20-something selfAt the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t believe how much I’ve changed since turning thirty nearly two years ago. It probably sounds absurd; how much can one really change that quickly? But I swear it, I’ve somehow managed to figure out the many problems I struggled with over and over for the entire decade of my twenties, in a fraction of that time.

Perhaps it was the still developing prefrontal cortex. In fact, I’m fairly certain it was – but I am grateful for my once youthful spirit and determination. I was a risk-taker. I wasn’t afraid to try new things and delve into the unknown. The results were mixed – some turned out the way I’d hoped, others were colossal failures – but with each experience, I was provided an opportunity to learn something valuable. I call that a win either way!

There aren’t many things about my leadership-path I would change, if I could. But there are some nuggets of wisdom I would love to impart on twenty-two-year-old Heidi.

Today I’m sharing five things I would tell my 20-something self about leadership, 10 years later.

1. When it comes to collaboration – go with your gut.

I love working with people. I believe collaborations are not only good for the soul but also benefit the world. The more we put our minds together, the more we can accomplish. But it’s not all sunshine and roses in the world of collaboration. Partnerships/group work should be approached with caution. You have to be very realistic and open about your expectations of each other from the get-go. If there is hesitation to put things on the line at the beginning, that won’t change. It will only become more difficult. It’s also critical to be cognizant of contradictory behavior. Sometimes even the most well-meaning individuals say one thing and do another. This can be collaboration kryptonite.

2. Don’t be afraid to let it go – even if it’s working.

I sold a profitable and growing business when I was twenty-seven. Momentum was growing. Growth was 100%. If one was assessing the situation logically, they most likely would have strongly suggested I hold on to that growing business. But the truth was, I was no longer interested in it and I had lost my passion. Since that day nearly five years ago, I have not regretted the decision once. It’s okay to let something go that you’ve lost your passion for – even if it’s successful and growing. It just might not be the right thing for you.

3. Find a healthy creative outlet.

There is so much waiting in life; this is reality. Even in a world of texting, and social media, and everyone knowing your every move – there is still waiting. The best thing you can do in your twenties, if you haven’t already, is find a healthy creative outlet. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, I promise you, you are! And this creative outlook will look different for everyone. If you’ve never written a word in your life but have always wanted to try, start a journal practice. If you’re craving peace and calm and some nature in your hectic life, look into stables and take up horseback riding. If you’ve always wished you learned piano as a kid, it’s never too late to learn an instrument. Be open to everything and your perfect outlet will find you.

4. There is no reward without grit.

When I hit thirty, I asked myself this question: who said it was supposed to be easy? Life, or finding your dream career, or discovering your purpose. Why did I think it would be easier? I know it wasn’t my parents. But somewhere along the line, I was led to believe – and this is a very difficult thing to admit – that things would come easy to me. I never assumed I wouldn’t have to work hard, but I thought they’d come. But now I know better, and I want to shout from rooftops and blogs this truth: there is no reward without grit. If you want something you need to work hard to get it. And hard work is essentially this: a combination of patience, effort, perseverance, and passion.

5. Commit to lifelong learning.

It’s tempting to think that once you have a degree, you’re all set. But life doesn’t work like that and it’s best to wrap your head around it right away. The best thing you can do is build on your skills every year. There are certificate courses through colleges and universities, professional continuing education if you’re in a specific field, and there are many many free and paid online skill building courses you can take. Adaptability and diversification are your secret weapons in this highly competitive global job market.

What lessons would you tell yourself 10 years ago?