Dear Mary, Ella, Anna and Claudia:
Personally, I think Dr Seuss is incredibly underrated. If all you do is re-read Oh The Places You Will Go! a few times you will get a sense of aspiration and ambition and what the future might hold.
A few quotes might help.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You are on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who will decide where to go…”
The first blessing for the four of you, not afforded to many women around the world, is that of choice. What a privilege to grow up in a free country and to be in a position of self-determination.
I love too that there is hope and optimism in the quote. Pure speculation about the possibility of the future. How wonderful.
“You will get mixed up of course as you already know. You will get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure where you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that life is a great balancing act.”
It is not all plain sailing! Sometimes you will go one step forward and two steps back, three steps to one side and four to another! But the journey is a reward. You will learn a lot more from your failures than you will your successes, and a lot of the successes you will have later will be as a consequence of the failures you have earlier. In fact the contrary is true too!
And that life is a great balancing act. It is also a great privilege to concentrate on one thing and develop mastery in it at the expense of all others, the lack of balance in that will lead you somewhere else. For me the lesson is being conscious about the effort and investment you put into each aspect of your life, so you are not left disillusioned.
“Wherever you fly you will be the best of the best, wherever you go you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because sometimes you won’t.”
Comparisons are odious. That comes from The Anatomy of Melancholy, written in 1621. Life is a race with one person in it. Of course you should strive; using other people as a measuring stick leads to disenchantment. You have to be a better human being than that.
“When you are in a slump, you are not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
The answer is always inside you. Unlocking that changes perspective and allows you to go on.
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 ¾% guaranteed)”
And at the end, when you reflect on your life, if you have done your best, that is all anyone can ask. There is a good chance you will have achieved what you wanted, but it is not certain, and only you will know.
I hope you can rest easily, knowing there is nothing you would change. You will have made wise choices, had some big bumps along the way, overcome them and learned all about yourself on your journey. That for me is a happy life.
Neil Waters is a partner in Egon Zehnder’s Melbourne, Australia office.