Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I know that many of you think I’ve passed my prime. You’ve seen me occasionally leave my blinker on for a little too long, and you’re itching for me to retire and get out of your way so that you can do things better and faster than we turtle people. To be honest, I can’t really blame you, because I sometimes thought the same thing about the people ahead of me when I was your age.
But there’s something about your constant rush for advancement that I think you need to know. I’m not telling you this because it’s especially important to me, because it isn’t. But I want you to be happy. And I’m afraid that if I don’t tell you what I’m about to say, you’re going to have a much harder time figuring out how to find what you’re looking for.
You’ve grown up with a technology that me and mine have merely adapted to. Your world has always moved at the speed of light. But there’s a limitation to the technology you’ve always been surrounded by. It can do marvelous things. It allows you to accomplish tasks in a day that it would have taken me a week to do twenty years ago. You have the potential to go farther than I ever dreamed of going when I was your age.
But all the technology in the world simply can not accelerate the pace at which you will acquire knowledge. There is no computer program that can make you a world-class guitarist; there is no app you can download that will teach you how to become a promising third basemen. There is no technological substitute for experience, and there is only one way that we get better at things – slowly, patiently, and over time. Some of you will develop more quickly than others, but none of you will become industry experts as quickly as you can download a song or look up a new recipe.
I believe many of you have forgotten this. You’ve seen countless ‘overnight successes’ on the Internet, dozens of billion-dollar companies that came from nowhere into global prominence in the blink of an eye, and you think the same should happen to you. But that’s all a lie. There are no overnight successes. There are simply people who worked long and hard – and almost entirely in obscurity I should add – before you ever became aware of them. And theirs is the path you will take as well, as long as you’re actually patient enough to take it.
Everyone you work with is where they are because somebody helped them. Usually multiple somebodies – colleagues, mentors, hiring managers and bosses who collectively gave us the opportunities we needed to learn and grow and develop into the people we are today. The vast majority of us know that we owe our success to the help of those around us, and so the vast majority of us want to repay that kindness by offering the same support to those who have come after us.
We want to guide you. We want you to benefit from the wisdom of our experience, to learn from our mistakes so that you don’t have to make them. But we simply can’t make it happen faster than it is naturally going to. To be honest, the biggest factor that will determine how quickly you advance is how much you’re willing to listen and learn, to struggle and fail and persevere. Truly, most of it is entirely out of our hands.
Your Favorite Turtle Person,
P.S. For more generational insights, check out my Us vs Them video.
P.S.S. I also wrote a letter to everyone older than I am.