The 10 Year Rule
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
It took me a long while to realise some things about my insatiable drive to do better. During the past 2 years of my life, I tried to make up for "lost time". The time I had lost by not achieving all my goals by age 21. This is, of course, an excruciating pressure that should not plague a young person's mind. But I notice that this is something that a lot of people in their 20's are currently dealing with.
Whenever I google a successful person - meaning a person who accomplished success in their careers, and are thus higher on our social status ladder - they usually started at a very young age. This can be many things: founding a million-dollar company at age 20, starring in films at the mere age of 17, becoming a managing director at the age of 25... In our society, we value these achievements as success stories, which they undoubtedly are. But in turn, we might neglect our own success stories.
When I look up what makes a person successful, there are about 3.800.000.000 Google Search results that pop up. After reading about 10 of these (and assuming that the other 3799999990 articles are similar), I noticed a pattern. There were a number of traits that kept appearing, like confidence, drive, discipline, integrity, positivity, willingness to learn, gratitude, patience... These traits are no doubt important, but how can one single person be a master at all of these. Or better yet, how can a person who's only 25 be expected to have all these qualities.
I know that there are many people out there saying that it takes time and that one needs to be patient. There are also countless success stories of people who only made it in their 50's (whatever "making it" means). But still, I hear from many others around me that they feel behind in life. Like they haven't achieved a quarter of what they should've by now. I hear this from people in 20's, 30's and even a few in their 40's. So I kept telling myself that I needed to work harder, be more optimistic, have more discipline and become more confident in my abilities. But I quickly realised the problems one can face.
Seeing as I am still a young woman, I am often underestimated by others and this can have a toll on my confidence. It gives me a feeling as though I have to listen more and speak less, as though I should be grateful for every tiny opportunity and infinitely humble, as though I know less than I do. There are, of course, a million things I (and many others in their 20s) have yet to learn. But shouldn't this be a good thing? Making mistakes, taking our sweet time, loving the challenges. It is difficult to love them, when the only thing that seems worth our time is the actual end-product. And everyone loves a good success story, which means that this end-product could not come quick enough.
But finally... and there is a finally, everything slowed down for me when I found out about the 10 Year Rule. This basic rule states that it takes at least 10 years to achieve anything. It can also take 15 years, or 20 years (or even more), so only 10 years means you got there quickly. So with this theory in mind, if you start your professional life at 26, this means you don't need to have "made it" (for lack of better term) until you're at least (and the at least is veeery important) 36. This would be regarded as quick success. A normal success (15 years) means you should start to feel somewhat successful at the age of 41 - when starting at 26. We could also start at 30, 35, 40...
These numbers aren't an exact science, and this might not be any news to you, but to me these numbers were a re-ve-la-tion. It was as if all the pressure had been lifted off my shoulders. I was cured of the I-want-everything-and-I-want-it-now syndrome. This simple idea made me enjoy the days where I wasn't productive, I stopped feeling angry at myself for taking the day off or even the week off. Don't get me wrong, I am still ambitious and have many things I want to achieve, but since taking away this time pressure, the ambition does not drag me down anymore.
Now, I can finally give myself credit for the things I have achieved. And these things are not necessarily success related: nurturing relationships, making (BIG) mistakes and learning from them, getting to know myself more, having fun, taking it one step at a time, growing self-confidence (and knowing that even that will take a long time), accepting that one can't do everything on their own, understanding that money and success are not the answer, taking advice from others but also trusting oneself, and being kind.
The 10 Year Rule is not a clear-cut rule to reach success. It is, however, a reminder that we are only made with time. I have never been a patient person, so telling me to be patient would sort of have the opposite effect. Whereas this gave me more perspective, without imposing another one of those "success qualities" on myself. Something that I can't control, and learning that that is ok.