Your North Star

It’s a metaphor. Your North Star is your personal mission statement.

In my last post, I mention having a North Star a couple of times, and for me, it’s an excellent way to describe my single long-term goal. There are many goals on my list, but most of them align to the one single long-term goal, my North Star. It gives me something to look forward to and be motivated about; I might feel lost without it.

Having lists and agendas, it’s not something I do, not consistently. I collect notes and a logbook, but having an open schedule and plan is essential. It allows me to adapt and tweak my days, weeks, and months to ensure that the things I do help me progress towards my North Star. My North Star is described in a single sentence, and then I write things down that I might need to do to get closer to that long-term goal. That’s how I keep track of my North Star goal.

Divide and Conquer

Have you heard of the term divide and conquer? in computer science, divide and conquer is an algorithm design paradigm. The idea is to break down a problem into two or smaller problems until these are simple enough to be easily solved.

This is how I think of my personal goals. They aren’t problems, but I like having a significant, long-term goal or plan, my North Star, and then break that into smaller goals, maybe even daily goals that can help me achieve my North Star.

Why do this? It helps by making it easier to accomplish smaller goals, and doing so gives you the motivation to continue doing it. In the past, I had long-term goals that I didn’t achieve because they were too ambitious, and I just never knew where to start. The divide and conquer method, applied to objectives, is an excellent way to get things done.

Why a North Star Goal?

Because it motivates me. Without it, it doesn’t take long before I feel bored or unmotivated. My North Star goal is split into smaller goals, I do this so it’s not overwhelming either. So that’s how I keep things balanced. It works for me.

As time goes by, seeing the progress towards your North Star can give you a reason to keep trying, keep learning, and keep doing. This is very important, at least for me. Otherwise, it’s too easy to become complacent.

You can have more than one North Star, but for me, I can only handle one at a time. Otherwise, I end up distracted and making plodding progress to any of my goals. Therefore, I believe in avoiding multitasking, and instead, I shot to focus on one thing at a time.

One of my North Star goals in the past was to learn English, I tried different methods, and while it wasn’t easy, I made it a reality by focusing on that one big goal first. Another North Star of mine was to find a job as a web developer. Again, I started small, working on small projects on my own, reading books, then learning how computers and the internet works. And finally, getting my first job as a LAN engineer. This job was mostly about computer networking, but it allowed me to work with computers and software, from which I then transitioned into a web developer.

The tried and true suggestions such as keeping it simple, avoiding multitasking, focusing on smaller tasks and goals will continue to be solid advice, in my opinion. But having a North Star goal will give you purpose and direction.

What is your North Star?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As a kid, this is something we are asked often, and often we have an answer for this – an astronaut, a firefighter, a policeman, a pilot, a veterinarian. However, is there anything more complicated to answer than this as an adult? Think about it. The question makes you think about your education, work, hobbies, your life.

Are you doing what you love?

Why is this hard to answer? It reminds us of the things we love and that we are not doing. It’s hard to realize and accept that we are not following our dreams and are not on the right path to achieve them either. It’s always easier to avoid thinking about this and continue to do what we are doing.

I don’t know about you, but I am not doing anything remotely to what a veterinarian does. That’s what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. But it’s also true that I don’t want to be a veterinarian today. My goals and dreams grew as I grew older.

Life takes you to places you didn’t even imagine when you were a kid. Sometimes you are lucky and have more support available to you as an adult to pursue what you said you wanted to be, but you often don’t. Instead, life necessities get on the way, and you work doing something that pays the bills but that you don’t love or like at all.

This is fine, as long as you keep your dreams in front of you, as long as you still have your North Star, it’s okay to do what you need to do while you work on getting to where you want to be one day.

Avoid doing the same thing while expecting different results. If you are not progressing towards your dream of becoming something else, then you are on the edge of insanity, as Einstein said…

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

Overtime our goals evolve, we evolve, and it is essential to check with ourselves about this question again and again. What do you want to be when you grow up? This has nothing to do with age; it’s more about what you want to be doing next, on the next phase of your life. I’d expect that most people’s answers to this question will continue to change.

