What I wish I knew when I was 20 – Tina Seelig

“Accidentally on Purpose”, an idiom which I overused many time which now literally becomes a memorable experience that I will never ever forget. Back to the time when I was doing my thesis in Kyoto, there are up and down moments, stressful can be smelt in the air, and my favor solution is to find a bookstore and stay there until night falls. For a non-native speaker, the best option is Bookoff in which always has a specific corner for secondhand English books with reasonable price. This place never stays the same everytime you visit, the position  of books changes, the old one finally find its suitable owner, the new with unpredictable  content waiting for passengers stop by, take a glance at its cover and decide to pick it up from the shelf. The rule is explained, everything now is in the hand of player, who must use all his skills to seek for the hidden treasure. 

At the beginning of March, I have a small business in Osaka, which turns out to be a great occasion to explore other bookstore outside of Kyoto. Which is better than Bookoff to be a good starting point? This is where and when I find  and decide to take “What I wish I knew when I was 20” home with me. It might be because of the catchy name, or the reputation of the author that urges me to choose it. No matter what, this is definitely the kind of book you want to wraps carefully and give it to your friend on her birthday.

Not mean to raise your expectation too high, but I have never feel this way before. After finishing final chapter, I immediately feel the need to write something about it, share it to my friends, and above all, I want to say thank you to Dr. Tina Seelig, for all 10 precious lessons she taught to her sons and other readers like me. Opening with curious question: “What would you do to earn money if all you had was five dollars and two hours?”, the story keeps this fast pace until the final page with hundred examples and satisfied comments from authors. There will be time, you see your ordinary life challenges show up in the book: while you struggle with them, the characters solve them skillfully; while you confuse with them, the characters provide the thinking process and unveil the mystery blinder. All the truth mentioned is familiar, but some point I miss them, or do not take enough focus to realize full meaning. It’s not over-exaggerated to use the term “wide awake” to describe my mind and spirit after closing the book.

I did a small research about the translated version in Vietnam, which is not as I expected. Half of comments are negative, see the book as ordinary enterpreneur books in the market, or too “enterpreneuric” to read. It might be best when you are 22, or when you’ve experienced enough taste of life that you could see the priceless value in what author summaries her own life to make the book as 20th birthday present for her son. Or only the things you need is a period of desperate as I am having, to see this book as a good companion to make you respectful for your life.

Below I write the summary of essential sentences of 10 lessons from the book, to be a reminder for me when I meet obstacles in life, or when I need to make up my mind before making any important decisions in the future.


Lesson 1: “Buy one, get two free”. “In most situations, there are a multitude of answers to every questions. And even more important, it is acceptable to fail. The key to success is the abillity to extract the lessons out of each of these experiences and to move on with that new knowledge. Life presents everyone with many opportunities to experiment and recombine our skills and passions in new and surprising ways.”

Lesson 2: “The upside-down circus”. “There is great benefit to identifying problems in your midst and then relentlessly working to solve them by challenging traditional assumptions. Problems are abundant, just waiting for those willing to find inventive solutions.”

Lesson 3: “Bikini or die”. “Knowing that you can question the rules is terrifically empowering. Traditional path is only one option available to you. There are boundless additional options to explore if you are willing to identify and challenge assumption, and to break free of the expectations that you and others project onto you.”

Lesson 4:”Please take out your wallets”. “If you want a leadership role, then take on leadership roles. Just give yourself permission to do so. Look around for holes in your organizations, ask for what you want, find ways to leverage your skills and experiences, be willing to make the first move, and stretch beyond what you’ve done before.”

Lesson 5: “The secret sauce of Silicon valley”. “If you do take a risk and happen to fail, remember that you personally are not a failure. Failure is a natural part of the learning process. If you aren’t failing sometimes, then you probably aren’t taking enough risks.”

Lesson 6. “No way…Engineering is for girls”. “The need to find a role in the world that doesn’t feel like work. This only happens when you identify the intersection between your skills, your passions, and the market. Don’t worry that the path ahead appears out of focus”

Lesson 7: “Turn lemonade into helicopters”. “We can manufacture our own luck by working incredibly hard and focusing on our goals. Being open to opportunities that come our way, taking full advantage of chance occurences, paying attention to the world around us, interacting with as many people as we can, and making those interactions as positive as possible.”

Lesson 8: “Paint the target around the arrow”. “Show appreciation to those who help you. Protect and enhance your reputation-it’s your most valuable asset and should be guarded well. Learn how to apologize with a simple “I’m sorry”. Keep in mind that everything is negotiable and learn to navigate toward and outcome in which all parties win. Try to play to other’s strengths, making sure they’re doing whath they do best. Do the right thing, as opposed to the smart thing, so you’ll be proud to tell your story later. Don’t take on too much, lest you disappoint yourself and those who count on you”.

Lesson 9: “Will this be on the exam”. “Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous. Going beyond minimum expectations and acknowledging that you are ultimately reponsible for your actions and the resulting outcomes. Life isn’t a fress rehearsal, and you won’t get a second chance to do your best”.

Lesson 10: “Experimental Artifacts”. “You should not define yourself by your current position nor believe all your own press. Savor the spotlight when you have it, but be ready to yield center stage when it’s time to go”.

I am very appreciated for your work and thank you so much from deep down my heart.

2364983-tina-seelig-profileDr. Tina Seelig

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