January 9, 2016 Thony

How to Double Down & Launch Your Career

My name is Thony and it is my mission for 2016 to offer value. I discovered that the best way for me to offer value is to help as many people get awesome jobs as I can. I will do this by sharing how I and the people that I have coached have done it before. I myself have been extremely fortunate with all the opportunities that I have gotten. I have gotten into Google, Shell, Accenture, Deloitte, ABN AMRO, Rabobank, and so many more that I lost count. A couple of years ago I never would have thought that those opportunities would be possible for me, as I am just a regular guy. But by doubling down and learning everything there is to know about applying and having done over a hundred interviews I learned how to do it.

So with this and all upcoming posts I will be sharing all things with you that I have learned on getting hired. In the next post for example, I explain how I attended a campus-recruitment event from Google and got hired by them. After the event, once I actually started interning at Google, one of the recruiters told me that I really stood out from all the other students. You can read the post here. As we just have moved into 2016, I will start this journey on teaching how to get offers, by reflecting on the most important lesson that I have learned last year in 2015: “Double Down on What Matters”.

As a side note, the posts and videos that I make are slightly different. So if you want to learn the full scope of each lesson I recommend that you both read the post and watch the video. As this is my first blog and video post (both found below), I would really love your feedback on what topics you would like me to talk about and how I can improve my content. I am very new at this, especially with shooting and making videos. But I will do my best to offer as much value to you with my articles and videos as possible.  

The Biggest Lesson of 2015: How to Double Down & Launch Your Career

In 2015, I really learned how to double down on the things that matter. This might be the most important thing that I have learned, ever. I doubled down on my relationship and got married. I doubled down on my best friends & family, the sport that I really love, on eating healthy, and most importantly on knowledge to feed my brain. Especially, on getting knowledge, I invested really heavily. Last year I have read about 70+ books (besides my full-time job) and have done various trainings, which all together costed me a lot of time and also money. Investing is not only something which you do with your time. You also have to put your money where your mouth is.

That might have seemed easy because I had a job at Shell, which pays one of the highest wages to graduates in the Netherlands. But at the same time, I also got married last year. I don’t know if you have ever seen an Indian wedding but they last 3 days and have 500 people attending per day. Let’s just say that a significant part of my earnings had been reinvested in my marriage. So actually investing that much in books and knowledge left me and especially my wife quite uncomfortable.

However, I cannot be happier that I still invested despite it. Everything that I have learned has been extremely valuable at work and more importantly, beyond work. At work itself I was able to hold high-level conversations with the Vice-Presidents in HR and even our unit’s CIO. Knowing a lot means that you can share a lot, and that really made me stand out of most graduates. It means that you are able to ask really good questions as well. During my internship at Google I experienced the same thing. Being someone who consumes knowledge makes you unique. We live in a knowledge economy in which every company is mainly acquiring and executing on knowledge. So you would say that acquiring it is the top priority of every student and employee. But how many people do you know that have read 52 books last year? Did you actually know that most successful CEOs read between 48 and 60 books a year? Mark Cuban (Net worth: $3 Billion) reads 3 hours a day, Bill Gates (Net Worth: $83 Billion – the richest man alive) reads 4 hours a day, and Warren Buffet ($61.2 Billion – second richest man in the world) reads 8 hours a day. These people rank among the richest people in the whole world. There are tens of thousands more examples of successful people who read and invest a lot in knowledge. So there seems to be a strong correlation between impact & financial success and doubling down on knowledge. Trust me, it really makes a difference. Especially, when you are attending job fairs or interviews. It is very easy to pick up on people that are curious and eager to learn. Especially, because it is not that common. So if you want to create a lasting advantage for yourself when it comes to making a great impression on recruiters, future employers, future bosses and colleagues, and just people in general – becoming knowledgeable gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

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How to Double Down on Knowledge

So how do CEOs find the time to read 60 books a year? First thing, you don’t need to read every page of every book. Skimming / speed reading through stuff is often way more effective. Especially when you read multiple books at the same time.  Focus on getting 3 golden nuggets out of each book and move on. You can always return to the book later. Also listen to audio books whenever and wherever you can. Listen to them on the train, on the bus, in your car, on the treadmill, in the grocery store, while waiting in line, during sex. Ok, just kidding about the last one, but all the others you should definitely use. As Thomas Edison said: “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”. So what books should you be reading and listening to? Non-fiction and autobiographies of successful people. You can find tons of lists online, but you really need a place to start I would recommend Happiness Hypothesis by Johnathan Haidt and the One Thing by Gary Keller. All other stuff like blogs, articles, videos, interviews, documentaries etc. also counts. If you have difficulty reading just start out with one chapter a day, is that too much then do one page a day, is that still too difficult then do one paragraph or even one sentence a day. Start at where you can actually commit to reading every day and build out from there. If you can build up to just reading one hour per day it will make a huge difference. If you dedicate that hour to books in your field, they say that you will become an expert in 5-7 years.

