I'm Not Qualified For Anything. None of Us Are.
Qualifications: A barrier, a crutch, an excuse and/or a misinterpretation.
"If I only did what I was qualified to do, I would be pushing a broom somewhere" - Naval Ravikant
This is a mere reflection to myself so that I can continue to do things I am not qualified to do. Let me tell you about the many things I was not qualified to do.
But alas, I say this not because people lack the confidence. Many do, but I hope they break down this self-imposed barrier for their benefit.
Unqualified to audit.
I studied accounting in university. I had prepped my entire high school period to become an architect/engineer so my education was all physics, calculus, and the like. I had aced it all so I figured I was over-qualified for this.
I had never taken a single business course in high school and had no idea what an accountant even was. But the stereotype was that business is "easy".
Despite finishing with one of the highest marks in high school, I couldn't finish my first accounting mid-term. It was the first exam I could not complete. Why? Because I didn't know what to do. Apparently it was like high school for everyone else except me. I really didn't feel qualified to be here.
But with time and effort, I got my Chartered Accountant designation. I even worked at a Big Four accounting firm and left as a top performer. Very much so that every year I caught up with my former boss he'd offer me a job.
By many standards, I wasn't qualified. Even the university career director told me to not bother applying to the Big Four. As if they were qualified to tell me what I could or could not do.
Unqualified to consult.
Apparently, accountants are too "narrow-minded" for consulting. Apparently I don't go to "target" school. I was even told "If you're coming from a non-technical degree we'd expect you to have 90%+ grades easily". Yep, didn't have that. I learned three days of studying got me a 85% but it would take seven days to get a 90%. Why the hell would I waste four extra days when I could get on honour rolls with three? Foolish.
Didn't matter because I got all the interviews. I got into the industry. I even double dipped for my accounting designation while I was at it.
I wanted to do financial modeling projects to help me get an investing job later on. I wasn't considered qualified to get on such projects. I grabbed as many as seven coffees on a Friday to network my way into a project in a job I had already earned. Didn't even know what 'vlookup' was but I banged on many doors for the opportunity to prove myself.
I got a one week try out. It got extended to three weeks. Then a few months. Soon, that became my brand. I went from valuing new internal services to renewable energy investments for large infrastructure projects. I learned how the world's largest mines operated, deployed software to create an insurance company from scratch, tried starting a venture fund inside the company,consulted startups, made credit cards, and found reasons construction delays in large utilities companies. I wasn't qualified to do any of them. None were related to a single piece of coursework I had done in school. None were related to my past job as an auditor (though people sometimes made a weird connection to it that I quickly corrected).
I knew nothing when I started. One advantage was I learned how to speak business. Accounting is the language of business and I was fluent. I got the fastest promotion without kissing a single ass, saying 'no' to senior people and only having a 65% utilization rate (i.e. this is the performance yardstick for consultants and most are expected to be at 90%+). I'm not going to sugar coat it, I wasn't qualified but I left at the top.
Unqualified to invest.
I then went on to invest. More than $500M would be allocated based on my ideas and convictions. I could say managing my tiny net worth prepared me but it's a whole different ball game.
I wasn't a finance major nor did I have mentors or family that taught me investing since age 8. I didn't go down the coveted road of investment banking and equity research the industry considered as the prerequisite to "qualify" you for a career as an investor.
It took a year and a half of building relationships with investors throughout Canada. There was even a time where after hobbling through six rounds of interviews immediately after my knee surgery that I had the offer rescinded 1 hour after my negotiation meeting. They said my five-year trajectory implied I'd leave after five years. Sure.
I started waking up at 4:30am to write investment pitches before going to the gym and work. Reading dozens (book list) of books on investing, watchings 100s of hours of every value investor on Youtube became my life. I wasn't qualified in terms of career 'optics' but in the end it didn't matter. After countless investment pitches in coffee shops it became my time.
I carved out my niche in Korean equities by leveraging my unique language advantage. Cultural curiosity from living in a number of countries and traveling to 60+ cities became fundamental to my ability to analyze unique businesses throughout Europe and Asia.
