Originally published on Bella Naija on January 22, 2020.
I woke up thinking: you can’t be an innovator and constantly seek validation. You can’t run ahead of the curve and, at the same time, seek direction from bystanders.
Not only will you lose your edge, but you will also be more confused than before you started. Innovating and seeking validation cannot coexist. You should be stubborn beyond reason.
As Henry Ford, the automobile innovator said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Ford could see beyond his reality. Asking other people for confirmation or validation would have been a waste of time. His and ours.
In today’s gig and talent economy, it is ‘sensible’ and cautious to look around and take cues from what successful people in your industry are doing. From the way they define, brand and market themselves, to the circles they move in and mentors they adore, it may seem wise to emulate their steps. But what got them there will likely not get you there.
Just do you!
We are lucky to live in fluid times where novelty is the norm and risk-taking is applauded.
Babies and toddlers out-earn their parents. High school students build technology to solve their own problems. Young professionals work from home productively and new job roles are created almost out of thin air.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a media entrepreneur, hit the nail on the head when he said: “If you’re any good, you do not need permission to become whatever you want to be.”
There are no rules holding you or your talent back. Resilience, not capital, is the new scarce commodity.
We need fewer resources than before to get an MVP to the market and we can learn the basics of almost any skill on the internet.
We can create the adult the ‘younger us’ wish we were. We just have to stay open to opportunities (which often come as work) and keep our eyes on the prize. Our prize. Your prize. The one your soul craves for.
As a freelancer, remote worker or consultant, you have the opportunity to schedule your life and work to suit your goals optimally. Still, most of us hold on to old rails and follow the culture of traditional work.
Dear young ones just getting into adulthood, if you have a vision, a goal, and the willingness to bring it to life, don’t do what others are doing.
Use your youth and take advantage of all accessible technology. You have more than enough wiggle room right now to create new models of work and life that do not exist yet.
Don’t follow blindly the path the oldies before us have walked.
How to get started
By putting in smart work and blending your skills and talents – I like to call it building unique talent stacks – you become an original and you can’t be replaced. By becoming an original, you get to set your terms and wages. That brings independence – independence of thought and financial independence.
It’s not going to be easy. You may have to walk alone and you may be misunderstood by many – including those who love you – for a while. So you will have to be courageous. The worst is that you may fail, but don’t despair, the odds are truly in your favor.
If I could be a 16-year-old again, I’d start right then to creatively build intellectual eccentricity. I’d try a lot of things, take multiple paths, and get involved in the future so that by the time I’m in my 20s, luck and opportunities will chase me while I continue to have fun doing things that have never been done before.
Life isn’t a straight path and no one knows for real what they’re doing. So stop asking for validation from people who don’t know better and let your uniqueness propel you forward.