If I were 22.There is no Substitute for Intelligence gathering & Absorption

There are lots of things I know now that I wish I had known when I was 22.

I would have loved to have known for example that the Middle East was going to turn the way it did and would have capitalized on the opportunities accordingly – both politically and business wise.

In retrospect, I think the “game changer” move that changed the whole Middle East map was triggered under Former President Jimmy Carter and the Shah of Iran. If the Shah had ignored Carter’s advice back in 1977, there wouldn’t be this problem in Afghanistan, nor would there have been the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq would never have dared to even send a plane over Iran. In fact, the Gulf War wouldn’t have happened, nor the clash between East and West nor any of the problems of the past 30 years, including the exporting of religious fanaticism and the eternal problems my homeland Lebanon was and still experiencing over the time period.  Radical Islam would not have existed and the Shah would have continued to implement reforms. He made a serious mistake by accepting demands of the Carter administration to give Islamic fundamentalists a national platform. In retrospect, maybe I should have started my career working for CIA instead of Wall Street.  I am real glad though I caught up on all in the last decade and positioned myself accordingly – at the epicenter of the intel gathering process.  Just wished I did it earlier.

I would have loved to have known that the Internet would have been invented, so that I could have invented LinkedIn – not to mention Google, Twitter and Facebook! It would have been equally useful to have known that Steve Jobs was going to launch the iPod and the Internet was going to revolutionize the music industry.  More about business, I would have also loved to have better understood the symbiotic relationship back then between technology and finance and to have rather co-founded such firms as Kleiner Perkins or KKR before the implosion of such firms to the pinnacle of finance rather than helping build Wall Street firms betting the ranch on esoteric securities they never really understood.  By the same term, one only learns from his mistakes and others as well – Nothing though trumps access to the right intel.

Lessons learned? It was and still is today all a matter of gathering the right intelligence – Intel I did not have;  hence no ability to execute on.  Never again.  I learned my lesson loud and clear and feel today so much stronger about it.

Most 22-year-olds nowadays today think that the way to make their fortunes is through setting up tech businesses, and it is true that can be a fruitful direction. But other more conventional businesses shouldn’t be forgotten. There are still plenty of different sectors that need “shaking up”. It is more important to follow your passion than going into tech simply to make a fortune. Not everybody is technically minded anyway, and if you don’t really love what you do you won’t succeed.

Now on a lighter side, and as a 22-year-old starting again, I’d love to spend my life from a really young age doing things that completely transform the world. Once again, I started my career as a Wall Street investment banker dealing with and servicing the mega-rich. Looking in retrospect, I believe I should have been thinking more about becoming the self-made billionaire entrepreneur myself rather than servicing those folks.

As a 22-year-old it is important to have an incredible attitude and an absolute blast too. You are only 22 once! Make sure you have the time of your life, stay up for plenty of sunrises and meet all kinds of people in as many places as possible. If you get the opportunity to travel, grab it with both hands. Get out there, dance and play as well as working hard and creating things.

I never looked 30 years ahead. It was one step at a time, trying to understand the culture of the new country I had embraced (the United States of America) building block upon block and sometimes finding those blocks fell to the ground on the way. But I’ve been extraordinarily lucky, have a wonderful family and friends, and embrace life voraciously every day.

I am still in my prime and I believe the wealth of experience and knowledge I have acquired in the last 30 years is priceless. I know for a fact that my impact on the world is growing exponentially and that I will soon get to where I exactly want to be.

What matters most at this point in my life is that I will try to live with the same zest for life whether I am 22 or over 100. Age isn’t as important so long as you are surrounded by people you love, doing things you passionately believe in.

Passion is a force that awakens you. Passion blows the lid off of your imagination, your capability and your drive. It shakes your mind free from limiting beliefs and breaks your old patterns of thinking. Passion is what gives you a sense of purpose.

Passion though is first gear; it will get you going, but hunger is the ticket that will take you there.

The only regret I have is not knowing this back when I was 22… It’s not about what life is going to give to you, it’s about what you must bring to bear…. Never too late though.

I wish for you an extraordinary life.

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Ziad K. Abdelnour, Wall Street financier, trader and author is President & CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a private family office that backs accomplished operating executives in growing their businesses both organically and through acquisitions and trades physical commodities – mostly oil derivatives – throughout the world.

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