Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chances are you will not have a great career - unless...

I recently rewatched Larry Smith’s TED Talk Why you will fail to have a great career. I watched it when it first came onto TED about two years ago now, but being caught up in My Year of TED the message didn’t sink in very well.

Larry contends that you will not have a great career because you can only do that by following your passion, and very few people ever do this. Of course, we all know we should do it, everyone keeps telling us that is what will make us happy, and that is what will make what we do truly memorable – but you won’t do it.

He goes on to explain the reasons you won’t do it, which boil down to the fact that you will make excuses for not finding your passion. These include the ideas that you have to be lucky to find it and be able to pursue it; that geniuses are the only ones who ever get there; or that the people who do it are weird in some way, and I am normal – all complete crap by the way.

Worse still, people convince themselves that if the concept that working hard will give you a good career is true; working really, really, really, really hard must give you a great career. That is totally wrong, and I hope you all realise that. If you work really, really, really, really hard all you will get is burnt out, underappreciated, used up, and completely frustrated that you put in so much effort – and still do not have a great career.

And even if you do search for your passion
The second part of Larry’s talk is even more interesting – that some of you will try to find your passion, but you will either fail to identify it, or fail to live it. The people who fail to identify often do so because they confuse an ‘interest’ with passion – which will not carry you through to that great career.

Those that do find it may not fare any better, since the majority of the people that find their passion and do nothing with it. As Larry explains, most people will use the ‘human relationships’ excuse – they are not willing to pursue their passion at the sake of their relationships. That a great career requires sacrifice and a commitment of time and energy that precludes being a great <father, friend, husband, mother, wife, etc.>

This is a ridiculous point of view, since following your passion and leading a great life, can benefit everyone around you. People who have great careers – the artists, scientists, engineers, astronauts, politicians, doctors, educators and so forth, who inspire people with the creations, achievements and abilities – are seldom remembered as being ‘bad people’ who lacked any form of interpersonal relationship.

The whole idea of using this as an excuse for not pursuing your passion is just that – an excuse. The real reason that you will fail to have a great career, Larry comes to at the end of his talk:
You know why. In your heart of hearts, you know why, and I'm being deadly serious... It is because you are... You know what you are. You're afraid to pursue your passion. You're afraid to look ridiculous. You're afraid to try. You're afraid you may fail. He’s right, you all know that he is completely and utterly right.
Fear is the thing that will hold you back from pursuing your passion, from having a great career – and an even greater life. I lived with the first of these fears for many years: a fear of trying to discover my passion. In hindsight, it was driven a little by not thinking I was remarkable enough to have a great career, but mainly it was driven by the belief that I wasn’t anything enough to be an exceptional person who deserved one.

Overcoming the fear, yeah who am I kidding
Committing to My Year of TED was a massive mindset shift for me – I had overcome this innate fear that my passion would be ordinary, or unachievable. To my surprise, I managed to get over that hurdle, and now I’m on the second part; overcoming the fear of pursuing my passion. After the confidence of clearing the first hurdle, I know I can clear the second.

Even still, I am constantly afraid of all of the things that Larry lists: I am afraid that I am not enough to do what I have to do; that I will pick the wrong way to pursue my passion; and that I will end up failing. But I keep Larry’s final line in mind...
So, those are the many reasons why you are going to fail to have a great career, unless... Unless... 
I am living the ‘unless’, I have been since the middle of 2011 when I started this whole crazy experiment with my life – and I will live the unless right up until the point that I do have a great career, regardless of how it looks. I refuse to give up just because I am afraid of failure; there are worse things out there after all – like a mediocre life for one.

Are you brave enough to have a great career? Have you even faced the first fear of understanding your passion?



Joy said...

For years I struggled to find my passion. I told myself if only I can find my passion I promise that I would give my best effort to pursue it. When I finally re-discovered my passion in writing, a different set of fear came to me. Fear of not being good enough, fear that nobody will like my work, fear of putting myself out there, fear of being judged, etc. I always try to remember the promise I made myself, that I will do everything to give my best effort to pursue my passion. I think the fears will always be there, that's why my motto is "Do it afraid." It's okay to get scared sometimes, it reminds me that I'm able to feel. And by feeling, I can write better.. I hope. :)

Kylie Dunn said...

