Lydia Matson on Taking a Gap Year, Living in a New City, and Finding a Passion

I’ve met wonderful people through some of my work adventures over the past year. Lydia Matson is one of my favorites, and I think you’ll see why in this interview discussion I had with her this summer. She was one of my fellow participants in the Praxis program, and we faced many of the same challenges together.

Unsurprisingly, we both talked a lot about our time in the program, but Lydia has some good things to say for anyone interested in doing difficult, uncomfortable, brave, and interesting things in their late teenage years.

One of the things you experienced during this program was the move to a new city. What were the biggest surprises and challenges?

Reaching out to coworkers and making friends through work was one way I started to build my community. Use your family’s network, find your church community, get to know your roommates and floormates, and try sites like Find whatever your hobby is and find wherever there’s a club for that. There are usually free resources everywhere.

Give yourself time, because it’s not going to feel comfortable right away. Give yourself a break about it and realize that this experience may be a little tough but that it’s going to make you such a better person and so much stronger because of it. I’m not afraid to move to any new city or new place after this experience.

What did you do for your personal development project?

I did an extended blog post and reading assignment with TK [TK Coleman, education director for Praxis] as I was working on figuring out my passion.

TK gave me a bunch of literature to read to help me with the questions I was having about my work. I read the Seth Godin book Linchpin, If You’re Gonna Cry, Go Outside, and How to Find Fulfilling Work. We would talk about those books and write blog posts. It pushed me – I don’t like writing. I also wish I did better, but I did more than I ever expected to do.

I also listened to personal development podcasts like the Tim Ferriss talkshow, Good Life Project, the James Altucher Show. I would also write about what I listened to and get it edited.

After this, I’ve continued all of the reading, and I listen to podcasts every day.

What was your coaching experience like? The Praxis community?

Working with TK was like having a life coach. Even at the most difficult parts of the program he was a really big supporter for me. He wasn’t pushing an agenda – he was someone who listened and gave me really honest advice, practical solutions, and practical steps for the challenges I had.

I really knew that Praxis was something I had to do when I went to our opening seminar and met some of the most interesting people ever. I knew that our class and the people in our class and the people running it were so different and going to bring such unique things to this word that if I didn’t join, I would regret it.

How was this educational experience different from your previous ones?

It’s been the most wonderful educational experience that I’ve ever had. I felt like everything we talked about was relevant and had a real context and real purpose behind it. I had some of the best intellectual conversations with you guys about philosophy, history, economics – that truly has opened up my mind and made me a better person.

Reading The Rise and Decline of the State was one of my greatest achievements because I’ve never read such a big book. Past Lydia would have just given up on that book and would never have opened it. It gave so much context to history and life for me. So did the economics unit. The philosophy unit seriously exploded my mind and made me look at the world in a whole new light.

All the units had purpose, reason, and thought behind them. That’s why I left college: it’s stupid that you have to take classes that you don’t care about. With Praxis, learning was purposeful and meaningful. It’s real – that was the best part about it. You could actually walk away a better person for knowing these things.

Do you feel you’ve walked away from this program more prepared for professional success? In what ways?

Yes, I do. I think the best way I’m more prepared is knowing what I need to work on. Before I joined this program I was kind of just floating in the wind. This experience was like going through the process of refining. They turned up the heat on my problems, skills, opportunities. The whole Praxis experience has made me more actually aware of what steps I need to take to be a better person in a professional environment and aware of what makes me valuable to the working world.

What advice would you give to other young people who want to break the mold in their educations or careers?

Don’t listen to haters. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Stop doubting yourself. If you see that there’s a reason for doing something, take time to think about it and just stick with your gut. My biggest mistake? I knew I made this leap, and I knew it was for a big important reason. If I could do it all again, I would have just stuck to my guns more.

Anyone who wants to break the mold and go through this program is going to go through tough times, and it’s going to be hard – and they’re going to learn so much because of it. The more you listen to the self-doubt, the more you give up that control and let it eat at you, the harder it is to get what you want out of this process. Just don’t feed the doubt. If there’s something that really motivates you, cling to it and fight for it – the confusion will work itself out, but don’t feed into it.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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