Ep. 3 – You can’t stop learning

If you’re serious about developing your career and bettering yourself, consider this.

When you consider options for continuing education, you may not immediately think of post-baccalaureate certifications. I’m currently in the online data analytics certificate program at Cornell University. At the end of this program, I will have obtained a certificate to demonstrate my competency in the field. But there’s more to it: I’ve interacted with people whom I would never have met otherwise: CEOs, entrepreneurs, healthcare workers, and even people in the food and hospitality industry. For me, coming from a software engineering background, meeting this variety of people is fascinating and motivating. These new connections are not only from around the world and various different industries, but they are all intent on cultivating their career. What’s more, the program directly encourages communication and interaction between students. This is the hidden benefit of independently pursuing further education, besides the certificate itself.

Unlike in college, post-graduate education can expose you to like-minded students who may already have successful careers. They are carving out time to study on top of their work hours and responsibilities because they know what it will mean for their company and their career. There are people I like to surround myself with.

For certificate programs, fortunately, there is usually no test to take, no essay to write, and no admissions team to brave. Yes, for the more technical subjects you must prove that you fulfill certain prerequisites, but besides this, you simply pay and begin. Additionally, some institutions allow these certificates to fulfill coursework for a graduate degree.

Even after finishing college I haven’t stopped learning. If I’m not working, I’m doing something to further my career and my knowledge, like listening to an audiobook, podcast, or language learning program. If I’m awake, I’m putting that time to good use. One of my language tutors asked me recently to explain in the target language what the last movie I watched was–and I couldn’t think of one. My new intensity to not let a day go by without purpose has meant that I have less time for leisure. I am growing, building discipline, and working hard. I’m developing myself, and in the process, I am finding more motivation to continue doing so. May there never be a day where you stop learning.

Ep. 2 – You don’t start with perfection

It’s easy to look at what someone has accomplished and forget what it took to get there.

Don’t look at people excellent in their craft and think that in order to be successful, you need to replicate exactly what they’re doing.

Take the example of the many thriving YouTubers on the internet. Making videos is their job, and for the most part, their videos are of extremely high quality. They use high-end cameras, implement color grading, and manage to find the perfect music to complement their content. They seem to have the whole package — and confronted with this perfection, it’s easy to become paralyzed with doubt. It seems the only way to succeed is to be able to produce content as impressive as theirs — and that you can’t possibly begin unless you have all of the equipment this person has, or do all of the things that they do.

In the very same way, making a podcast has been a process punctuated with typical struggles of confidence. When I look back at my older recording, I am filled with frustration — it didn’t turn out how I had hoped. The audio isn’t clean, smooth or of particularly high quality. There wasn’t a script. The background noise is unpredictable. There are countless details that make it appear as a failure to me.

When this happens, I just have to remind myself — if I don’t do something today, I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Everyone has to start somewhere — and more importantly, the hard truth is that perfection doesn’t happen from the start. This is the case with all the people we might admire as being experts in their craft. More than likely, they started at the bottom, and slowly made improvements until their product was excellent.

Let’s return to the example of successful YouTubers. Many have been creating videos for years. However, all you have to do to break the sheen of perfection is look back at their first few videos and compare them to the more recent ones. You’ll notice a marked difference in the quality. These people have cultivated their skills over time. They had to start somewhere, however unprepared they may felt. Their subscriber base started from nothing. They all put out multiple videos before they knew anyone was watching, and slowly began to build his or her reputation by listening to feedback when the first few followers started taking notice.

This is what I think about in moments of uncertainty. I am going to persevere, continue recording, and putting out content regardless of who is listening or reading.

You don’t create perfectly refined content on your first attempt. Your very first video, article, podcast, animation or website is not going to be impeccable. It’s not going to be exactly how you want it to be, and it most likely won’t be an immediate success. It will continue to take work — but if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never know what opportunities the future may hold. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection keep you from creating anything at all. My first podcast may have been less-than-impressive, but it’s all about progressing in steps. Today I took a step, and tomorrow I’ll take another.