Knowing Yourself is The Key to Your Own Journey

By Kevon Cheung in


November 24, 2015

One night over dinner, a college friend asked me “What is your life goal?” It was definitely a rare question that not many peers have asked me at this stage of our lives. It was a tough question! I don’t know what life goals I have because it changes all the time. If you asked me in primary school, I would have given you the standard “a businessman” answer. In high school, you might hear “an investment banker who makes a lot of money”. And then in college, you probably hear “an aspiring figure who stands out from the crowd”.

That night, my answer was “I wanted to be successful, of course it is based on your own definition of success, then I want to enjoy what I do and keep learning and learning.” To me, I think I know myself pretty well to make the appropriate small steps towards a life I want. I’m not saying I can help you find yourself, nor am I the person you should learn from if you’re lost, I just want to share my thinking.

A lot of times, I hear peers saying that they do not know what they want in life, as they just want to live well. They can’t figure out a key interest that they want their lives to be evolved around. I find it weird, particularly because we as humans should be pretty good at finding out what we like, say we know what food we like, we know what we prefer to do over weekend, and we know which songs we like most. It should be pretty easy to know what we like, is it not?

I am determined that my career and life will be surrounded by tech, using software to make lives more efficient and fun. I don’t know exactly what it will be, or whether the idea will change, but at least for now, this is what I’m aiming for. So how do I find this out? What is the searching process? One trick is I think about what I did most as a kid. What were you doing most of the time in your childhood? Was it playing violin? Was it creating nice artwork in sketch book? What about on the weekend? Did you spend all night, sacrificing your sleep, to work on something you love? Most of the time, if you’re willing to sacrifice time to do one thing over another, you’re interested in it. This is a good place to start to find your true interest.

For me when I was a 13-14 years old boy, I was playing a bit of sports, but my true passion was going home to sit in front of my computer. I would go online, looked at my favorite websites, checked out what new features or designs they have implemented, and finally copied as much as I could to my very own website. Reverse-engineering and replicating was an excellent way to learn!

After knowing what you like, it is time to break it down into small steps so it is more achievable. You can’t expect yourself to be one of the crazy millionaire stories out there, instead be humble and come up with a plan. After majoring in Finance in college, I knew that it was not worth my time getting a job in that field, because eventually I would switch because of lack of interest and start from scratch again. I tried running a business with peers when I was at Babson College, where we had this FME course and everyone had to be part of a business. To be honest, that was good but it wasn’t real! To get the real failure, the only way is to try it. Therefore, I told myself, why not try and fail and see what I’m good at and what I’m bad at. I worked on a startup idea for 6 months. Ended up, I wasn’t good at anything and I have dozens of things to improve on. So, tackle one baby step, one goal at a time.

Even though I’m sharing how to find myself, I’m still far, really far away from success. I set high bars for myself in order to achieve more in life and I believe I can make it one day, just not sure when. From all the things I’m bad at, I cherry picked coding to be my next focus. Why? Because I spent a lot of time working on websites and I got a lot of satisfaction from it. So it is time to learn how to code. Making websites did not count as coding to me back then, because there were lots of tools that helped you. All you need to do is read the installation guide and work your way out. To code means creating the whole structure of a website, understanding data models, and processing information from one end to another. How I learn to code was a long process. I won’t get into it today, but it was this small desire of knowing how to code that I studied coding for 9 months and eventually landed a job as a Software Engineer to face the world with a new skill I just acquired.

As if I haven’t gone far enough from where I started, in about a year time, I realized business skills were essential no matter what industry you’re in. When I worked as a programmer, I observed how my boss and managers deal with clients and was immediately curious to find out what it means to run and deal with real people. When I learned about First Code Academy from Michelle, the founder, I could see myself being part of it because it combines startup, education, and technology. It seemed like a perfect fit to me.

Taking you through the 3 changes in my life is because I want to tell you that, to be joyful waking up everyday, first you need to know what you want (something small and achievable). Based on that, you will find a job that doesn’t feel like a job, as you enjoy what you do and pour your heart into it (Read Howard Schultz’s Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time - True Story of Starbucks). Everyday serves as a lesson; ask humble questions and seek advice from people who have done it already.

My sister once told me that everyone on earth gets 24 hours a day, in which 8 hours are spent in sleep, another 8 are allocated for work, and the remaining 8 hours are the key that defines a person’s life. Whether I choose to watch TV or read books, go on Youtube or take an online course, or get drunk with friends or chat with friends to push each other forward, these decisions are crucial when the 8 hours accumulate. This cannot be more true.

Final word, when you wonder what your next job is, just find out one thing you seek to learn (say building your network, or mastering social media marketing, or becoming a rockstar sales) and stop being greedy. There is no perfect job out there, as long as you stay true to yourself, you’ll integrate everything and that would be your “perfect job”.

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