May 30, 2014

    What I would do, if I were 22

    IT'S incredible to see just how much the world has changed since I was 22!

    The Internet, e-mail, mobile phones - all the ways of communicating that we take for granted today did not exist back then. I remember what a revolution it was to be able to send a document via fax.

    Now with digital cameras, social media and the like, young people can capture their history and share it with the world.

    I think recording your experiences (including the mistakes) is important and something I wish I did more of, even with the more primitive technology available at the time I was 22 - namely, pen and paper.

    By doing this, you can learn more about your successes and failures and then, hopefully, orientate your life in the right direction.

    There are three key pieces of advice I would give to my younger self and to anyone just starting out today in their career.


    While today's technology has created a more transparent and interconnected world, I do not think it can replace the value of human interaction, and of listening to and getting to know other people.

    Today, a popular pastime is taking so-called "selfies"- focusing the camera lens on yourself. I say, you will reap more rewards by turning your camera around.

    Focus on other people. Get to know the people around you well: their problems, their worries and their passions. You can learn a lot this way about yourself too.

    Focus on the people you admire the most and whom you would like to emulate. Study how they developed their careers and learn from that.

    Most important of all? Learn, learn, learn. Read books, visit exhibitions, talk to knowledgeable people.


    My next big piece of advice is to travel. I believe travel not only widens your view of the world, but it also gives you the motivation and perspective to help guide your future.

    When I first began to see the world and spent some time living overseas, it was an epiphany to me, the beginning of an entirely new life.

    The first country I visited was Japan and it was a real shocker. The dramatic differences in lifestyle, art, language, architecture, entertainment and business were so different from what I had experienced previously that I realised I was missing a great deal of what the world had to offer and I needed to learn more.

    That started me on a quest to experience more of the world.

    When you travel, you realise that people across the globe are not all that different at the core - their hopes, their dreams for the future, all are more alike than not.

    Use the technology available to you today to not only learn about other places in the world, but also to make connections with people living there. Then, go see them! Turning electronic connections into real human connections is truly life-changing and will open your eyes to new ways of thinking.

    When I was in my early 20s, few would have thought many of the world's emerging markets (then often called Third World countries) would become the global powers they are today.

    Back then, Japan was considered an emerging market, and the People's Republic of China was celebrating its newfound independence. It is amazing to see the growth in population, economic progress and power that China and other emerging markets have made. I can only imagine what the next few decades would bring.


    As a new college graduate out looking for work, I contacted alumni who were in business to help me in landing a job. I did not directly ask them for work, but asked them for advice on how to build a career. They were all gracious and their words were a great boon to me.

    One consultant I visited had a plaque on his desk that I will never forget. It explained the success of his very prosperous firm. The plaque read: "There is no limit to how far you can go as long as you don't mind who gets the credit."

    In a succinct and eloquent way it conveyed the most elemental truth: Your success depends on the success of other people around you, and by helping them succeed, you also succeed.

    Interestingly, when I was in high school and given one of those aptitude tests, it showed that I should be a coach - more specifically, an athletic coach. It was amazingly accurate as, in many respects, I am a coach to my Emerging Markets Group here at Franklin Templeton, and I believe that success is truly a team effort.

    To play on my team, I look for curiosity, determination, gentility and humility.

    The late Sir John Templeton, someone I deeply admire, had all these qualities. If I were 22 today and deciding what path to pursue, I would take this piece of advice from Sir John: "Do something where you are performing a real service for people. It'll be a success."


    The writer is the executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group at Franklin Templeton Investments.