Take Your Time

Once a year, there’s a big festival in a city I went to school in. Food stalls, bars, live music, the entire town center turns into one long stretch of eating, drinking, and catching up with old friends.

This year, I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen since high school, easily a decade or more. The guy in question used to be in my English class, and he would sit next to me and another guy on the other side. Let’s just say traditional education was for neither of the two. I tried to help them where I could, but while one of them managed to get his A-levels, the guy I bumped into didn’t.

“So, what are you doing now?” I asked him. Actually, he kind of volunteered the information. After meandering around the school system some more, he eventually managed to come out with some kind of college degree. In the meantime, he had started working part-time for a chain of shoe stores. As it turned out, he had a knack for selling kicks online, and when the CEO was looking for someone to take the lead while she would slowly step back from operations, she asked him to run the e-commerce side of the show. Today, he has some 100+ people working with and for him in some capacity, and they’re selling some 6,000 pairs of shoes a day, shipping them all over Europe.

“Man, I’m so happy that worked out!” I said, talking about the company’s transition to online retail, and the guy answered: “Yeah, I know, I really sucked in school.” Though that wasn’t what I had meant, I told him I was happy that that had worked out too.

And the other friend? The one who got his A-levels, but barely? He leads marketing at an online store for luxury watches, also doing well for himself.

When I got home, I looked through some pictures, and I found one with the three of us standing in the Tower Bridge engine rooms in London, where we went with our English class for a field trip in 2009 or so. Three guys that couldn’t have been more different in their habits, beliefs, attitudes, and results in the traditional education system, and yet, we all ended up in the world of online business one way or another.

Even back then, like most kids, we seemed to naturally grasp technology and the internet, always explaining to our parents how this thing or that worked. No one thought it would have such far-ranging consequences, least of all us. Yet here we are, doing jobs that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago but which rely on those skills much more so than on anything we learned in school. Except the English language, perhaps. Turns out that was one of the most useful subjects of all.

We have a saying in Germany: There’s a lid for every pot. You may not know which lid it is until someone slams it in your face, and it probably won’t be a lid that aligns exactly with the syllabus of one of your high school classes, but eventually, your lid will find you.

Life is long, and it’s never too late to make something of it. Take your time.