Unqualified to "lift heavy things"
Oh yeah, my doctor told me my body and genetics was not meant for powerlifting. I still set a couple world records anyway and I'm still one of the strongest guys in any gym I go to.
So when people tell me "they'd love to lift more but they make some weak-ass excuse that doesn't even compare to actually being physically disabled" I laugh. I don't even have the genetics to support thriving in such a field. Being short and fat was the status quo for me until I started to run every day.
I should be much stronger for someone who has spent 10 years obsessively training for the sport but I'm not and I'm fine with it because most people won't even stick to it for 1 year. They might be gifted but without time and effort it will all be wasted. I had plenty of chances to stop too.
Tearing my meniscus in my prime years set me back 2-3 year with the surgery and rehab. It was a time where I lost a sense of my own identity and worth in life. I had to start from the bottom again. I had to teach my leg how to squat with just my body weight. I still can't run or jump without pain. But I've managed to squat, bench and deadlift more than I did pre-injury. It took time and effort. A lot of it in fact.
I was born unqualified to lift heavy and all through the teenage years I was reminded I had no business trying to be athletic at anything. As far as I know, no one who thought I was unqualified is anywhere close to what I've achieved as a powerlifter and what I hope to achieve in the decades to come as an athletic.
Unqualified with media or entrepreneurship
I've since started a media platform. I started writing, podcasting and sending more of my ideas out there. I started getting paid for my essays on my thoughts and experiences.
I learned how to edit audio/video, get license for music, how to build/design websites, learn social/business tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, Hubspot, Salesforce and the like. I learned to sell a vision, a story and got the chance to meet 100+ professionals in the Canadian ecosystem.
People started reaching out seeking my advice from listening to my podcasts. I started coaching people on becoming more self-aware. I've had 1000s of people have listen to, read or watch my thoughts and ideas. You're doing it right now. And no, I haven't paid a single dollar to "acquire" attention. Just my own time and effort to earn trust.
I had no business taking time from iconoclastic individuals like Kevin Kelly an Dan Ariely but it happened.
It's true that I don't have millions hit my channel and that's okay. Even having 1000s come is enough. The fact is, many who have millions of views on their channel will be hard pressed to find a 1000 true fans to their cause.
Just doing the work.
I never studied any of this in school. I just continued to follow things that genuinely interested me.
I was never qualified to do anything. I didn't deserve anything, though I like to think I earned it. My father once told me luck is a skill and I continue to believe that you make your own luck. It's a matter of perspective and one I'll continue to uphold for my journey.
A journey where I want to build as many utopian organizations as I can. I am not qualified for this. But I'm sure I will be. At least by the time I'm in my deathbed.
No one is qualified to do anything. Certifications, designations, and degrees are mere trinkets to make us "think" we're qualified. All that really matters is the work that's put in to do the "actual work" you want to do. Only once you start doing the actual work will you feel like you're earning the "qualification".
The famed sushi chef Jiro needed 10 years to be qualified to make an egg roll. The sushi shop in the food court has people making salmon sushi within a month. Time becomes an arbitrary factor for the work that you seek to master. There are countless benchmarks you can impose on yourself to feel 'qualified'. But know that it comes from an internal benchmark first.
This may have sounded very braggy to you. And that's okay. It's not for you. It's for me. It's so I stay on the course by reminding myself that I've always done things someone thought I wasn't qualified to do.
Qualifications need not require permission. Mere action, repeated countless times, will be enough to get you started. After which, you'll learn to set your own benchmarks.
Maybe, the simple answer is to always tell yourself that you're not qualified for anything. Not so you get unmotivated. But so you get motivated. Because mastery is a pursuit with no end.
I like to embrace that I'll never be qualified for anything. That way, I'll not be afraid to do new things I have no experience doing. Things the world will tell me “I have no business doing” or “it's too late” for me to do. It won't matter. I've never been qualified to do anything but I did it.
The point is, I'll continue you to do it in the hopes of one day feeling qualified by my own internal metrics. But that day may not come until I'm in my deathbed. Hence, the journey continues.