The only career advice that I give to others

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Here’s the career advice in twelve words which I will offer to anyone: Learn from Everyone, Follow No One, Observe the Patterns, Work like Hell. It’s simple and easy to remember but it is based on two important principles which I have engraved into how I think, work and apply in my daily life: continuous learning & seeking what’s next.

Oftentimes, I have been asked to give career advice to students out there who are thinking about the next steps of their lives. No matter at which juncture of my life, I do not often view myself as a success. The reason is that once you to think like that, it is likely that a failure will come. Going through relative cycles of failures and successes, I have started to put one hack into my mind: continuous learning and constantly asking “What’s next?”.

I have learned that staying true to myself and what I believe that may be counter-intuitive to me often helps me to achieve my goals better against listening to people who dispense platitudes that might not work for me. I realise that it is important to have a network of mentors to help you understand yourself better and be there to push you back when you might have made a disastrous mistake.

Hence my advice to anyone out there:

Learn from Everyone, Follow No One, Observe the Patterns, Work like Hell.

Learn from Everyone: I read any book for at least 30 minutes a day. The reason is that it keeps me learning something new today. Sometimes, I will do a random search on a topic of choice and look for journals, periodicals and research articles that relates to the area. If you just rely on reading, it is unlikely that your learning will be maximized. One important thing I do is to network and at the same time, talk to people who are working in the area. It is key to prepare the questions you have in mind beforehand so that you can focus on defining the problem correctly. While you will get different perspectives, opinions and whims from different people and books, you must learn to think critically, classify the information properly in different lens and assess where your position is.

Follow No One: Once you have learned from everyone, you must form your own perspective or opinion on the matter. You can have strong opinions but loosely held so that you may change your mind if your circumstances or constraints may change with time. The deeper implication in this verse is that you have to write your own story. You are who you are and you are the only person who decide how your story is going to be written. I read many biographies to understand the lessons of successes and failures from different people and how they ascend to be the top in their fields. However, no matter what you do, you cannot live their lives, but your own. For myself, I do not follow anyone and I cannot be anyone. It is important that I have to be who I am and continue to write my story as I move to get to where I want to be.

Observe the Patterns: It is important to observe the environment around you, and think about how things are the way they are. In physics, we modeled physical systems by putting a set of mathematical rules and tools that allow us to understand reality. Everything is complex in our reality, and the only way is to observe everything around you while figuring out the patterns that are in play. The difficulty is to read into the signals which might trick you into thinking in a particular direction and hence it is key that you seek alternative opinions to balance your perspectives on different issues. Once you found the pattern, the question will switch from why to how to maximize that information asymmetry you have learned.

Work like Hell: Everything in life is often a combination of deliberation and execution. First, focus your strengths to work through all the different configurations in your mind and follow that with all the energy in the tasks at end. It is important to break the problem into smaller chunks that you can resolve them one at a time. You enjoy what you do and that’s something I learn in the days of my life. If you are passionate about what you do, you will always end up better than where you start off from. Of course, that must be balanced with a constant urge to learn and ask where the next steps are.

I hope that this advice in twelve words will be able to help you to figure out your future. Most advice are often useless and irrelevant to people. The only advice the matters is the one you live by in your life.

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Bernard Leong

A Pragmatic Idealist