When I was 13 years old, I led a brass band with trumpets, saxophones and trombones. The thing was, I didn’t play a single instrument! Here’s what happened.

I was in the choir in secondary school. Being a decent singer, our music teacher put me in charge of the Alto section. After a while, he asked me to lead the choir and then the band too.

I must have had a leadership and entrepreneurial gene because two years later, I started the school’s first cooperative in my class, which paid for our grand end-of-year party!

Early Leadership Lessons

Leading the brass band taught me something at an early age. You don’t need to be a sector specialist to lead a domain. We know that Steve Jobs couldn’t code. But he demonstrated leadership, competence, and excellence in a complementary field to tech – marketing.

While industry-specific skills can often be learned or acquired through hiring, leadership is rare and, once mastered, can be applied to new fields.

From School to Work to Business Ownership

The same transition happened when I joined the corporate sector. I was the head of the research unit and when the consulting lead left, my boss asked me to take over the department. At the time, I knew nothing about consulting and would doze off during strategy sessions.

After my consulting experience, I set up our digital media practice and then finally, took on core operations, which I grew to hate, by the way. But I learnt another lesson. That you are good at something doesn’t mean you should do it; at least not for too long.

People often mistake competency for job fit. You can be proficient at something while it’s killing you slowly. If you are facing this, I will share the advice I was given by a mentor: Do what you need to do until you can afford to do what you want to do. Put a time frame to it. Plan your transition before all the energy is sucked from your short life.

Embrace New Challenges

Don’t refuse opportunities, even when you don’t know anything at first. As you navigate the learning curve, you will gain exceptional skills you may never have learned.

There are other benefits. If I hadn’t led the choir and band, I would not have performed solos in front of the whole school. And, I wouldn’t have discovered the impact of my creative and leadership gifts at such a young age.

In short, embrace challenges, prove yourself in an area of competence, transfer those skills to new ventures, and then, do what you need to do until you can afford what you prefer.

I hope this helps. Best wishes.

For more, please read Stages in Career growth

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