A perspective from me on some lessons in life and a look back at what I've learnt.

I have been asked by a few people if they could grab a copy of speech that I gave to bunch of 17 and 18 year old school students today about careers and what they can do with their lives. I didn’t want to focus on my career as much as I wanted to impart some advice to the students that I have learnt across the last 10 years since I left school. Feel free to read it and let me know your thoughts.

Hi Everyone,

Well today …. my speech is going to be a little different. When I was asked to speak at this event — I think the spec was to focus on career choices and my current and previous employment — so I’ll get that out of the way right now.

My name is Tim Davis, I run a software company that has staff members based in 3 countries. I run the business and do all the design and user-interface work. I have 2 diploma’s in Financial Services and Technical Analysis, a Bachelor in Commerce, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and Investment and 2 Masters degrees — 1 in Corporate Law and 1 as a Masters of Law (Juris Doctor) specializing in domestic and international Intellectual Property law. I’m a qualified Trademark Attorney and Certified Financial Technician. I’m not a lawyer — instead I taught myself software coding and it’s what I do now.

Now that’s out of the way — I don’t want you to remember any of it. No … for today — I want to impart the 3 best pieces of advice that I can possibly think of when looking back over the last 10 years to the moment when I was in your exact shoes.

So — 3 pieces of advice and that’s it for me.

1. Failure is great

I think we live in world today where no one fails any more — no …. now days you are “progressively improving” or you are “still developing your potential” — and this is because most people fear failure. They shun from it and they resent it. It’s seen as a “dirty” word which — through some abstract misunderstanding of the English language — automatically infers you’ll never be a success.

But this could not be further from the truth.

Personally, I love failure because without it — I wouldn’t be where I am today. For me, it all started when I was a 2nd year University student doing a Chemical Engineering and Microbiology double degree — a course which I was certain I was going to love when I was in year 12. I enjoyed chemistry and maths at school and so assumed that this would be the best career path for my life.

But it wasn’t until one day when I was called in by a University lecturer who had told me I had received a ‘near pass’ for the subject of ‘fluid mechanics’ — again, the Universities code word for ‘failure in a nice way’. It basically meant I had failed the subject and they had passed me — but I needed to sit down and speak with the lecturer ‘about my future’.

So off I went and he told me ‘Tim, you’ll never succeed in life if you don’t try hard”. With the benefit of hindsight, I honestly think it was at this exact moment that I realized to myself — actually you couldn’t be more wrong.

The fact of the matter was simple — I failed — everyone freaked out and couldn’t say it — I was honestly put under the impression that the whole world was going to stop rotating. And if I believed everyone words — I was truly doomed.

But of course I wasn’t, the world wasn’t going to stop rotating and it won’t in your life time’s either. Instead, I realized at this exact moment that failure and succeeding in life has nothing to do with trying hard — it has to do with being absolutely passionate about what you do and I wasn’t passionate about ‘fluid mechanics’ at all and nor I was passionate chemical engineering or microbiology.

So I realized at this very early age that the testament of a person is not what they do when they fail, it’s the action they take after they fail that truly counts. You can mope around or you can make change in life your and do something about it.

So what did I do ?

I took my ‘near pass’. I quit the course the next day — enrolled in a completely new one that I was more excited about and I’ve never looked back. You’ll learn that intelligence is a relative metric — I might be able to write algorithms, interpret law or manage web servers — but picking up any sort of power tool usually involves some sort of injury. So don’t constantly compare yourself to others — someone is, and will always be, better at something. Instead, follow and find your passion — don’t focus on someone else’s.

So my first lesson to you is — embrace failure, accept it, learn from it and take action on it and remember throughout your life that your greatest downfall will be not action — but rather continuing along the road of inaction.

2. Be passionate

I write a blog and I posted about this a while back so I thought I would simply paraphrase the post because it’s quite popular. So here goes:

Why do people do what they do ? I am reading a fascinating book at the moment that I encourage everyone to go out and read to really discover what they want to do with their lives. It’s a book by Carmine Gallo called The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success — and it’s a fantastic read. I suggest you definitely check it out. One of the people the book mentions is a person called Bill Strickland — who is the author of Make the Impossible Possible and who has an inspiring story of getting disadvantages kids back on track. After doing a bit more research about Bill, he has a quote that I think is amazing and something that everyone who reads this blog should paste up on their wall.

