“When you’re young, you should take risks and if you feel like you’ll learn the most by sailing a ship for a few months then do that.”
A Director at Google once gave me the above piece of advice which highlights the reasoning behind my decision. Though I had already made the decision when he shared this nugget of wisdom, his articulation abilities and wealth of experience gave me a boost of confidence not only to pursue my desired alternative route but also to keep daring and encouraging others to do the same.
It all started with a logistically challenging situation.
Due to imperfect logistics, I found myself with a two-month gap between the end of my internship with Google and the beginning of my return internship at Bain & Company. This left me with a crucial decision I had to make: “How do I best utilise this “free” time?” My first instinct was to find another internship; perhaps one in a field I was yet to explore. (I actually found some great options, if you’d like tips on job/internship hunting then comment “#moredetails job hunting” and I’ll write an article about it.)
I was mildly excited to find an interesting opportunity, perhaps even in a new country. But I wasn’t thrilled. I didn’t feel immensely challenged by the thought of it all and I did not believe that this was the best way for me to maximise my growth during this time; I wanted more. I wanted to throw myself into a mind-stretching situation where I could not imagine my current self existing, let alone thriving. I wanted an opportunity which would force me to grow into a stronger, more capable Melissa.
As I delved deeper to the root of this feeling, I also paid attention to what authentically excites me which is being challenged. Instead of thinking: what industry or job role have I not yet explored? I asked myself: what have I always wanted to learn more about but have not yet had the chance to?
That’s when I recalled a disappointing moment in my early high school days. High school, for me, was the point at which I could start learning international languages. Having lived in Argentina briefly, I had a fond love of Espanol. I was dying to roll Spanish words off my tongue. But to my disappointment, due to a lack of demand, I was only allowed to study French at my school.
All these years later, my love for the Spanish language still lingers as does my curiosity to learn more about the Spanish culture. The strange thing was that I could not envision myself fluently speaking Spanish. The idea of it was (and still is) completely out of reach to me. This contrasted to how I could envision myself securing and succeeding at another internship.
And that’s when I knew I had to do something different. I enrolled in a Spanish Language School in the South of Spain where I’ll spend a month learning my beloved Espanol.
My greater goal, over and above learning a new language, is to challenge myself to overcome the mental limits of my perceived capabilities.
Although, I can’t help but ask myself: “Will learning Spanish help me progress my career? Will being able to speak the language be useful to my life in general? Is it linked to and will it progress my larger vision of driving change in Africa?”
Honestly, I don’t know. My focus right now is on growing myself in the best way I know how. The dots aren’t perfectly connecting as I look forward but I really do hope Steve Jobs was right and that they’ll connect when I look back many years from today!
What daring risks have you taken lately and how do you justify them?