This weekend will conclude my 5th week in Puerto Rico this summer.
I’ve spent many hours laying by salty shores, and many hours looking over foggy, rainy, sunny San Juan from my apartment patio.
I’ve trained 4 employees, all who are years older (and likely wiser) than me. I’ve walked up and down Old San Juan’s brick roads. I’ve caught lots of sea-themed Pokemon. I’ve eaten my weight in fish tacos. I’ve learned like 6 Spanish words (I’ve failed to keep up on Duolingo). I’ve walked through the rainforest and picked up snails the size of my palm. I’ve drank from coconuts while standing in a downpour.
I’ve had 840 hours to soak in this beautiful island, and now I’m going back to the planes of the Midwest. Back to my two amazing dogs. Back to my own bed and my own shower.
I’m going home.
I won’t share all the cliche things that I’ve learned like independence, leadership, strong work ethic, and everything you know anyone would develop in this setting. Those are a given. I don’t need to tell you I’m learning those things. Everyone eventually learns those things if they even remotely try.
Instead, I want to share my experiences as an 18-year-old in a building full of late 20–30 something-year-old business professionals.
The company I work for is currently going through an accelerator, which is why we’re in Puerto Rico. We work in an office space with 20–30 other companies. I’m a confident person, but it’s intimidating walking through rows of founders, CEO’s, BDR’s, COO’s, salespeople, and other team members every time I go to fill up my water bottle.
Maybe it’s because they’re all building this thing, creating this revenue engine, and they have something they’re so passionate about while I’m still looking for a way to eventually create revenue with my passions.
It might be that we instantly assume that everyone else their life more together and figured out than us.
Perhaps it’s because these people are much older than me, and they’re wondering what I’m doing here (Is it bring your daughter to work day?). Maybe it’s that I didn’t go to college and tons of these people did. Maybe it’s because whenever someone asks what I’m doing here and I tell them I’m leading sales and training a team of people significantly older than me, I get a “Holy shit, no way,” response.
People are shocked. Which is both insulting and flattering.
These are all things that I know are not defining characteristics, or must’s if you want to be successful. I know that a lack of a cocllege degree does not make me any less qualified or valuable to a company, but many of these people don’t know that. There’s a kind of drive to prove myself because the things that many people view as necessities for success are not things that I have (or that I view as necessities for success).
This drive is both a good and bad thing.
It is true that having a drive or passion for success is a good thing. It is false that your drive needs to be based off proving yourself to others. I know that’s a hard concept to grasp. We spend every day of our lives trying to prove ourselves to others — from the first day we stumble into kindergarten, to the day we graduate highschool, to the day we move in to our dorms at ivy league colleges, to graduating from college, to getting an impressive job, to every single day after that. Many of my peers in the business world think it’s silly that I want to stay in the Midwest. Any sensible person would relocate to San Francisco or Austin or Denver or Charleston. But I like Missouri and I’m not ashamed of that. By nature, we train ourselves to impress others. We’ve got it all wrong. You should not live this life to gain validation from others, or to impress your peers/friends/parents.
Your drive for success should be fed by your true desire to live a free life.
Everything we work towards in life is a means for an end. It’s a way to get from Point A to Point B. Point B being a life where we are not bound by a 9–5 job or student loans. Point B is a stressless, free life.
I could go down the rabbit hole so many different directions here but the point I’m trying to make is that your vision of success may be different from that of your peers/friends/parents, but that doesn’t make it incorrect.
Some may not see you as qualified, but does that make you unqualified? No.
Some may think your goals are silly or boring, but does that make them silly or boring? No.
Do not let the opinion of others be your drive for success.
Originally published at dianazitting.com on August 13, 2016.