It’s great to get in touch with you after all this time. Sometimes I can’t believe 26 years has gone by since I was your age. That’s until I look in the mirror. At 18 you may think you’re immortal, but don’t ever take your hair for granted.
I know South Africa is currently politically unstable with Mandela still in jail and the future of a fully integrated society looking almost impossible. I promise you don’t have to wait long before things get better, and you’ll be inspired by what challenging the status quo can achieve.
Maybe you’re not surprised to know that I’m living in the UK now, which will feel like a million miles away from the farm and boarding school. I can reassure you it was a great decision to make – you will find a fantastic business to work for and you’ll achieve lots of great things together.
Perhaps you’ll be more surprised to learn that I’m not a quantity surveyor. I know that’s what you’re planning on studying when you finish national service. But you will discover something very exciting: that you don’t have to keep your job and your passions separate - that you can make a career out of what you love to do.
Keep rowing, even when your professors say that it is impacting on your studies. You will learn that the commitment, drive and teamwork that competitive sport demands is far more useful than an extra five per cent in applied maths, and certainly more interesting than augmented matrixes.
Think about it. When does life feel amazing? When you’re pushing through the pain barrier to win that rowing race. Partying on the beach with that girl who never gave you a second glance before. Or watching South Africa win the 1995 Rugby World Cup (sorry, have I spoiled the surprise?)
It might be hard to believe, but you will make a career out of indulging these passions, creating experiences for other people to enjoy. And it gives you a great excuse to keep on exploring new places and trying new things. I learned this eventually – perhaps now you can get there sooner.
You’ll have a family, do memorable things, and teach them to discover their passions first and their career choices second. You’ll learn that life can be serious and work can be fun, just as often as the other way around.
And do you want to know something even more amazing? It’s okay to be a geek now and challenge the "norm" - in fact it’s positively cool. So keep tinkering with that computer. And if you think of a way to share your experiences over this thing called the internet, you may just be on to something…
Yours in hindsight,
PS. And when Steve and Will suggest a road trip with no defined destination, it’s probably best to say no.
Actually, say yes.
Michael Wyrley-Birch: Originally hailing from South Africa, Michael Wyrley-Birch heads up the operations of TRO’s EMEA region, having previously worked as client services director for almost nine years. He is oversees a team of around 250 and a portfolio of clients such as Google, Nike, BA and Diageo.
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