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This one is fairly recent – not a childhood belief, but a more recent, ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’ belief. The one dumb thing I used to believe is is that you need to focus on one single thing to be successful.
As I struggled with my career, pouring more energy into succeeding as an IT professional in a corporation, I couldn’t figure out my penultimate career goal – do I want to be a manager, switch fields, blah blah blah. It was all along the same thread – one job, one focus.
Now I switched fields, but I still love IT and could go back to it. The real thing I realized is that I am also an artist, a community activist, a horseback rider and a networker. Now that I spend time ‘focusing’ on all those different things I feel way more fulfilled. A single focus, no matter what I found, would never have satisfied all my different strengths and whims.
A really cool book helped me celebrate that fact in myself. It is called ‘The Renaissance Soul’ by Margaret Lobenstine and you can buy it from my Amazon store – http://www.socialfire.ca/a-store. I always knew this about myself – but it so satisfying to read someone elses words describing exactly what I feel.
Sometimes I love the capitalist game of money, career and the feeling of getting ahead. For most of my adult life, this part of me has had the biggest voice. I need to look at the numbers on paper and go for the decisions with the best financial outcome.
I was brought up in upper class circles – I went to a private high school, I did another year of private school in England then got my BSc from McGill. My family took it for granted that I would get a good job and succeed in the north american society. If I have a continuum of persona’s, this one would be furthest to the right – and it is quite a ways over.
There is a subtle caveat though – I am not motivated by money. Career success and financial success are just indicators that I am winning the game. I have no desire to accumulate money to buy stuff, I just like to see the numbers and the titles grow. But it is also the part of me that is the strongest critic – keeping me in safe roles, when really I want to bust out, ditch the shackles of being financially responsible and try something new.
My capitalist personality doesn’t like to take too many risks and likes to analyze the numbers a lot before jumping in with both feet. This is also the side of me that is proud of my prestigious schooling and family history. I know how to make business connections and feel comfortable in the old boys club.
It is this side of me which makes me feel ‘split’ – because it is home to some of my strongest opinions and it is almost always at odds with the rest of me. Labeling this persona and learning to treat her as a consultant amongst the group really makes sense to me and helps me to give all my opinions context.
The strongest values here are: connections are everything, after that, make sure you have done your research and know the financial possibilities of any decision (almost paralysis by analysis – but I am ok with that)
I am reading the book the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – I am only 20 pages in, but it has really got me thinking.
There is a concept in the book of a personal legend – basically a life mission that you innately follow while young, but get distracted from as you age and life’s responsibilities and perceived limitations build up. Like I said, I haven’t read the whole book, I would advise reading it yourself to truly understand Paulo’s words.
So of course, I have started thinking about what my personal legend is? What did I do instinctively when I was younger, and what do I yearn for now. It goes hand in hand with something else I have been thinking about, what is my definition of success.
I have a good, corporate job; an amazing house with a huge yard and a pool; a really great marriage; 3 kids – by capitalist standards I am pretty successful. And I do appreciate everything I have accomplished, but these days I don’t walk around with this feeling that “I did it!”.
I walked away from great opportunities in Toronto and Montreal to work on ranch in BC. From there I have dabbled in a few careers before getting ‘stuck’ in my current job. Each decision along the way was generally decided ‘what is the coolest thing I could do next’. I yearn for adventure, for great stories and to experience different environments.
I think everytime I create a experience that is great for story telling, I get that feeling – the “I did it” feeling. Maybe that is narcissistic, but it feeds my soul. I have done so many fantastic and adventurous things in my life, it is time to get creative, throw of the golden handcuffs and create some adventures now and here with my whole being (not just the one is left after 5pm).
Most people, including myself, will use financial security as a reason not to pursue adventure. But why!? What is more fun – being broke, figuring out ways to make it work and experiencing success on your own terms. Or, having a middle class income and buying a new couch. I know I come from a position of comfort and take it for granted that I can feed my family, but it only makes me want to do it more, because if I was out there truly experiencing life as fully as I could I would be giving back more to the community.
My personal legend is to experience adventure and connect worlds to each other. I am certain of it.
My definition of success is to have a life that I enjoy reliving in stories. And to have a trail of people getting connected: to myself, to each other, or to nature; and have them happier for it.
If I could figure out a way to measure those two things: how to tally up the stories and keep track of the connections; I would be able to measure my success. If only everyone could figure out how to measure their version of success – I bet most people wouldn’t do it dollars.