What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Book Summary - What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Book explained in key points
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What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 summary

Tina Seelig

A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World

18 mins

Brief summary

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig is a book that shares valuable life lessons and practical advice for young adults. It encourages readers to embrace opportunities, take risks, and cultivate a growth mindset for personal and professional success.

Table of Contents

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20
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    Embrace problems

    Problems often harbor unseen opportunities. Rather than reflexively avoiding difficulties, it pays dividends to explore them – you may uncover real potential. Consider a few famous companies that pivoted only after their initial products flopped. Messaging heavyweight Slack started life as a failed gaming startup. As the company floundered, the founders noticed their internal communication system showed real promise. So they repurposed it for a wider audience. Photo-sharing giant Instagram likewise began as a traditional social media platform that failed to take flight. But the app’s unique photo filter feature clearly resonated with users. The founders doubled down on visual sharing and the rest is history.

    The founders of Slack and Instagram ultimately succeeded thanks to their open, tenacious attitude, and willingness to work through problems. Giving up at the first bump dooms you to miss out on chances to brainstorm solutions. Take Jeff Palmer, for example – an entrepreneur who introduced an electronic organizer called Zoomer. It swiftly tanked. Rather than sulk or rage quit, Palmer took an unconventional step – he personally called every single person he could find who had purchased his failed Zoomer device. 

    In lengthy conversations, he probed what exactly they hadn’t liked or found useful about the product. From this qualitative feedback, Palmer realized there was an unmet consumer desire for better personal organization and scheduling capabilities while on the go. His next product, the Palm Pilot, directly addressed these frustrations and became a runaway mainstream success. Palmer’s motto holds true: problems will always crop up – but addressing them head-on remains the only viable path forward.

    The initial step in tackling problems? Correctly identifying them by thoroughly studying all facets of an issue. Product designers call this need finding, which involves deeply analyzing exactly where and how end users are frustrated. As Einstein once cautioned, "If I had an hour to solve a problem upon which my life depended, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask”.

    At other times, finding those unresolved needs means daring to think beyond the status quo that feels familiar or “right”. For example, look at the ultimately game-changing innovation of balloon angioplasty – inserting and inflating a tiny balloon to open up a clogged artery. Before this technique was developed, the established norm for dealing with arterial blockages was highly invasive bypass surgery. When balloon angioplasty was first floated, most surgeons were openly skeptical, simply because it was so radically different from the customary way things were done. But the concept took off once doctors recognized it addressed the hitherto unmet need for a less dangerous procedure.

    The truth is none of us are immune to this ingrained “problem blindness”. We unconsciously assume that because we personally don't perceive a pressing unsolved need, none exists. But much of the time, we simply remain oblivious to recognizing our own unmet needs. Health company 23andMe fundamentally challenged long-held assumptions – that only a select priesthood of medical experts could ever access an ordinary individual’s genetic testing history and health information. 23andMe’s founder, Anne Wojcicki stubbornly navigated both deep-set regulatory barriers and consumer wariness about genetics testing. But she never lost confidence that democratizing personal DNA insights could empower millions.

    So, to start re-examining your own implicit assumptions and blindspots, take an audit of your daily habits – waking time, social circles, and leisure activities. List out alternatives. Actively hunt for those small frustrations that often betray wider unmet needs. Then pick a habit and experimentally try to shift it. See what emerges. As the actor Alan Alda memorably put it, "Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.”

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    What is What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 about?

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 (2009) brings together a Stanford professor’s best advice for 20-somethings trying to find their place in the adult world. It tackles the typical questions young people have about decision-making, creativity, leadership, resilience, and relationships.

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Review

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 (2009) by Tina Seelig is a book that offers invaluable advice for young adults entering the unpredictable world of adulthood. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Through relatable stories and practical wisdom, it equips readers with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the challenges of adulthood.
    • Seelig's emphasis on entrepreneurial thinking and embracing failure as a learning opportunity makes the book both empowering and inspiring.
    • With its thought-provoking exercises and actionable tips, this book actively engages readers and encourages self-reflection and personal growth.

    Who should read What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    • Twenty-somethings wondering how to make their way in the world
    • New graduates who want to make their next steps count
    • Anyone eager for a fresh start

    About the Author

    Tina Seelig is a professor at Stanford University's Department of Management Science and Engineering, as well as the faculty director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. She is the author of 16 other books, including Insight Out, and inGenius.

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    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 FAQs 

    What is the main message of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    The main message of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 is to embrace the opportunities and challenges of young adulthood.

    How long does it take to read What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    The reading time for What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 varies, but it can be completed in a few hours. The Blinkist summary is available in just 15 minutes.

    Is What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 a good book? Is it worth reading?

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 is a valuable read. It offers practical advice and insights to navigate the murky waters of young adulthood.

    Who is the author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    The author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 is Tina Seelig.

    How many chapters are in What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    There are several chapters in What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. Please check the table of contents for the complete list.

    How many pages are in What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 contains 272 pages.

    When was What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 published?

    What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 was published in 2009.

    What to read after What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20?

    If you're wondering what to read next after What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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