How being the youngest child helped in my career...
The youngest siblings often get caricatured as spoiled, entitled, loud, attention-grabbing brats. While some do share those characteristics, being the youngest child in a family can force you to acquire other traits that can set you up for success in the long run.
As you may have gathered, I grew up the youngest of three kids, and the experience has shaped me into the person I am today. In fact, being the youngest actually helped me develop skills that have helped me throughout my professional life.
1. Grabbing attention | As the youngest, I had to fight to be heard. Whether that meant shouting over the dining room table or coming up with the loudest fart, I had to find a way to compete with two older voices in the room. As the youngest, I watched my siblings succeed—a lot, but also sometimes fail. And I learned from their mistakes. The same is true in business. To be heard you have to have good ideas, confidence, and the ability to make people listen. Farting loudly in a meeting though (usually) is not an option.
2. Competition | Our household was relatively competitive growing up. My siblings and I competed for everything: food, attention, who was the best–you name it. My siblings were bigger, stronger, and smarter than me (if only thanks to more life experiences), and I had to learn to compensate in other ways to win. Just to confirm - I am the only one with a degree, however shit it may be, and I am definitely the only one to embrace any kind of sport.
In business, you face talented peers and competitors, and you have to figure out how to adapt and compensate for shortcomings. That may mean out-working or out-hustling peers, or putting in more time or more effort to get results. I am not afraid of the hard hours.
3. Succeeding | As I said in point one, my siblings succeed–a lot but also fail. I learned from their mistakes, figuring out when my turn came how not to make the same ones, especially during my teenage years. Clearly I wasn't watching closely enough as I closed out my teenage years in a catalogue of education disappointment, bad life choices and fucking horrific girlfriends.
However, like any youngest child who looks up to their older siblings, I’d try to replicate their successes. Whether that meant hitting the bar every night to maintain the legendary status cultivated by Carl, or working to pass my driving test first time, to show Amanda, that I too can do this. I knew what it would take to reach a certain goal, by watching their examples. Being observant and learning from others’ experiences that way can help you succeed faster in your personal and professional life. You know what mistakes not to make, because you’ve internalised the lessons others experienced first hand. You’ve seen what it takes to succeed, and you emulate the characteristics of those people.
4. Endurance | Nearly every youngest child gets teased and forced to do things they don’t want to. With two older siblings, and a family of five kids as our best family friends - that was inevitable for me. I had to learn to stand up for myself, develop a thick skin, and persevere in any situation. Being the equivalent of the youngest of 8, was trying to say the least - I was taught so many life skills though that I didn't realise at the time - like don't follow the leader - especially when your legs won't reach the shore from the boat.
There have been many times I have thought about quitting jobs, but that just isn't my natural disposition. I stick with it until it is shown to be going nowhere. My CV reads like an awesome journey from employee to manager to self-employed and to leader. Today, I lead a team of people that I consider to be the best at what we do, in the contract catering world, and for the largest and the best international catering company on the planet.
5. Creativity | With two older siblings and an age gap of 8 years between my brother and me, my siblings were often out of the house doing lots of extracurricular activities or spending time with friends. This meant they weren’t always around to entertain me, however much my Mum used to force that point - particularly on my poor sister. So this forced me to be creative and invent games and fun things to do on my own. Playing both sides in a game of Subbuteo, solo darts, tennis against the garage door - it was incredible how you could create a competitive game on your own, using nothing but imagination. Then, when all else failed anything would make a good toy car - even the old bun cases in my Grandma Egg's kitchen cupboard. I was never, ever bored - because as every child knows only too well "only boring people get bored". As I got older though, and bun cases on my Grandma's carpet were no longer my thing... well then my natural creativity manifested itself in other more adult fun and games.
This creativity has served me well in my role though. You have to be creative to catch attention, understand others' needs, and earn their trust. I always say it is largely better to make an odd impression than to leave somebody with no impression of you at all. It is always good to be remembered, as long as it is not for being 'that half-witted pain in the arse'... Everybody should learn the lessons that, you have to be continuously thinking of new, creative ways to stand out from a vanilla crowd.
So in summary - big up the lessons learned from being the youngest child.