Advice from my father

A couple days ago, I wrote to my parents to let them know where I’ve decided to work as my first job after college. In response, my father sent me this email about making friends and following one’s passion.

All of it is well worth read. I thought I’d share:

Dear Michael:

Plans are difficult to make and stick with them. So keep an open mind and rely on a few principles to guide your choices.

My life I chose to do things I would enjoy and believed I could do an excellent job; and started from there. This was teaching. This was not necessarily the only thing I could do well and enjoyed, but one started somewhere. I was much less ambitious than what I achieved eventually. If you enjoyed what you do then your clients will return and your career will develop from there.

Make friends at work and outside work. When I started I had colleagues at Chinese University. Outside I had friends discussing social-political issues. So stay active and meet friends and do things together. Join groups and expand out based on what interests you.

Do not keep a firm unchanging opinion of yourself, like I am in production not marketing. The two are not really so far apart and who knows what is your real talent.

While an economist always tell you to focus on your comparative advantage. In reality your comparative advantage grows with what you work on. And this is more guided by what you enjoy doing, and it makes you good at it.

Eventually, what you will achieve is as much guided by what you do and by your friends’ support. So keep eclectic groups of friends around you. Cultivate their friendship and pursue shared interests together.

You should grow inside and outside your job. It will make you an interesting person. Jobs do not define what you do. Always try to make your job do some of the things that you want to do. Shape your job, do not let it shape you. The job that allows you to do these things is a good job. The best employer want you to bring something to the job, not just to deal with the stuff on your desk.