The Young and the Brash
Its no secret that the world is getting faster, opportunities are becoming more available, and the world's entrepreneurs are getting younger. Several years ago, Business Insider produced a report that highlighted the 25 youngest entrepreneurs of the most successful startups. The list included the founders of explosively successful organizations such as facebook, spotify, dropbox, and Tumblr. In the report, the average age of the companies' founders was 28 with an average corporation net worth of $5.8 billion. Thats a lot of success for someone with minimal mileage on this rock we call earth. How did this phenomenon come to be? While it is true that the successful entrepreneurs of ages past also accumulated wealth at a young age (for example John D. Rockefeller started the largest oil refinery in America at the fresh young age of 30), the technological age in which we live is opening up more and more opportunities for those who are willing to push the boundaries, work hard, and utilize the abundant resources which are now available in our digital age, no matter how wet behind the ears they may be. It seems now more than ever that the limitations that once bound one from achieving success, such as time, resources, experience etc., are slowly being eliminated.
The question then becomes: is it truly "the young and the brash" who will be the world-changers of tomorrow? Has society morphed into a state where things such as internships, mentoring and "earning your stripes" are of the past? Is "slow and steady wins the race" a non-existent necessity? I would say no. Allow me to explain. In his book "Visioneering", author Andy Stanley clarifies the need for patience and mature planning when carrying out any form of vision that has been laid upon our hearts. Sometimes it feels that with the pace the rest of the world has set around us we will simply be left in the dust of the "carpe diem" go-getters, the ones that seem to eat, breathe and sleep success and victory, all before breakfast. That's understandable. However, it is important to realize that there is a difference between a good idea and a vision worth pouring your life's energy into, and distinguishing the two can sometimes take time. As Stanley says, "Not every good idea is vision material". We live in a world of "get rich quick" schemes that can can easily derail us from the course in life that will leave us most fulfilled and most productive. So while the fast track is often more attractive than the alternative, there's simply no substitution for the clarifying and strengthening affects of time and dedication. I was recently turned onto a problem solving strategy known as Collaborative Facilitation by an acquaintance of mine named Matt Sullivan (you can check out his work here at http://thedifferenceconsulting.com). Matt summarized the process in three simple steps: scan, focus and act. I will spare you the details and summarize the process by saying that before you can start "doing", you must make the investment of time and energy into fully understanding the breadth and scope of your situation. Only once you have "scanned" the entirety of your area of interest and "focused" on the relevant information will you be able to "act" effectively in the choices and decisions that you make.
I recently graduated with a degree in architecture, or archiTORTURE as we liked to call it. Six long years of late nights, hard critiques, and constant pressure to produce the best work possible. Yet despite all of that work, I am STILL not an architect! The reason for this is that the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) recognizes that the expectations of a practicing architect and the impact of his/her work upon the lives of every citizen is widespread, so much so that they deem a degree only a stepping stone in becoming a licensed architect. On top of receiving an accredited degree, one must also pass a series of seven tests (long tests I might add) and log 5,600 hours (no I did not add an extra zero at the end of that) under a licensed architect. You can see where I'm currently at in this journey below.
Will this whole idea of obtaining experience under someone with more knowledge and expertise in my field also fall to the wayside as our ambition grows and our inhibitions shrink? While I believe the world is and will continue to change in ways that I might not be able to understand currently, I firmly believe that solid mentorship and supervised training can never be replaced. Granted this period of development may look different for you than it does for me. The field I have chosen has a very regimented process for obtaining legal competency, and rightly so. For example, the difference in time necessary before being fully competent in their field of work is most likely much higher for an architect or a nurse than it is for an artist or a writer. Yet regardless of this difference in scale, I believe that we must all come to understand the importance, or rather the necessity of solid mentoring/training/whatever the word may be for you. For you this may translate to a greater appreciation and dedication at achieving the requirements set by a national board for your profession. Or perhaps it involves finding someone older and wiser than you to share his/her experience with you and help guide you as you make choices that will set you on the path that you will follow the rest of your life. Once you have figured out what that looks like for you, do it! Make the most of the gifts and abilities you have been given by investing them and developing them with any and all available resources. Time spent developing yourself now will certainly pay off in the long run.
Before I end, I want to be sure of one thing. I don't want to be a dream crusher. I'm not into that stuff. If its your dream to become the youngest writer or motivational speaker or whatever, please don't misunderstand my words. Vision and drive are good things and can take you far if you let them. Just remember that just as there is a difference between grape juice and wine, so is there a difference between knowledge and wisdom. While the former may be good, the process of time and proper cultivation has a way of transforming the good into something great. Don't let the fast pace of the world dictate the depth of your development. I'm reminded of the words of the great Psalmist King David when he wrote,"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom". Be ambitious. Be entrepreneurial. And through it all, don't forget to give yourself the time you need to truly become the best you can be because at the end of the day, wisdom trumps knowledge hands down.