Hi Joy, it's so fantastic that you are pursuing your passion, and you are a fantastic writer to boot. Sadly, I think that when your passion is a creative endeavour it is even scarier to pursue - there is something more intimate and personal, and of course the fear that inspiration will leave us at some stage. I love your "Do it afraid" motto, embrace the fear :-)

Adam Bailey said...

[This is long, sorry. I was going to edit it down, but instead I wrote this and made it longer, life is weird]

My life has always been about passion, unfortunately I'm also a slow learner. Until recently (I'm 46), I couldn't internalize advice or other people's wisdom, and I'm talking about successful, healthy individuals, people I seek out now. I was like a speed boat without a steering wheel, my motor was passion, and it was powerful at the time, but I always ended up crashing into the shore.

I chased money, prestige, and other hollow ideas that left me a little emptier then when I started, my passion dwindling away each year until it was just a memory and explained away as youthful vigor.

Such is the irony of life that I finally have my hands on the wheel, but my motor needs to be rebuilt. That said, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in my life. This last year and a half has been, and continues to be, the most fulfilling ever.

I love following along with your progress Kylie, similar to you, but without all of the awesome accomplishments, I made a decision a year and a half ago to follow my passion. I walked away from a good job in a trade I'd been a part of for more than 25 years to follow my dream. I wanted to write, to make a great living doing something creative, something fun.

After reading this post and taking an honest look at myself, I can see I'm still searching. I definitely love to write and will continue, but I feel like I need to focus in a little more. When I read "The real reason that you will fail..." something clicked, something I hadn't noticed before. My real dream, my real passion is still waiting to be found, I can feel it! Because I'm still afraid to look ridiculous, afraid to try, afraid to fail.

I love moments like this when everything I've done up to a certain point starts to feel like a dead end, like once again I've chosen the wrong path. Then, out of nowhere, a doorway opens and I'm given another clue.

Thanks for the awesome post Kylie, you've become a guiding light as I travel the 'unless.'

~ Adam

One more thing! "Do it afraid." I love that, thanks Joy, you are another one that I'm keeping my eye on. Thanks for being such an incredible example.

N A Eldred said...

Kylie, I saw that talk and it really hit home. But like he said, I wouldn't follow my passion...yet. I had a family depending on me. But every night I came home drained by doing something I hated. I was useless to my family. The best thing that happened to me was getting fired a month and a half ago.

Finally my wife saw that the only way our family would thrive was if I followed my passion. Yes. I needed her permission I'm sad to say. But once I had it I was able to take off.

For the first time in 13 years I'm loving life. I'm happy for you, Joy, and Adam. Because I've lived a life without passion and it's not really living at all. And you won't learn that, unless..,,

lynn silva said...

Ohhh Kylie,

I really needed this post at this point in time. In order to find my passion, I had to clear a lot of nasty thoughts out of my head. In order to pursue, I had to do the same. It started rolling and things were going perfect. I didn't prepare myself for the resistance though. It's definitely not enough to find your passion and go after it. You have to face, and break through that fear...(aka resistance) every single day. Fear of failure, rejection, people mocking you, people not liking you, looking inexperienced, being weird, being alone etc. You overcome one, and another seeps right in trying to paralyze you. You come to a point where you either sway like the wind and be like what you think everyone will approve you as doing and saying, or you BE AUTHENTIC, face the fear...and as Joy says, DO IT AFRAID . My latest excuse has been that 'people are jerks.' Ummm yeah, they are, but they're going to continue being 'jerks' whether I pursue my passion or not. This is my 'unless' right now. Thanks for another empowering post. : )

Kylie Dunn said...

It's a long journey Adam, which often requires you to be ready to admit that you aren't quite there yet. I thought I'd found it quite a few times before getting to where I am now - and I'm still maintaining an open mind that I haven't got it all worked out yet :-)
Neil, I am so happy that you are on your way. It is a way to live a happier and more fulfilling life, and I know that your family will want that for you. Go for it.
and Lynn, I know that you will get through your current unless - you have more courage than you allow yourself to believe.
I know that you will all have great careers because you are willing to face your fears, as hard as they are :-)

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