Becoming Exceptional in 4 Steps

Today, jumped off the boat in Amsterdam, like I did most days.

Once I recovered from mild-hypothermia precisely 4.8 seconds after entering the 💦, I started thinking about my gratitude for life. I remember the moment exactly: floating atop of the water, staring right into the sun. Refreshing 😋.

In my head, I’m like: “I’m 15, and living in Amsterdam. I get to meet some of the leading people in food technology. Every day I’m learning and growing as a person. I’m on a trajectory towards impacting billions. In all my meetings, I’m the youngest person in the room. At most conferences, I’m the energetic teenager that sticks right out. I love it 😊.

This was a moment where I was so present, I enjoyed every second of its existence. I won’t get blabbering about presentism because today we’re becoming exceptional, but I’ll soon write about how you can be buddha.

After spending a few weeks in Amsterdam, working & meeting some exceptional people, I wanted to make sure I documented my learning experiences. Although according to this trusted online quiz, my spiritual animal is a chicken, when it comes to my memory-abilities, I’m a goldfish.

I’ve had so many captivating moments like my hypothermic meditation I thought it would be a shame not to share my learnings during this #adventure.

Step 1: Prioritize People

People are so key 🔑.

Ok, I know every startup founder and their mother will preach this one loud and proud. Basically anyone involved in tech, business or innovation has this tattooed on their forehead.

After my amazing summer, I’m joining the tattooed forehead club.

Most people put more stress on technical skills than character development and relationship building. And omg Sally don’t get me wrong learning how to code, being an excel ninja and understanding research papers are still SUPER essential skills.

But remember: skills can be learned.

But you can’t learn to know Satya Nadella, Richard Branson, Sheryll Sandberg, or any influential + smart people in the world.

You either have a connection with them or don’t.

Everything around us is made by people. People make stuff happen. People that know people specifically make stuff happen.

Imagine if Bill Gates was your personal mentor: you’d be 1–2 degrees of connection away from the most influential people in the world.

So, if you had a crazy idea that would solve a massive problem, you’d have access to the smartest people to execute that idea.

I’m so DAMN happy I’ve focused on developing relationships with the right people. The life advice I’ve received = 😍.

If I could tell my younger self something, it’d be to surround myself with people that will help me grow. (Yes, because now that I’m no longer 15, and can legally get my license I have a younger self… ageing feels weird).

So, I met a lot of people. I had MANY amazing conversations ✨. Most of these conversations so nervous I could lay an egg. Fortunately, no eggs were laid, and the outcomes didn’t turn out half bad ;)

If you knew the 100 smartest people in the world, but you spent your life whipping up Starbucks orders, what good would that be? Ok obviously this is an extreme example, but just knowing people != doing ambitious or important things.

I spent a hot minute of my summer networking + building relationships.

It would be a shame if I didn’t build and train the necessary skills to leverage this network.

I *personally* want to be a hustler. This means having the right bias towards action + the ability to get stuff done. Productivity hacking is what I BREATHE. I’m always trying to maximize my performance towards my general ambition (currently, impacting billions). So that the day I have a crazy idea, I can use my network and knowledge to bring it to fruition.

Step 2: Be intentional with your daily actions

How you train = how you perform

Being BFFs with Jack Dorsey won’t directly correlate with you being a more productive person.

🚨Now, warning, this is going to be mind-blowing 🤯… the real secret to being more productive is…

Being more productive.

I know what you’re thinking, “tell me something I don’t know Sherlock.”

Ok, then you probably also know how important habits are.

Actions (habits) cause outcomes. Training → performance.

You can train 10,000 hours as a swimmer and be a better swimmer at the end.

You can’t train 10,000 hours as a swimmer and expect to be a pro juggler.

So how do you want to perform? That dictates how you train (aka your habits). For example, If you wanna be a programmer, spend every day getting a little better at programming. Easy right? 🙄

Here’s something I am (and probably you are) really really really good at… talking yourself out of things.

