Well, I don't. But a kid I met the other day wants to.
The place was Hanoi. Vietnam. The kid was maybe ten years old. And he went up to me and started talking to me in English. Which is very fascinating in itself already.
When I was ten years old I wouldn't approach foreigners and start talking to them. In English. Heck, when I was ten years old I didn't even speak a single word of English. And I was actually even able to have quite a meaningful conversation with him.
He said that he started learning English when he was four years old. I didn't even know how to read and write in my mother tongue when I was four years old.
So I asked the kid what he wanted to be when he's grown up. And he said he wanted to be an English teacher. But then he corrected himself and said that he wanted to be president first. But president is just too hard. So he wants to become an English teacher instead. Because it's easy.
And that's when it hit me. That's when I realized that the notion of “paying your dues” and harvesting them for the rest of your life is being planted in our heads when we are as little as 10 years old. Maybe even earlier.
It's like you study hard for a few years, learn a few things here and there and then you're set for life. Then you can sit back, relax and enjoy the show. And you're good.
That's exactly how I felt when I graduated from university. I could finally reap the fruit of my hard labor. I could finally start eating the fruits whose seeds I planted just a few years ago. I could finally enjoy life and reap off the benefits. Make millions and live the life.
But the truth is that the real learning, the really hard stuff only begins when you think you're done. When you think you've paid your dues. When you think there isn't possibly anything else you could learn or do to get ahead.
But it only really starts when you think you're done.
When people asked Muhammad Ali how many push ups he was able to do he said he didn't know. He only started counting when it started to hurt.
And that's the moment it really starts to count. That's when your stopwatch will display the first second. That's when the real race starts.
Unfortunately most people don't even make it to the first second. Most people stop when it hurts. When it gets difficult. It's just too damn hard. Working on your dreams is just too damn hard. Becoming president is just too damn hard.
So you decide to become an English teacher instead. Because you already learned it. You've already put in the work. You've paid your dues. And now you want to reap off the benefits for as long a you can. As much as you can.
Paying your dues is always easy. Hitting that ball is easy.
Getting to first base is the really hard thing. Most people never make it to first base. Most people just stop before it gets too difficult. Most people never become presidents of their country. Or start that business. Or write that novel. Or kiss that girl. Or show their feelings.
Most people plant a few seeds here and there maybe once or twice in their lives and hope they're set for life. They hope that the seeds they planted will nourish them for the rest of their lives. That they can reap off the benefits of that one thing they learned or did for the rest of their lives.
But the truth is that you need to constantly be planting seeds to be able to thrive and survive these days.
If you want to become president of your country you need to start counting when it starts to hurt. When you think you've done all the hard work already. When you think you've already paid your dues.
How do I know that all of this will work out in the end?
I don't. I'm not a president. But maybe you should ask the folks who are now presidents of their countries if it worked out for them..