Many books/blogs of the finding-yourself genre are little more than superficial, follow-your-dreams mush with no teeth. They are lightweight on reality, rational thinking, and right action. Typically they don’t have chapters called “a well conceived plan to get there” and “how to pay your bills until you do.”
Too many people are trying to quit their jobs and take up photography, write a food blog, or become a yoga instructor overnight, without really thinking it through. Don’t get me wrong. I am all about finding work you love, doing something in this world that mean something to you. But any good career coach worth their salt will tell you to chart a realistic and sustainable path, so that you can keep doing what you are passionate about for a long time, and not just for a few short months. And it is absolutely possible. Many of the wonderful people I work with are doing precisely this.
Here are four simple rules you should follow to stay true to your vision in the long run.
1. Make a realistic assessment of your finances, resources, and timeline.
Think about employment options in your area of interest versus outright entrepreneurial options, and whether you’ll require additional training or certifications. Talk to as many people as possible who have successfully followed the path you want to embark on, and ask them what it took, how long it took, and if they had to do it all over again, would they?
2. Don’t check your brains in that door.
Sure, following a passion involves a lot of heart, but you can’t just totally ignore rational deliberation, sound analysis, and a logical sequence of premises and conclusions. By all means be creative, be inspired, and imagine possibilities. But don’t just drink the cool-aid and forget all about reality and your own circumstances and constraints. This very funny TED talk parody makes my point.
In other words, don’t imagine a world that isn’t. Don’t defy the impossible.
3. Just because it’s popular does not make it right.
I took a logic class in college, and if there is one thing I remember from that class it is argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”). Known by many names – fallacious argument, argument by consensus, bandwagon fallacy – it basically says something is true because many or most people believe it. “If many believe X, it is X.”
As human beings we have a tendency to accept absurd information as long as enough people repeat it. When making career decisions think carefully for yourself. You don’t have to take up backyard beekeeping just because all your hipster friends are.
4. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Trying out different things is important but aim for strategic integrity. The problem is that when you are inconsistent, when you keep changing your passions, dreams, and plan, people get confused. Potential employers, future business partners, even friends and family – will not know who you are. You are creating noise in the marketplace about you and what you offer. Then the real authentic opportunities that are meant for you cannot find their way to you.
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