Do you ever rationalize excuses to eat that cupcake? Skip that workout? Do the thing you KNOW you shouldn’t (yeah that thing)? This is us thinking we’re pausing our training, but the reality is, our habits will seep into all areas of our life.

Think about how often you snooze the alarm; don’t make your bed; think negative thoughts? There are likely many things you do in your day-to-day unintentionally, that are training you in the wrong way.

Habits are about what you do AND what you don’t do. Not snoozing the alarm is a habit.

Once I really internalized this, I felt like a child that just read its first chapter book and got award three whole golden star stickers. “Training = Performance” mindset helps you be more intentional with every second of your life.

I was swiping through my phone and almost tapped Instagram, but this voice in my head whispered, “how you train is how you perform,” and I went and did a workout instead. I wanted to be the type of person that worked out instead of scavenging the gram, and I just became that person. It felt magical.

The takeaway: if you have a strong why behind your “performance” (i.e., mission), you’re going to want to do everything you can to train for it.

If you remind yourself that you’re always training, getting addicted to things like coffee, social media and your mom’s basement’s couch becomes next-to-impossible. (Unless you’re trying to become the next hit Instagrammer that’s famous for drinking coffee on their mom’s basement’s couch, then I retract the argument).

The combination of knowing the right people + having proper habits (training) basically makes you win at life.

This llama is WINNING. (Sorry I’m terrible at being relatable).

Step 3: Prioritize your goals

Do a few things well.

I had 28 days in Amsterdam.

When you’re that constrained for time, and you have museums to visit, people to meet and horses to have selfies taken with, you realize the value of your time and power of saying no.

By you, I mean me.

By selfies with horses, I really mean selfies with horses 😎.

I already know I’m a weird traveller

As humans, we’re always SO busy. Something I’ve learned to value is my time. Treat your time like it’s work $1 000 000/h.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” — Steve Jobs

In the next couple of years, I’ll be developing relationships with the right people and training towards my goals.

Since Steve Jobs is my homie 🥰 & I want to CRUSH whatever I put my mind to, limiting these “goals” to a few big things I want to accomplish is so damn important🔑.

In my second life, I’m sure I’d be a tremendous professional knife thrower, but in this life, I need to remember that I can either spend all my time towards a central goal and make a lot of progress, or spend my time divided among many goals.

Do you want to do many things mediocrely or a few things exceptionally?

Personally, mediocrity and I are about as compatible as an alligator and mouse trapped in a small room (important detail: I’m the alligator). Try to imagine an alligator and a mouse just chatting it up. If you did that, you’re wrong. The alligator would eat the mouse.

Ok, enough alligators. Point is: do a few things well to be exceptional at what you do.

Step 4: Take on the independence mindset.

Basically this whole summer I was away from home. From doing a TV show in Montreal to living on a boat in Amsterdam. Which meant putting on the big girl hat.

I had meetings. A stomach to feed. Clothes to wash?!?!?!

A few days into my Europe trip, when I faced the reality of having to wash my clothes, I really profoundly wished I spent less time in grade 7 trying to pass history class and more time learning how to survive as a human being. The confederation date of Canada wasn’t that useful in operating a washing machine, in case the school curriculum needs some feedback.

Once I learned how to live like a human being and be independent, I felt so free. This took practice, time and lots of self-help motivational youtube videos.

I have never felt independency up until this summer. The moment I realized my “freedom” was revolutionary.

It was a sunny August day. It was my first time biking in Amsterdam, besides thinking I was going to die on precisely 4 different occasions during my adventure, the ride was pleasant.

I was also sweating like a popsicle in a volcano, and not to mention my state of dehydration. Imagine a cactus in Mid-July Nevada dumped in wet paint. That was me just on wheels.

Anyway, I’m biking (in the shade THANKFULLY) on the harbour. The wind is blowing, the sky is bright blue, and colourful boats were splish-splashing on the water. That’s when I realized no one is in charge of me. I could bike for hours more on end, or I could find and high five a panda.

