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The tough-love advice Malcolm Gladwell would give his 21-year-old self

Journalist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell did not always know exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

"I wanted to go into advertising and I couldn't get a job, so I'm an accidental journalist," he told CNBC at OZY Fest. "I only got this job because I couldn't get in anywhere else, so I'm a good example of keeping your options open."

In fact, Gladwell was fired from his first job after just two months because he would sleep in until 11 a.m. If he could go back in time to give his younger self one piece of tough-love advice it would be this: Get out of your comfort zone.

"I would have told my 21-year-old self to leave North America," he says.

Malcolm Gladwell speaks onstage during OZY FEST 2017
Bryan Bedder | Getty Images
Malcolm Gladwell speaks onstage during OZY FEST 2017

Gladwell explains that travel can open a person's horizons and give them a more sophisticated understanding of the world.

"In retrospect, I have spent too much of my time in the same and narrow world," he says. "I would have been a much more interesting and thoughtful person if I had, I don't know, gone to South America, gone somewhere different."

Travel, he contends, "Changes people in a really important way. It gives them a new perspective on what they're capable of, it educates them about people different from themselves, it gives them a knowledge of a world they wouldn't otherwise have," says Gladwell. "It's fantastic."

Gladwell's advice to travel runs counter to the perspective that self-made millionaire Grant Cardone offers: "The reason many millennials want to travel is because they have no purpose at home. Travel, while there are some benefits to it, does not guarantee you will find your purpose."

But Gladwell disagrees, and says passing up the chance to explore the world is a missed opportunity.

"We penalize people for not being aware right off the mark what they're suited for," he says, "and that's a mistake."

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