If one day you ask this question and the answer is equal or similar to what you are doing, and this doesn’t change in the future, you’ve arrived at a place in your life where you are contemptuous with who you are what you are doing. Congratulations, you are in the minority.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ask yourself this question often, and make the necessary adjustments to your life if what you are doing is not what you want to be doing. Our time is finite, and it’s easy to go through life without stopping to see if what we are doing is what we love.

We go through life worrying about our family, paying bills, global pandemics, wars, social media, the latest Netflix series, etc. But in comparison, spend very little time and effort on our North Star, which is ironic because this is where we have real influence and the possibility of change.

It takes patience and consistency. It is necessary to have clarity of mind, passion, hard work, and luck. However, the thing with luck is that the more patient you are, the more consistent you are, and the harder you work towards your goals, the greater the surface area of luck you’d have.

Am I doing what I want to be doing today?

Not yet, but I am close. It has taken me years of work, luck, learning, and perseverance, but I am not doing what I wish I was doing professionally 100% of the time, not yet. But I am happy, and this is because I know I am on the right path to achieve it. There is more learning to do, more focus, and more luck.

What about you? What do you want to be in the future?

*North Star: It’s a metaphor. Your North Star is your personal mission statement. It’s a fixed destination that you can depend on in your life as the world changes around you.

Be Patient

Patience is something you cannot afford to ignore in your life. Patience needs to be present in your education, job, company, investments, and family.

Many of us confuse patience with complacency, and it’s not the same. You want to be patient while training yourself to do a better job, start and grow a company, save and invest, etc. but you cannot, and should not, be complacent. I myself, I’m learning to be more patient with my goals by being focused and changing my habits.

Set specific goals and get to them, one at a time. Be patient. Complete your goals, and then enjoy those achievements. Appreciating and learning to enjoy what we already have is key. Being patient does not mean you have to wait and live your life in the future. It just means that you have to be OK with waiting to see your hard work and investment results.

Having patience doesn’t mean to wait for retirement to do something you really like. Patience means to do what you really like and maybe wait to get a financial benefit from doing that.

Financial compensation is something we all look for, but it’s not the only benefit or joy in life. Learn to have enough to cover your bases like food and shelter, and leave some more to save and invest. You can enjoy time off, vacation, travel, and you can smile and be happy today. It’s possible if you change your priorities and expectations. Besides, we know what today looks like, we can do something about it today, but the future is often different from what we imagine today.

If you are looking for something greater or anything you cannot accomplish today, plan for it, set a date, and wait. Be patient. Be happy. Smile.

It’s Your Choice

Reading this blog post is a choice, everything around you is the result of the decisions you’ve made during your life. Yes, there is luck, and faith, and karma, and many other things that many of us believe on, but in the end, it is our choices and those of the people around us that make our lives the way they are.
So you want to be a software engineer? What choices are you making today to make it happen? Are you in school studying computer science? Are you learning by coding a simple project, or perhaps learning the basics online at Codecademy or Udacity, or Girls Who Code or Code among many others. I believe reaching your goals is all about making multiple tiny choices as you go along.
Do you want to be an entrepreneur? It is your choice, just do it (please don’t sue me Nike). Do not say you want to be an entrepreneur, start a company and then complain about not having time, or the necessary resources, or the connections or a great idea. Don’t wait for the perfect time, or the ideal partner or an excellent idea, go ahead and try it today. If you still think is not possible then all you are doing is choosing not to be an entrepreneur.
Do you want to help people in need, volunteering at a local charity or something similar? That is great! All you have to do now is choose to help and make something happen. Choose not to think of the many excuses out there and instead choose to participate in a charity or similar organization where you can help with your time, money, skills or any combination of these. Just do it.
The next time you think of something that you want to accomplish, not just think about it but do something about it. Doing something, anything that might help you get closer to your goal helps, and avoid any possible excuse you will undoubtedly use to convince yourself why your dream is not possible, it is your choice, make it happen.