It honestly felt like I high-fived a panda.

I didn’t stop and take a picture that day; I honestly think some things just aren’t meant to be photographed. But this is what a harbour looks like.

Here are the perks of independence:

  • Having control of your life is one of the most beautiful feelings.
  • You stop letting other people control your life
  • You stop letting other people’s thoughts control yours
  • A complete shift in mindset and you’ll feel like you can take over the world
  • OK, I’m not actually going to list all of these things. Let me ask you this: why wouldn’t you want to be more independent? What are the downsides?

Sandwich time!! 🥪

This summer I had a fantastic Sandwich in France. It was great. Shoutout to that sandwich for inspiring this section.

I wanted to condense my learnings, removing the pandas, alligators, bicycles and whatever else I threw at you this article 😊.

4️⃣Main things:

  1. People are KEYYYYY
  2. How you train = how you perform
  3. Do a few things well 👌
  4. Be independent

Actionable steps 👟 you can take

  • Remember how vital people are; make sure you’re surrounded by the right ones.
  • Think about your day-to-day life, what things are you training that don’t help you perform?
  • Say no to things that don’t get you PUMPED.
  • Put yourself in situations where you can maximize being independent (you’re gonna feel like a god, and it’s gonna be dope.)

I have lots of learnings to go an TONS of people left to meet, but I wanted to give a handful of shoutouts 🤟 (You’ve helped me a lot these past few weeks, I can’t thank y’all enough).

  • Ira van Eelen for an incredible time in Amsterdam, and all the connections to the culture meat world 😍
  • Olivia Fox Cabane for all your life lessons & encouragement 🙏
  • Cindy Segond von Banchet for being so kind & welcoming at Microsoft!!! I had such a great day at The Netherlands’ HQ!
  • Carolina Villa for giving me the AWESOME tour of DSM. It’s literally the #1 reason I need to come back to The Netherlands.
  • Maria Olenic for bringing me down to the tissue engineering lab!! Seeing those beating, in-vitro heart cells makes the nerd in me SO happy.
  • Sandhya Sriram for giving me sooooo much excellent life advice (I promise always to have at least 49/51 share split 😉) and inspiring my hustle!! Seeing all of Shiok’s success makes me so energized!
  • Benjamina Bollag, Maarten Boshe, Daan Luining for being such inspiring role models in the cultured meat sphere 🥳🥰
  • Didier Toubia & Yoav Reisler from Aleph Farms for your kind words & support! I’m excited about future collabs 🎉
  • Andrew Spicer for teaching me tons about Algae!!! I’ve been LOVING learning more about its potential 💪. Your company, Alenguity, rocks. Can’t wait for the dent you’ll leave on the world (much needed haha)!!!!
  • Susanne Wedin-Schildt for teaching me how to view things from a new perspective.

There are so many people I have to thank for dealing with an ambitious teenager. One last 🙏 for Emma Osborne, Premi Carr, Claudia Deken and Lori Goff!!

Now that I’m back from Amsterdam, I always get personally attacked when people ask me how I liked going to the Van Gogh museum or trying dutch pancakes… and I say I didn’t. I get stared at when I say I have no desire, nor will go out of my way to visit the Eiffel Tower, big ben, Disney land, and so forth.

We live in a world of checkboxes. None of the things mentioned above matter to me. They didn’t align with my goals for my trip. I’m completely cool with being looked at weirdly for my travel preferences.

Having a deep understanding of myself, my philosophies and my goals helped me create the experience in Amsterdam that made sense for me. Instead of “doing things for the sake of doing them,” I did things for the sake of myself.

Once you let go of the world’s checklists and do what makes sense for you, you’ll live a radically different life.

To anyone on their journey towards being exceptional, I hope some of these things resonated!! And if you want to stay up to date with my journey, you can join my monthly newsletter, connect on Linkedin or twitter.

If you have any questions, shoot me an email at isabella@theksociety.com (I mostly don’t bite 😌).

17 yo building better maternal healthcare in developing countries.

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