Back in University, I had a fairly heavy course load. I was taking a Combined Computer Science and Mathematics degree which was crazy by itself, but I was also doing coop (that is, working full time during certain terms), was a Residence Advisor (a part time job where I acted like a hall monitor, told people to be quiet during quiet hours and wrote people up for being too loud) and also doing all of the pre-requisites for getting into medicine. My course load was so full that I had to take up summer courses to make sure that I would graduate in time.
One semester, I actually had 7 courses (looking back, I’m still not sure how I fit everything into a semester) — i thought it would be fine but what I did not realize was that 7 courses meant 7 midterms and 7 finals — I actually had 7 finals in 5 days that semester. There would be nights and weekends where I would curse myself for not planning ahead. I thought about how much time I wasted during the semester going to restaurants with friends or hanging out with other residence advisors, commiserating to one another about their crazy residents. It was during those times that I wished that things were easier.
But that was actually the wrong mindset. “Don’t wish things were easier, wish you were better”
Going further back to high school, I was troubled with many things. Academics was a big part of my life, in part because my parents (my Mom in particular) pushed me to get straight A’s and be that good student that all asians (should) aspire to be. I studied hard but at the same time, I struggled with the fact that I was not the best student in high school. I certainly didn’t realize how fruitless that fact was otherwise I would have been at least ‘good enough’ until university so I worked my butt off trying to get 100% in all of my courses. In the summers, I would sit around the house, not doing very much, playing video games and it got to the point where my Mom, frustrated that I wasn’t doing more, asked me to apply to different jobs so that I could earn money. I’m glad that she did because my first job (which was at Playland) really taught me the value of money and how hard you have to work to get even a bit of money. My first job, I earned about $8 / hour which was not a lot but everyone has to start somewhere. My paychecks would get me about $200 a week and I thought that was a lot of money (but it really wasn’t). As I approached my senior years in high school, there was increasing pressure on me to get into a good university and I wish that someone had told me that to get into a good university, you should be starting early — getting good grades, doing summer work, volunteering, getting into school committees or clubs, etc. All of this stressed me out to the point where I really wished I had less problems.
Again, this was the wrong mindset. “Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills”
Fast forward to the future. I’m sitting at my desk in the GoA. It’s my first job coming out of university and when I sit at the desk, I am overcome by a sense of dread that I made the wrong decision, that I should not have moved out to Edmonton away from my family and friends and that I should have just waited until the ‘right’ job came along — even though I had no idea what that was or what I wanted to do. A good and a bad thing about me is that I don’t like to quit and so I slog it out in that job for 4.5 years before moving on to management consulting. Honestly, I probably make it sound worse than it was but by the end of the first year, I was already working on things outside of work and planning my exit strategy, even though I had no idea what I wanted to do after. I was in a good paying job while the economy around me was at a low point, I felt like I was not going to the gym enough, I was not focusing enough on developing myself and I certainly was not reading as much as I read today — I had so many challenges that I wished for less challenges.
Well, you know the theme by now. “Don’t wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom”
Lately, I’ve been on a Jim Rohn kick. I’ve been listening to his audio CDs and one quote really stuck out to me:
“Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge wish for more wisdom”
It made me pause and think because Jim reframes challenges into opportunities. Just like if you went outside and it was raining, you are probably not wishing that there was less rain — it’s not something you can control. But what you can control is whether you are wearing a raincoat, whether you have brought an umbrella, whether you can stay indoors or under trees as much as possible, etc. The quote is great for you debbie downers — it’s a way to reframe your mind into thinking of the positive, thinking of the opportunity and thinking of the growth that you still have to get to.