30 at 30 – Lesson 5: Hustle Hard and Early In Life

30 at 30 – Lesson 5: Hustle Hard and Early In Life

When we’re young, it truly seems as though we have a lifetime ahead, meaning we have all the time in the world to do the things we want to do. The problem is that no one really teaches you that irrespective of how much time you have, it’s still important to take advantage of the time you have today and right now. This is particularly important when it comes to working towards the life you want to live and the work you want to do for the world.

Society tells us that there are steps we must take to be “successful” or to become “contributing members of society”, and each step has its appropriate time in our life. We are born, we reach the “right” age to enter school, we attend a school system for 12-13 years (depending on what age you entered the institution of formal education), we go to university, we get a job, and then we retire. The reality is that this does not work for everyone (whether it works for anyone really is a topic for another day). Everyone has their own path to their own definition of success. There is no one-size-fits-all methodology to life paths, and quite honestly, that’s the beauty of it. But whether you follow society’s path or define your own, there is one thing that holds true for everyone – you must work hard to reach any goal on your path, and that work is best done early.

“We do today what they won’t

so tomorrow we can accomplish what they can’t.”

Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson

I was fortunate enough to have parents that learned and shared this value with me early on, so I was able to apply it and enjoy the fruits of that early labor (not child labor, just more effort at a younger age!). The way they positioned it was that if you know what you want to do in life, and you know the kind of lifestyle you want to live, then you must place the necessary effort into the things that lead to those goals now, so that you have to do less work later and get paid more – in compensation and freedom. It may have seemed frivolous in middle school or high school when they first said it, but what they said seemed logical and so I applied it.

In elementary school, I studied hard and aced my classes, leading me to higher level classes in middle school. In middle school, I studied harder, took on extracurriculars to expand my scope, and aced my classes, leading me to the higher entry point classes in high school. Upon entering high school, I learned that if you had already completed core competencies or reached the highest levels of main courses, you had free-reign to select the types of subjects you wanted to learn. The efforts of my previous schooling resulted in my ability to have the flexibility and freedom of choice in my high school years to take university level courses and explore knowledge that was in line with my passions. The hard work in high school, and the ability to diversify courses and extracurriculars (what universities look for), granted me entry into great universities for higher education with hefty scholarships, placed me out of core competencies due to my grades, and gifted me the ability to graduate earlier than expected so that I could start working sooner.

During my university years, the opportunities to work and intern and build my own company required more effort than others were applying, with minimal returns in the beginning, but I pushed through because I had to, and because I had already recognized there was freedom in going the extra mile. Upon entering the corporate workforce, I learned that my effort was most valued at this point because the world recognized these efforts above all else – above what brand name school I went to, what scores I had, or what internship I held. What the world valued most was the effort I displayed, the real knowledge I gathered, and the manner in which I learned to apply everything I had experienced up until then. At that point, all I had to do was apply my knowledge aptly, and that alone brought me a more than satisfying return on my earlier investments because I was able to put in less time while making more, leaving more time to explore other fulfilling life opportunities.

Akiti (right) is standing with one of her closest friends, Emily (left), and their Dean of the Honors Program, Professor Ahr (center), at their graduation from Seton Hall University. Akiti graduated Magna Cum Laude, as an Honors Student in multiple honors societies, a Philosophy Major, and a Double Minor in Diplomacy & International Relations and Legal Studies in Business.

That’s when it made most sense to me. The efforts early on made it so that no matter what path I chose, I would always remain a cut above the norm because while I was applying my knowledge and experience, others were still learning and experiencing. As others spent time learning A and B, I was well on to L, M, N, O and P – but with additional bonus elements because no one was expecting me to already be at that level at my age. While others were still figuring out their paths, I was already on a path that was secure in ways that I wouldn’t realize until later when I had to rely entirely upon it to revive my life. While others dreamed of financial freedom, exploring the world, and contributing to the world, I was already there – living the life I had wanted and having the freedom to design my life the way I wanted without restriction.

Akiti leading a virtual corporate workshop on the design and development of automated, digital customer experiences.

