—by Lehman Brothers three times (I guess they’ll want to make sure you know they really don’t want you there), by one firm after they give you an offer because they discover you have a baby at home, and by one director of research who doesn’t think you’ll work hard because you’re married. But you’ll eventually find the right firm, Sanford Bernstein, and you’ll be off to the races. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Not every day, but most days. You’re going to be rejected a lot. You’ll need thick skin to get through it. Oh, and work hard. That really matters.”
  • Arianna Huffington, President and Editor–in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group- At 22, Huffington wished she would’ve known that she could achieve all that she’s achieved now, but with less stress, worry and anxiety. “… The advice I’d give to young people today is this,” Huffington says. “Don’t just climb the ladder of success—a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout—but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.”

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