Doubling Down Beyond Your Career

So let’s go back to the bigger philosophy, which is to double down on what works. This does not only go for knowledge but for every area in your life. So how do you know what works? With relationships it quite easy, the people around you give you one of the 3 following things, and preferably all of them. They give you energy, they take care of you (nurturing), or they help you grow. With health it’s the same thing as well.  Especially, with sports you should find something that really gives you energy and where you feel bad for not doing it. It wasn’t till I start doing Krav Maga, the best-tested street combat system in the world, that I really loved working out. When you are at home with broken ribs and all that you can think of is that you’re missing out on learning awesome self-defense moves – then you really know that you love what you do. Since, doing it I actually have 10 more hours of additional productive time per week. So doubling down Krav Maga is a worth-while investment for me.

But doubling down is as much about knowing what to start doubling down on as well as what to stop doubling down on. I found out last year that I needed to stop doubling down on Shell because working there did not make me happy. For me personally, I discovered, Shell isn’t the place where I can offer most value as well as having a company culture that does not fit my eccentric and slightly crazy personality. So I decided to stop investing my time and energy there and left my job. Now understand that this was very difficult and quite painful as well. Especially with your entire social circle (and your new parents in law) asking you why you quit such a prestigious and well earning job.  But leaving my job created the space in my mind to think of new opportunities. It allowed me to discover that helping people and giving career advice IS something that I love to do. Even more, I discovered that it is something that I have been doing it for years now, without me actively realizing it. The people that I have helped before have gotten amazing opportunities at companies including but not limited to: Google, Microsoft, IBM, Nike, Heineken, Shell, Dropbox, Salesforce, McKinsey, BCG, Unilever, The Big 4 Accounting Firms, Law Firms, Banks, Government Organizations, and many other great organizations. That is why for 2016, I have decided to double down on that, and help as many get awesome jobs as I can.

How I Got Multiple Job Opportunities, Earned Back All the Money I Invested on Training, and Won an All-Paid Trip to Silicon Valley

I want to close off by giving you a concrete example of how investing in knowledge paid off. Realize that this is one of many stories, but it is the most recent one. So I attended an event in Amsterdam called IT Masters which was organized by one of the biggest recruitment platforms for grads in the Netherlands. The event itself had speakers from Google, Uber, Takeaway.com (better known as thuisbezorgd.nl in the Netherlands, and Travel Bird.  Furthermore, there were workshops with IT companies and even a College Tour session.  The event was awesome and full of opportunities to get noticed.  Now I have been doubling down on knowledge, I was able to ask interesting questions and have great conversations with the recruiters and other attendees of the event. By the end most companies (and maybe even every company) had reached out to me with job opportunities. So think about what job opportunities like that are worth. For some companies, the starting wage alone is around 50,000 EUR, which is comparable to a 70,000+ wage in USD. Let alone the difference in wage for over the years for working at an awesome company compared to a mediocre one. Looking at it from that perspective, the return over the years on my investment in knowledge is within the hundreds of thousands (if I accept one of the offers). So should I have felt bad about spending a couple of thousand bucks on books that year? We tend to think so backwards when it comes to this stuff. We feel uncomfortable buying $1000 worth of books but we easily upgrade our phones every year for 700$ or buy a new MacBook for 1000$.

So getting all those job opportunities was cool but the craziest thing was that they had a quiz at the end. The questions were related to various subjects in Tech. From detailed questions such as how long is the Internet cable between the USA and the Netherlands – to what was the highest worth of a bit coin. There were about 200 people attending, so the odds of winning where the same as getting into McKinsey – 200 /1 or 0.5% according to the career playbook. So to my big surprise, I actually was in 3rd place for most questions answered the fastest in the first round. Then the top 5 was called on stage and we had a sudden death with 5 more questions.  Now when I saw the questions I had no clue about most of them to be honest. But there was one that I knew, which was quite an odd ball question. The question was: What was strange about Steve Jobs? A) That he took one bite out of every apple and threw them away? – or B) That he had eaten so many carrots that his skin turned orange?  Because at the time I was reading the book Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution – an amazing book and a must read if you love tech by the way – I knew that the answer to the question is that Steve Jobs turned orange. After, filling in the answers I walked off stage knowing that my chances were at best very slim.

it-masters-2015-44(Photo by Jeroen Oerlemans @ BNR Nieuwsradio)

But man, sweet serendipity – the one question about Steve Jobs, which I read about one week before the event, was the one question that I had more than the other people.  Meaning that I actually won the prize!  So what did I win?  A fully paid trip to Silicon-Valley with the Amsterdam Center of Entrepreneurship, and 15 entrepreneurs with high growing startups that are looking to scale their company. We will be visiting Google, Microsoft, Cisco, PayPal, and many more companies. Furthermore, we will be getting workshops from mentors of which one for example, sits on the board of MIT/Stanford Venture Lab. Total cost of the trip?  Around 4720 euro, which is almost exactly the same amount that I invested on training in 2015. Crazy right? The actual value of the program with all the possible opportunities?  Priceless.

it-masters-2015-46(Photo by Jeroen Oerlemans @ BNR Nieuwsradio)

Conclusion

When it comes to investing and doubling down on your brain most of us don’t spend what we should. However, in order to be successful in your career and get an amazing job you need to follow the example of successful people and invest in knowledge. Beyond your career, in order to have a great life you need to double down on the right things as well. Eventually your investment will not only earn itself back, but it might just change your life. And once it does? You double down again. Because if you keep doubling down on the things that work, your life cannot help but be amazing.

 

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