I may not have been the most successful person in the world (as defined by society – making billions or established as a public figure of sorts), but I was happy, I was enjoying the work I was doing, I was learning as I was growing, I was earning enough for my needs and beyond my wants, and I was free to do as I pleased. I was successful by my terms because I was living the life I wanted (at the time), earlier than I anticipated, and more fruitfully than I imagined. And that success was all because I had worked harder than those around me early on. As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson once said, “We do today what they won’t so tomorrow we can accomplish what they can’t.”

Akiti at a Women of the World conference representing women in Marketing and Customer Experience.

Was I perfect in my efforts?
No.

Could I have done more?
Absolutely.

Could I have worked even harder to be that billionaire, public figure?
Sure.

But for the path that I had chosen and with the understanding I had of myself, I worked as hard as I could and it paid off in the best of ways. I’m glad it wasn’t perfect, I’m glad I didn’t overdo it, and I’m glad I didn’t strain to become successful the way that society determined, because I was happy and fulfilled and knew that my life was on my path in my way. I didn’t feel as though I was fighting my way through my work and my life – instead I was able to enjoy it because I had fought through the difficult parts early on and built a strong foundation for anything I desired thereafter.

And that’s the key. It’s not just about doing all of the things that society says – good grades, high test scores, great school, perfect job – it’s about building a foundation so strong that regardless of the path you take later on in life, or how that paths changes along the way, you are prepared for what comes your way and able to pivot to match your life’s trajectory. Building your strong foundation could mean studying smarter, practicing longer, or training harder, but at its core it means putting in the extra effort earlier so that you’re ahead of the pack in your life’s track.


Life is but a game
This we all too well know
A marathon, not a race
Work hard as you go

What you do now
Determines what you have later
A strong foundation is key
It’s a strong indicator

The effort you put in
Is directly correlated
To the gifts you get later
Time, freedom unregulated

Tomorrow’s path is unknown
This moment is still with you
Put more effort today and
Tomorrow you can do what you want to

– Akiti –

Fast 5 of the Last 5 (2020) Day 4: Change

Fast 5 of the Last 5 (2020) Day 4: Change

Change is inevitable, yet it is one of the hardest things for us to accept. We often fear change because it falls within the realm of the unknown. Whether you are spiritual or not, it takes some level of trust or faith in the universe to be open to the unknown that life can and will bring. I like to think of changes as opportunities to grasp and grow from and today’s activity encourages you to do just that.

Welcome to Day 4 of Fast 5 of the Last 5 of 2020 as we count down the days to the new year with 5 activities each day to celebrate your life!

Change Activity

Without pause, quickly list 5 things, people, or moments that changed for the better in 2020. Below are mine.

1. Worked From Home
2. Reallocated My Time
3. Clarified My Priorities

4. Removed Toxic People
5. Respected Myself

Share your 5 things in the comments and on social media, and be sure to use the hashtags #Fast5oftheLast5 #F5L5 #2020F5L5 and tag me (@__akiti__) so we can celebrate change together!

Activity Reflection

I was quite surprised by my list actually and what came to mind when I considered the things that changed for the better for me in 2020. It’s not that I don’t align with my list, because I’m actually perfectly aligned with it, but I spent some time afterwards thinking if I’m missing bigger changes. This goes back to our expectation that bigger is better when it comes to what is important in life. Once I wrote down my changes, I realized that they each play such a vital role in who I am at the end of 2020 and that’s what matters. This activity reminded me that I am a product of each choice in my life, no matter the value others place on those choices – big or small. I’m very happy with how 2020 has shaped me and the changes I’ve accomplished that make me elated to be alive.

Worked From Home

The moment companies prioritized or were forced to prioritize their employees’ health over productivity and place everyone on work from home status was a huge win for people and for the corporate world. Not only did it force people and companies to realize the value of the internet in making virtual interactions seamlessly successful, but it also displayed the value of a proper work-life balance. In reflecting on this further, I actually spun into a full blown rant on the subject, so I’ve decided this topic really deserves further elaboration as it’s own post at a later date (subscribe to see it in 2021!). For the purpose of this activity, what I will say is that this change reminded me why balance and boundaries between one’s work life and personal life is crucial. This balance allows one to feel fulfilled in both aspects of life and cherish both more because you are not forced to choose one over the other. This was a major paradigm shift that the world went through and I think it is just the beginning of the virtual world we are about to enter (cue The Matrix theme music). 

