I turned 33 a few weeks ago.
I remember when my gymnastics coach turned 33 and told me about it. I was 12. He was not only my first serious gymnastics coach, he was one of the owners of the gym. He was in charge and he seemed to know everything.
I replied by saying that he had run through a third of his life. Probably not what he wanted to hear and but given he was a smoker, it was actually a pretty optimistic forecast.
Turns out of course that you don’t have it all figured out at 33, 43, 63, or whenever. And you definitely don’t have it all figured out when you’re trying to invent the future as a startup founder. The experience is very much a rollercoaster.
“I’m a total genius.”
“I’m a colossal failure.”
“We’re going to change the world.”
“We’re never going to amount to anything.”
And especially when you have to present your ideas out to the world and put them in front of really smart people, you get all kinds of feedback. It can be hard to sort out what you believe and what’s right.
I wrote about this a few years ago: Listen to everyone, then make up your own mind. And I’m revisiting these ideas again.
33 is a great age. I’m experienced enough to have good perspective but still full of vitality and energy. As per usual, I try to reflect on what the past year has taught me.
I think this year has been about trusting my gut again. For sure I don’t know everything, or even most things. But somethings seems, after thoughtful consideration, to be a good idea or plan, then I’m just going to go for it.
Being a founder means having a lot of people question your ideas and I know I’m not going to be right all the time. But I won’t let anyone make me feel stupid either or that I’m doing it wrong.
But it turns out pretty much everyone is just making shit up as they go.
What people say and what they do are often contradictory. Experts overestimate themselves. An orange clown is President. I’ve seen my well-laid plans screw up, and I’ve seen my instinctive decisions play out beautifully.
In my early twenties, I was ambitious and optimistic. I had taken some hits but shaken them off. I believed talent and enthusiasm was enough and I would just rise like a rocket.
In my late twenties, I experienced failure, loss, and defeat. I learned a lot about psychology and how easily we delude ourselves into thinking we’re smart and right. I started to doubt and second guess myself.
This wasn’t all bad – I learned to analyze data more rigorously, developed better habits, became more patient, and planned things out more carefully. I met and married my one true love.
Now I’m regaining my strength and confidence. My family came here with very little. I’m a first generation immigrant turned NCAA champion turned serial entrepreneur. I have come a long way.
I know I’m not invincible. But I’m definitely resilient and resourceful, and ready to push hard on what I believe in.
Here’s to 33.
Jason Shen | Cultivating Resilience Newsletter
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