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3 Life Lessons I Learned From Living in New York City

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3 Life Lessons I Learned From Living in New York City

At the age of 14 New York City called my name……loudly! As they say “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”. I got myself a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken (yes pre-KFC) and worked for two years at $3.28 per hour to save enough money for my ticket.   When I finally arrived at age 16, New York was just as amazing as I had imagined.  I enjoyed the most inspiring three weeks getting to know the city.

I went back to New York aged 19, 20 and 21 for three months at a time.  Each year I enjoyed unique experiences from working alongside Ralph Lauren’s former designer to hearing Jeff Buckley play his new album to music executives in a small bar in midtown just a couple of months before he died.

My experiences in New York have really shaped my thinking culminating in three lessons that I apply to my business life.

Lesson #1: You can have many different careers in a lifetime

My uncle Al is a native New Yorker and has been an incredible role model for me.  On each of my visits in my late teens, he spent many hours asking me about the vision I was creating for my life.  Having been a specialist doctor, an actor, a playwright, pianist, music producer, real estate developer, writer and political activist, he has taught me that there are many different careers to be enjoyed in a lifetime and the only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves.  Perhaps mainly thanks to him I have learnt to be open to different opportunities and not place limits on myself.  I have learnt to take responsibility for creating the life I want to enjoy.

Lesson #2: It’s okay to do things differently

My uncle thinks differently than most, and he has shown me that it’s okay to do things differently.  He’s taught me that it’s okay if people think what I am doing is mad.  There will always be naysayers, but it’s important to stick to my vision, push boundaries and chase my dreams with great passion.

His latest venture was purchasing an old radio tower in the middle of Long Island Sound. It was just a few rocks out in the middle of the water, but he has the vision to transform it into a luxury home for a wealthy Wall Street banker. I have no doubt he will do just that.

I’ve learnt that taking a risk and doing things differently can reap great rewards.

Lesson #3: If you want something badly enough, you can make it happen

Over the various stays in New York, I spent many a night with my aunt and uncle accompanying their great friend, jazz pianist Chris Anderson, to his gigs.  Chris was an incredibly gifted pianist. He was also blind and physically challenged.  He needed assistance to get to and from gigs, and this gave me the opportunity to hear him play in jazz clubs all over the city. He loved to play and sing and had moved from Chicago in the 1950s and his love of playing and singing saw him playing with many big names in Jazz.  I learned that nothing should prevent us from realising our greatness. Yes, there are challenges, but if you want something badly enough you will find a way to make it happen.

It’s been sixteen years since my last visit to New York, and I hanker to return. So it is with great excitement that this week I will revisit this special place.  I am attending the M2Moms conference where I will host a roundtable discussion alongside other marketing to mums experts from the USA. I will again enjoy the company of my aunt and uncle (sadly Chris has passed), and I am looking forward to seeing what new lessons the city will deliver!

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  • Valerie Orton
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    Katrina, This is an excellent article and I relate to all your points. I have done my life ‘differently’ from most, including travelling for two years throughout USA and Canada and having many different jobs.

    I love that you have created an opportunity to be back in New York on a professional basis – good luck to you and your business.

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