“Passion is the emotional fuel that drives your vision. It’s what you hold onto when your ideas are challenged and people turn you down, when you are rejected by experts and the people cloest to you. It’s the fuel that keeps you going, working hard, giving more than you can possibly give when there is simply no validation of your dream. Passions are irresistible. If you’re paying attention to your life at all, the things you are passionate about won’t leave you alone. They’re the ideas, hope and possibilities your mind gravitates to, the things you focus all your time, attention and dreams upon and nothing else but doing these things truly feels right.”

It’s amazing that the most successful people in life — and increasingly as a function of their success — are doing what they absolutely love and are passionate about it. Many people live their entire lives in a job they ‘like’ or ‘they enjoy’ but never ‘truly love’. While I completely understand that many people do this for the ‘safety’ of a job and providing for their family — unfortunately they are missing the obvious — nobody ever said that doing what you love would be easy. The truth of the matter is that doing what you love is entirely related to how much effort you are willing to put in, how much you want it to succeed and how much you are willing to do anything to ensure that your passion exceeds the odds. Every successful entrepreneur will tell you the same story — from Bill Gates, to Warren Buffet, to Steve Jobs to Bill Strickland. Money was never the end goal — simply being passionate about changing peoples lives and doing something that each of these entrepreneurs absolutely loved is consistently the message. I have read each of these entrepreneurs official and unofficial biographies and it’s always the same outcome — do what you love and you’ll always be better off in life.

Passions are infectious. If you show this passion — others will want to join you. How you communicate this passion, how you achieve this passion, the story you tell, the goals you want to achieve — this is what will draw the best people to you and around you and with you. If you want to be a musician, a professor, a teacher, a social worker, a lawyer, a doctor or any other type of career and you want this more than anything in the world — nothing will stop you. It’s been documented and shown over and over throughout time through thousands, if not millions, of people.

So the second lesson I tell you all — do what you love, hold on to it, never let it go. Follow it with all your being and if it’s really what you want — nothing will stop you achieving it now or in 20 years time.

3. Enjoy life, Celebrate everything.

Life is not easy and you’ll discover that with time. Nothing is ever handed to you on a silver platter and you have to work, struggle, scrap and fight to achieve anything you want in it. Realize this now, realize it early and accept it.

But through every struggle — you have to learn to celebrate every success. Too often people focus on the big things and miss so much that life has given to them. Learn to put things in perspective, learn to put your life in perspective and learn to celebrate your successes no matter how large or small.

For me, this includes everything from the big things — like celebrating academic and business success to getting engaged — to even the tiniest of tiny things. For example, I love coffee and not always do you get a great cup of coffee. So when I do, I like to stop and say “this is a great cup of coffee, I mean it’s really great and that’s awesome”. Or when I’m driving into nearby shopping centre car parking — and find a car park right at the front. I think to myself “wow, I could have been driving around and around — but I’m right here up the front. That’s awesome”.

And although these are funny simple examples, learn to celebrate and embrace every success — no matter how big or small — you’ll live a happier and more enjoyable life and you’ll learn the valuable lesson of perspective in everything you do.


So in conclusion, remember these 3 lessons –

  1. Failure is great. Take action, not inaction.
  2. Be passionate. Do what you love, hold on to it, never let go of it if it’s what you want. Embrace it. Let it envelope and engulf you.
  3. Enjoy life, celebrate everything large and small.

So while Years 11 and 12 seem hard — don’t let them be so hard that you lose sight of life. If you don’t achieve what you want — don’t think you can’t ever do it — you can, it just depends on how much you truly want it. If you fail, learn to get up and move on because as you get older you’ll realize life waits for nobody. Take action now.

I can tell you this truthfully — because I’ve lived it, because I’ve failed and I know I will fail again, because I found what I am truly passionate about and because I love and embrace all life has to offer — no matter how large or small.

You can and should too.

Best of luck in the years ahead.