When I was in my early 20s, I had a hard-to-obtain meeting with the COO of the organization I was working for.
It’s hard to overestimate how much the staff and interns idolized this guy. He was and is a fantastic leader, always dedicated to improving his leadership ability, emotional intelligence, and communication. As a teenager in my first job fresh out of college, he seemed like the epitome of success to me: he had the reins of a multi-million dollar organization, a national speaking platform, work/life balance, admirable character, deep insight into human nature, a loyal staff, and an implacable desire to constantly learn and improve himself.
I will never forget what this 41-year-old guy told me when I asked him what the age was I could expect to “have it all together.” I assumed there was a point in one’s 30s or 40s, maybe, when one could reach a “personal best” of some kind; not perfection, per se, but a sense of having “made it,” having overcome one’s demons and flaws and maldisciplines, confident in one’s ability to handle whatever life might throw at them.
He looked at me a little puzzled, or maybe bemused, and said, “I’ll let you know when I get there. You’d be surprised at how often I need to make phone calls to peers of mine to seek counsel, insight, or when I just don’t know how to handle life and the pressure of leadership anymore.”
This vulnerable moment remains one of the most profound and memorable things anyone has ever said to me. In the years since, I have discovered he was right.
Life is not a spiral staircase in which at some point you reach “the top” and can set the cruise control and just drift.
If you are waiting to “make it” or “be ready” before you jump into pursuing your dreams, you will be waiting a long time. Every experience can be a learning experience, so why wait for some mythical mountaintop moment instead of grabbing life by the horns and just going for it?
Besides, what does “qualified” even mean? If you have even a modicum of common sense, wisdom, and empathy, combined with a dash of initiative and ambition, you are a step ahead…