Do you ever look back at a situation in your life and realize that your parents were right about it all along (even though you would never admit it to them)?
Sometimes, the puzzle pieces only fit together in your mind after the fact. Steve Jobs once said, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
When you are going through an experience, you don’t always know during that moment how it will benefit you, but you just know that it will somehow, at some point. Because of that, we should seek out opportunities that are new, interesting, and challenging as much as possible.
The Power of "Why Not?"
Stockpiling interesting and challenging experiences benefits you both in the short term and the long run by making you a more dynamic person and exposing you to more opportunities you can take advantage of.
Too often we are handicapped by all the reasons why we shouldn’t or can’t do something that we fail to see all the benefits—both expected and unexpected—that we could receive. The next time you have the opportunity to try something new, think “Why not?” instead of “If only…” Just dive in.
The more interesting and diverse experiences you have under your belt, the more people you will meet and the more you will have in common with them. That leads to more friendships and deeper bonds.
When all your friends are people you know by default or proximity (e.g. same school or neighborhood), chances are you are not being exposed to a wide spectrum of personalities and backgrounds. When you are constantly trying new things, then you will get exposed to people from all walks of life.
Interesting and challenging situations force us to grow. From those experiences, we will have gained lessons directly related to those experiences, as well as the general ability to overcome and thrive under adversity, a convenient quality to have to deal with future surprises.
Instead of having to tell college admissions officers and future employers about your curiosity, adaptability, and perseverance (all they hear is “blah blah blah…”), these experiences demonstrate that to them. Actions over words.
The larger and more diverse your stockpile of experiences, the more likely it will serve you well down the road, even though you probably won’t know when or how exactly.
One team member often had to knock on neighbors’ doors to sell coupon packages of local shops and restaurants to fundraise for the sports teams he played on as a child. That proved handy years later when interviewing for his first sales job. Another one got referred to a past position from having met her director’s wife at an artisanal ice cream festival.
People who stockpile skills and experiences, people who consistently put themselves out there, get more opportunities to be in the right place at the right time.
The next time an interesting event or opportunity comes knocking, turn off your Netflix and go. Why not?