I had the chance to Interview Judy in Dec of 2019 and absolutely loved what she had to say about designing the life she wanted.
“My whole life I grew up following rules. I thought that if you followed all the rules then you would of course inevitably find yourself in success. That’s why I was a very easy kid to take care of. Growing up I had good grades and when I was out I respected my curfew, I always did my chores and took out the trash. It wasn’t until I got to high-school and I needed to write college applications that I realized that I had no personality. I was this bland person trying to write a personality essay on why a school should accept me. Whatever I put together didn’t convince me that I was special enough and I couldn’t have imagined it convincing an admissions officer that I should be admitted to the school I’m applying to. When I was admitted to the first university I applied to, I couldn’t help but notice how little people tried and how unaware they were of all the opportunities they had available to them in life. At that point, I decided to apply to Duke University and I got into their engineering program.”
– Judy Zhu
Judy then went on to graduate, start a company and sell it. At this point, when she sold her company she moved to work in Montreal for an Ed-Tech company. That’s where I met Judy Zhu.
I noticed immediately that her outlook on life was very different and her horizon of possibilities was endless. Needless to say, we instantly connected and became friends. As the saying goes, you are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with. Well, if you know Judy you would want her to be one of these 5 people.
When Judy Zhu graduated from Duke and moved to Montreal, she found herself far away from her highly ambitious Duke community and slowly drifting away from the future she imagined. She explained that it’s so easy to get stuck and not know what right steps to take when everyone around you is also trying to figure it out.
Her dream was to live in San Francisco and surround herself with people that are unstuck and bulldozing towards their goals. She made it happen.
How to get unstuck and take action to make your dreams a reality?
1- Understand yourself first.
Are you a risk-taker, do you make fast decisions or do you prefer to take slow safe steps? You have to find a way to take action that best works with your personality. Judy explains that although she’s very outgoing, changing course in life is difficult for her. She moves forward by taking small impactful actions. In the case of finding a job in San Francisco, her small impactful action was to book a flight to SF and make her dream a reality. Once she’d arrive in SF, she knew at that point she had no other option but to take another step forward. While on the plane, she texted her friend and asked her if she could crash on her couch to which the answer was yes. The next step once she arrived to SF was to get in touch with her contacts and start booking coffee chats. Five weeks later, one connection after another, she finally landed on the right opportunity.
Had she stayed in Montreal and dilly-dallied toward her dream, it would have been a lot easier for her to get comfortable and not move forward.
2- Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Especially for new graduates, it’s rare that you know exactly what you are passionate about doing right out of university. Surround yourself with new people, try new activities, network and ask questions. Every day, as you try different things you will learn something new about yourself and get closer and closer to your purpose.
3- If you’re asking other people to validate a decision you are making it means you have already made a completely different decision.
Judy was interviewing for jobs in Montreal and received two offers. She called a friend to ask him which one should she choose and that’s when her friend said “Judy the fact that you are asking me right now about these two jobs means you don’t want either of them. What do you really want to do?” To which she immediately answered without hesitation that she wants to be in SF.
That’s when Judy went on to explain that we all know what we really want to do deep down, but our fears of uncertainty make us hesitate and choose the easy way out. It’s only a matter of time that our gut will take us back in the direction we originally wanted to go. It’s that little voice in the back of our minds that pulls us back to where we actually needed to be.