“I’ve got to figure it out,” I lamented to myself in between sips of my delicious vanilla bean latte.
“What’s wroooong with me? Why don’t I know what I want to do with my life? And who the HELL are all are these superfreaks who seem to have it all planned out?”
It was the spring of 2006 and I was a college grad without a clue.
At the time, this uncertainty made me want to vomit with anxiety. In the years since, though, I’ve come to discover something insanely interesting and helpful, something that I wish I would’ve known back then:
Career planning may be a terrible, horrible, sucky idea.
Here’s what I mean.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW THE ENDPOINT
Guys, our logical brains want to have everything planned out. Our crazybrains think that if we only do enough analysis, we can think our way into the answers, into the “perfect” job or career.
Even worse, our crazybrains think that if we can’t think our way into the answer, we’re screwed.
Thing is, this just isn’t true.
In the years after graduation, I began talking with lots of people. I sought out people who were insanely fulfilled with their life paths and who were super happy OMG!, and I began asking them simple questions– questions like “How did you find your path? How did you know that this was what you were “supposed” to do?”
And I found that almost all of them had a really strange answer:
“I didn’t. I didn’t know.”
At first I was like, “This must be a fluke,” but over time it was proven time and time again: Many of the happiest, most awesome people I knew didn’t start off with a grand plan.
Most of them didn’t start off with a clear vision of what the endpoint would be, and yet they ended up doing insanely fulfilling, passion-igniting, made-for-them things.
They disproved– no, CRUSHED the myth that in order to “find your path,” you’ve got to figure everything out right away and have a clear vision of what the endpoint will be.
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT IDEA
While driving from my hometown of Boise, Idaho to Seattle on Wednesday, I listened to lots of gangsta rap an audiobook of Jim Collins’ and Jerry Porras’ Built to Last (for the seven-millionth time). The book is based on a six-year research project designed to determine what separates enduring great companies from similar companies that failed to become great (read more here).
During the course of their research, the authors found something that really surprised them, which they dubbed “The Myth of the Great Idea”:
Few of the visionary companies began life with a great idea. In fact, some began life without any specific idea and a few even began with outright failures.
– Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, authors of Built to Last
The authors tell the story of Bill Hewitt and Dave Packard, the founders of HP, forming a company in their garage without any clear product idea. In their early years, they produced products which varied from automatic urinal flushers to bowling foul-line indicators to fat-reducing shock machines.
Masaru Ibuka, the founder of Sony, started off with a rice cooker that failed in the marketplace.
J. Willard Marriott, founder of Marriott Corporation, began his business by opening an A&W Root Beer stand– he just didn’t know what else to do at the time.
In fact, almost none of the great companies in the research study began life with a great idea or a grand vision of the product they’d create. All they knew was that they wanted to build a great company.
Guys, the evolution of a great personal path isn’t a whole lot different than that of a great company (Nerd alert! Nerd alert!).
It’s not our job to figure it all out right now. It’s not our job to come up with “The Great Idea.”
We don’t have to know exactly where we’re going– we don’t have to begin with a “great idea” or a “grand plan” in order to build a great life. In fact, our paths might even start off with outright failures, and that’s ok– as long as we get a couple of other things right.
Yep, that’s right– it’s imperative that we get a couple of other things right.
After all, starting off in the weeds in no way guarantees that we’ll end up somewhere awesome.
If we don’t start off with a good foundation, we could just end up– well, in the weeds. We might never find our way out.
Or maybe our paths will evolve, but in a less than ideal direction, like toward the murky creek water where we could get stuck in the mud or even drown.
So how do we pick the “right” place to start?
How do we minimize our chances of getting stuck in a less than ideal path?
And how do we “live our way into the answers” and allow our unclear paths to evolve toward greatness without having a total panic attack every day of the week?
It turns out that there are very specific, very simple ways to do this– ways to set things up so that our unclear paths have the best chance of evolving into greatness and clarity rather than spiraling into shittiness.
This fall, I’m unveiling a project that’s been in the works for quite some time: The Unlost Guide to Finding Your Career and Life Path.
FORGET THE “SHOULDS” AND DISCOVER YOUR PATH
Forget the “shoulds;” I’ll show you how to find your own personal path and how to live your way into the answers, even if you have no clue where to start. Learn more (and be thoroughly entertained) right over here.
Also, my story ran last week on Amber Rae’s awesome and inspiring site, revolution.is. Check it out here: “Dance With What Brings You to Life.”
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[Image by dhammza]