Life as a 20-something: “Don’t wait for your own happiness”

Life as a 20-something: “Don’t wait for your own happiness”

This is an interview with a 20-something who is doing Really Cool Shit. Look out for new ones each Friday @

Kim Pham has such a mature & enlightened view of the world, it makes you wonder how she’s only 23. As the Head of Platform at Frontline Ventures — a VC firm based in Dublin, Ireland — she is used to fitting outside The Box. But hey, if taking solo trips to places like Taipei is normal, who wants to fit in?

For as long as she could remember, Kim has always been one to push boundaries: She focused on the early-stage tech scene at a college that only valued a Finance degree, and moved across The Pond right after graduation.

Those decisions take guts.

But, how do you become brave enough to make choices like that? How do you get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable?

“Greatness comes from being uncomfortable. It could have been super easy to kick it in New York after school, but I think it’s super powerful to do something that scares you.”

Take that first step

When you decide to move to a city like Dublin as a native Bostonian, one might not think it’s too far fetched. But, anytime you decide to leave friends, family — comfort — for a new city & a five hour time difference, it’s not that easy.

“I knew that it wouldn’t be a soft landing,” Kim said as she described her decision to move to Europe after graduation. “I was joining a team of three people. But, I also knew that New York was always home. I wanted to push myself outside the box and get uncomfortable again. I think magic happens there”

Of course, taking that first step is always the most difficult.

But, you know what? If Kim hadn’t been so proactive — and so unafraid of doing crazy shit, she might not have ended up in Dublin at all. In her own words: “When I was applying for jobs, I never thought I’d end up in Ireland…I just sent [my application] in. But, it ended up turning into an incredible learning experience. I fell in love with the team, the role, the city.” She didn’t have blinders on — she just did It.

So, the damn thing. Send in that application, or make that phone call.

You never know where you might end up.

Realize it might be Hard

Kim is the first to admit that living outside The Box isn’t always easy. Actually, sometimes — it hurts.

“It was really tough. [When I got to Dublin] I had to learn how to be alone, and be okay with that. I had to build my personal roadmap alone. And honestly, it was the incredibly challenging— but it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

Because, hurting means that you are pushing yourself to grow. You are becoming You.

Kim isn’t a stranger to this push & pull of life. She arrived at NYU Stern with a clear conviction that early stage start ups were her Thing, her Passion. She fell in love with them in high school (like a #boss), and thought that “business school” would teach her how to start a business — not how to become an Investment Banker.

“University was a struggle, because I saw all of my friends following this clear, distinct path. They all had been placed in jobs by senior year. It became increasingly difficult to have this conviction in something that I loved, even if I couldn’t see the path. It took a while for me to embrace falling outside of the Stern spectrum.”

But, you know what? Kim not only became okay with fitting outside The Box, but she conquered it. She saw the value in that difficulty, and replicated it by making herself uncomfortable again — four years later.

That push & pull of life becomes addicting once you try it.

Don’t wait for own Happiness

Kim’s parting advice really summed up her rockstar outlook on life: “Even though it sounds cliche — Don’t wait for your own Happiness.”

There are some aspects of this weird transition into Adulting that aren’t hard. “Thankfully, you can solve a lot of the logistical questions through Google,” Kim said in a reassuring tone (I know you’ve all done the same — i.e. where do you get laundry done? Why is this so hard?).

But, before you even get to that step — you have to take responsibility for yourself: “You need to tell the world: I am in control of this.” And thankfully, this ability to be proactive about Growing Up, whether it’s your finances or your relationships, is something you can learn.

Kim was quick to admit, “Learning to be proactive was something I initially struggled with…it’s not like there’s a simple ‘on’ switch.” It was more of a compilation of activities and experiences and moments of self-reflection that did the trick.

Through exercises like journal writing, practicing gratitude, and meditation, Kim has learned to Let Go. She’s realized that you can take baby steps every day to get to your happy place.

Because, Happiness isn’t something worth waiting for.

Thanks, Kim.

If you enjoyed this — check out my blog, On Adulting, for more observations about this weird time as a 20-something. And feel free to tell me your thoughts 🙂

Do you fit outside The Box? How do you push yourself? Share and share!


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