Advice to Someone Like Myself

Devin Z
2 min readSep 16, 2023

What I hope I had known when I was younger.

Mission Peak, April 9, 2023

Be Self-aware

My first suggestion is not to tussle with yourself. What does the most harm to us is not the toxic environment, red tapes, inept leadership or peers in conflict with us, but the negative thoughts and emotions that are engendered internally as we perceive the outside world.

If you keep an eye on your own mind, you would find a large portion of the mental energy is sadly wasted to breed anger and anxiety, instead of being used for attacking real problems. Therefore, watch your own mental world so as to dedicate more resources to real challenges, as well as to keep yourself healthy in the long term.

Be Empathetic

Humans do not have free wills. As biological creatures, we adhere to the same physical laws as celestial bodies, and we follow genetic prophecies just as microbes. In the social context, our behavior is largely shaped by the milieu surrounding us. A bad working environment, for example, puts coworkers into zero-sum games and alienates those who would otherwise be gracious neighbors or intimate friends. Even the most industrious would become tepid in an org where resolving problems has more costs than incentives.

Thus we should be aware of the situational factors that drive people to behave in ways we don’t like, and meanwhile watch our own behavior to not fall in the same traps. Stop fighting against wrong enemies who could potentially be allies. Instead, change or part with the environment that causes all the pain.

Be Ambitious

Our brains are wired for instant gratification. Millions of years of evolution can only get us to greedy strategies that just meet basic needs. In the modern society where survival is less of a concern and life expectancy is much longer, we still tend to make decisions that optimize for marginal profits in a limited horizon. We fear risks. We loathe high costs. We yearn for immediate results and shy away from choices with obvious obstacles.

But in modern societies, there’s no $20 bill on the ground. To achieve anything above average, we have to invest more time, take more pains, make more efforts, and endure more uncertainty. Aiming high could help us acquire such get-up-and-go. According to the prospect theory, when we have a higher reference point, risk aversion would push us out of our comfort zone. Then we’ll be prepared to play the long game and will weigh up costs and benefits differently. So please think big for yourself and don’t let human nature hold you back.

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