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Comment: To my younger self, “Stay the course”

By Praxity Global Alliance executive director Græme Gordon


I was listening to a podcast from one of the Praxity firms the other day and, for those of you who ‘follow’ my blogs – I’m told there are such people – yes, I was running and trying to pretend I wasn’t.

However, on the podcast the interviewee said they had written a little list of things they would ‘like to tell my younger self’.

I have of course heard of such things, but never tried it myself. Then, I got to thinking about whether I would want to be him again?

I remember being in what I now call a ‘Rumsfeld state’, not knowing what I don’t know. But maybe knowing that I didn’t know a lot. While I’d love my physique that I had back then, many of the years of life that lay ahead as well as some other things, like having both my parents still alive, I decided I am actually very glad to be where I am now, and how I am.

So, I started to think of what I might say to myself. Before I went to University, that’s simple: “Don’t panic, it gets much better and you lose all that puppy fat”

But what would I tell 22-year-old postgraduate Græme? Well, probably:

  • Just because someone tells you you’re a ‘World Expert’ in something, doesn’t mean that firms will want to employ you – it must be financially worth their while. Don’t panic!
  • Yes, you will meet ‘the one’; and yes, your marriage will be long and happy.
  • The old adage ‘“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is more true than you might imagine. Don’t neglect continual learning, but also make the effort to join in.
  • Always ask. You will get an awful lot of ‘No’s but you will equally get some very welcome and surprising ‘Yes’s.
  • You are going to have great kids. You will get exasperated at times, but all three will not only make you very proud but also prove to be exceptional people in their own right.
  • Please don’t lose contact with good friends. You are and always will be a lousy letter writer, but you’ll be surprised how communications will improve and you’ll be enriched by keeping in touch. If you don’t, you will feel you have missed a lot.
  • I know the correct name for your male Labrador retriever is Glen, but your family will choose other names for their successors and they will be just as loveable boon companions as their more accurately-named predecessors.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly as far as work and career are concerned, get a mentor or a group of individuals who can collectively act as your mentor.

It is this last message I want to expand on here.

Mentors come in all (human) shapes, sizes and ages. I have been very fortunate to have several over recent years. And on refection, it is the two-way dialogue and their advice that have enabled me to progress and succeed as I believe I have.

Few, if any, of those individuals who I identify as mentors, would identify themselves in that way. One might even think of me as one of his mentors – a nice symmetry and not that unusual.  Another might just think of me as her very close friend, which I hope I am. But that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that these are the people whose advice I will seek. I may not always accept it but the experience is always very positive and usually involves considering several options, allowing me to choose the path that I think is the best.

So, my younger self, here I am, doing a very satisfying and rewarding job that I would not have got had it not been for one mentor, and that would not have been as successful had it not been for at least two others. In short, Græme Gordon Esq., when you find someone you trust, whose advice is often sound and who is willing to discuss your options and, crucially for me, also appears to seek and value your advice, privately nominate them your mentor. And if you find you are in love with them too, well that’s a great blessing.

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