Reallocated My Time

Time management is something almost everyone struggles with and it became extremely necessary for me to change my approach to it this year. I was genuinely struggling with the excitement of additional time to work on my passions and my future goals and the workload I already had, which resulted in this constant feeling of getting pulled in too many directions. There eventually came a point when I shut down entirely and had to step away from it all, only to realize that each item is important to me in my life and I need to find a way to make it reasonably work. I recognized that if I want to work on each item, I need to find the right time allocation to give each the focus it needs without derailing other items. It’s taken almost all of 2020 to figure out the balance for me, and I finally employed a tactic I tried post-trauma which just last week finally clicked, making it clear to me how I want it all to work. I’m practicing the implementation of my strategy and things are finally looking promising! It’s a year-end change, so we’ll see the fruits of this change in 2021.

Clarified My Priorities

In the time I shut away from all interactions to figure things out, I realized that I was teetering on the verge of burning out once again and, along with time management, I needed to realign my priorities to give focus to the right things. I found that I was spending quite a bit of time on certain activities that were not in line with my future goals, and were just nice-to-have activities that I enjoyed. It’s not that one shouldn’t enjoy those activities, but they need to be de-prioritized in the face of actions related to ones’ goals, and they should be placed aside entirely when higher life priorities arise. It may seem small to some, but this was a special moment when I realized this and made the decision to take action on it. I found a methodology that works for me to prioritize my decisions in such a way that I achieve a little bit towards every goal without feeling like I’m missing out on other things.

Removed Toxic People

I lost one too many dear individuals this year – not to Covid-19, but to their toxic nature – and many have expressed how sad that is but have also experienced this. What I’ve realized is that it is not a loss, but a win that those individuals are no longer part of my life or have shifted from close friends to distant acquaintances. These individuals were my friends for many, MANY years and those closest to me know they were at one point my chosen family (some were biological family!). For me to call you my family means a lot and I don’t use it lightly. These individuals had done some pretty toxic things in the past, but being the overly-understanding and accepting person that I have been told I am, I looked past those things and loved them dearly anyway.

I did that because I followed my heart in believing that they were good people and convinced myself that they cared for me, too, because that’s what they said. If nothing else, life has taught me severely that when words do not match actions, you are playing with toxicity. So when these individuals took actions that disrespected me or they could not handle my dissenting opinion on matters, I finally chose to remove them entirely from my life or distanced myself enough that they no longer take respectable space in my heart or mind. It’s quite freeing actually to have taken this action, and that’s honestly how I knew it was one of the best changes in my life and one that has made me immensely happier.

Respected Myself

This defined my 2020. I have always been a cordial individual and maintained relationships even when people have hurt me (as I mentioned earlier) because I always felt my heart and mind were strong enough to withstand the hurt and not take it out on others the way others would do to me. What I’ve learned is…THIS IS WRONG. Everyone deserves to be treated well and respected, and if someone is treating you poorly, overlooking it or making excuses for their behavior because you’re “understanding” is just teaching them how to treat you. In case you missed it, they are disrespecting you and you are showing them that it’s okay because you won’t react to it. If you are unable to express your dissent towards something or are reprimanded for setting your boundaries, then please know that you are not the problem.

Any individual that you cannot have a dissent-driven discussion with or is not willing to accept or respect your boundaries is toxic and you should respect yourself enough to disengage from them entirely. I have had to learn this many times over the years, but in the past most of those people have cut me off. This year I worked on sticking by my beliefs & standards and setting my boundaries – a big change for me as it is contrary to my understanding nature – and I had to let go of many people I thought were my people because they showed me that they didn’t respect me. That’s when it really sunk in that you are truly better off respecting yourself and losing such individuals because the one’s that are meant to stay will do so and will respect you choosing and being you. And so this year’s biggest change, and biggest win for me, truly is respecting myself and protecting my boundaries.


Change is coming whether we want it or not
So have faith in what is meant to be
Your peace & happiness is worth a shot


– Akiti –