We have an intern at work who is just starting out in the world of work. (So she is, shall we say, younger than I am.) I was thinking about things I wish I had known about work, life, and the world when I was 22 (geez, I sound old) as we've chatted about career stuff.
I told her not to let anyone blow her off or doubt her because she is young. At my first "real" newspaper job, I was first assigned (as the newbie) what was supposed to be a mundane and boring beat. The managing editor hated my guts from day one (to give you an idea of the compatibility of his personality with humans, he left the paper to become an editor at a computer magazine, and I believe he's still there.) He even made a joke that if anyone had "any nanny stories" to pass them on to me. The towns I was assigned to cover were pretty wealthy, home to high-tech founders and retired football players, and they were considered "sleepy."
Fast forward a year and a half from the start of the job. I have a good nose for bullshit and I dug and dug even when that prick doubted me. Two DA's investigations later, half of the top administration in one of the towns had resigned because of alleged financial mismanagement and other mischief. The investigations, the DA told me, were because of my digging. One even went to trial and made national headlines.
The point isn't that I was the world's greatest cub reporter, but that I didn't doubt myself, and didn't let anyone else set limits on what I knew I could do. Not because of my ego, but because I worked hard and didn't quit when other people thought I should have.
Years later, working in advocacy, I see people who have years of experience in the nonprofit sector and other places we work with who have lost their passion, given up, checked out.
What is the good of experience without passion? Sometimes it's hard to remind ourselves not to quit or, on bad days, to keep caring, whatever our cause or passion may be, because of the naysayers.
How many of the naysayers have gone out and shaken things up? Changed the world, or the system, for one person or for many? Not many.
This doesn't only apply to people who lead movements. To paraphrase Greg Louganis, never underestimate the difference you can make in one person's life, even if you're not aware of it.
If you had to give advice to your younger self, what would it be?