Don’t Let This Turning Point in Your Career Pass You By

July 16, 2012 · 5 comments

One of the many thought-provoking speakers at the World Domination Summit was Cal Newport, who says you should NOT follow your passion when it comes to choosing a career.

WHY are you jumping those hurdles? What are you working toward?

WHY are you jumping those hurdles? What are you working toward?

Here’s what he thinks you should do instead: choose something you’re good at – and hopefully something you like doing even if you don’t love it – and get really, really good at it.

Make sure whatever you choose is valuable, that it’s a skill people might actually pay you to do, and there aren’t a ton of people who do it (for example, get super good at Excel rather than playing the guitar). Then take several years, maybe even a decade, to become an expert at that one thing. And once you do, leverage your expertise (and by then, your contacts and experience) to create the life you want.

It’s an interesting idea, that we should throw FOLLOW YOUR PASSION! out the window, even after we’ve been told again and again that if we don’t follow our passion, we’re somehow selling our soul to the devil.

But this idea wasn’t my favorite part of Cal’s talk.

What really resonated with me was when he said this: by the time most of us get to the point where we have enough expertise and contacts and experience to leverage and create the life we want to live, we don’t bother. Because the point where we’re finally able to create our own freedom is also the time when we feel a LOT of pressure to maintain our current path, to stick with what we’re doing.

Because once we’re valuable, our boss wants us to stay, our company wants us to work our way up the ranks, we want to earn more money for our family… And sometimes we think to ourselves, I’ve invested so much into this, why would I back down now? And that dream of creating the life we want fades into the distance.

Of course, sometimes our dreams change, and that’s OK. Sometimes we want something different at age 30 than we did at 22. If your dream changes, it’s perfectly OK to let it go and reach for something else.

But if you’ve simply lost sight of that dream, that’s when you have to say to yourself, THIS IS MY CHOICE. Once you develop enough skills and experience and contacts to become valuable, you should feel like you have MORE choices, not like you have fewer choices. Often, we trick ourselves into thinking we have fewer options by then – or maybe we really do have fewer options because of other life choices we’ve made, responsibilities we’ve taken on.

Remember, most of your obligations are actually choices. If you rearrange your choices to make room for new priorities, you just might discover the freedom to leverage the career you’ve built so you can live the life you want.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. Living purposefully takes effort. It requires swimming against the tide. It means making unconventional – even unpopular – decisions. And often, we have to keep checking in with ourselves to make sure we’re making conscious decisions about where we want to go, rather than letting the tide carry us.

But in the end, it’s worth it. Because you’re creating the life YOU want, not the one your neighbor wants or the one your family wants for you.

So if you’ve worked your way to the point where you have something to leverage, think about whether you want to keep on truckin’ or whether it’s time to use what you’ve built to create the life you’ve been waiting on. (Like this idea? Tweet it!)

Can you relate? How could you leverage your expertise?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison Kuta July 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Yes, it is a little sad but true. Comfort often breeds complacency. I have experienced that when I push myself out of my comfort zone ( even if its towards something that I don’t know for sure that I want or am not overly passionate about), it makes me better appreciate what I already am happy with having. There really aren’t any rules when it comes down to it, you’re your own boss.

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Allison Kuta July 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Also, have you read ‘The Shadow Effect’ or ‘A New Earth’ ?

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Alexis Grant July 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm

No — Worth reading? Tell us a bit about them?

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Allison July 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Read A New Earth First. If you can comprehend that, then get the Shadow Effect. Way too deep for me to explain but if you read it let me know. My email is kutaaaah@yahoo.com. Hope all is well- hi to your parents!

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elise daly parker July 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Excellent food for thought. Even though I’m not always happy about the results, I like the reminder that we make choices that keep us where we are, propel us forward, or even that our obligations are choices. I have done some of what Cal suggests recently. It’s been a long journey and a lot of it’s gone on through years of very active mothering, but here I am. I started as a writer/editor 30 years ago at Working Mother magazine. From there I went on to HBO, ultimately as a copywriter in their Creative Services department. Had some kids, became a birth teacher, did a bit of freelance writing. Got involved in ministry leadership for 15 years. Then had to earn more money. What to do? Well, I realized that though I had done many things, I had kept up my writing and editing. As a teacher, I had written up curricula and marketing materials. In ministry, I had written all kinds of things–newsletters, press releases, leadership worksheets and workshops, direct marketing mailers, speeches, ads, bulletin announcements, and more. All this experience was marketable. I convinced a friend of mine to allow me to write a few PR releases for her firm, landed a few freelance jobs, and within a year became the editor of a magazine. Through that job, which I’ve been doing now for seven years, I solicit writers for first-person narratives on hobbies, vacations, life lessons, passions, kids and family (this is a networking pub for the healthcare marketing industry). I draw out writers’ personal stories and, if the writers aren’t professional writers, I ask more questions, tweak the copy, and sometimes do extensive rewriting.
When my kids and nieces started applying to colleges, I realized I could really help them think through and perfect their all-important (well, at least very important!) essays. That led me to become a college essay coach. And this fall, I’m taking it on the local road, offering my expertise through a workshop, Essentials of College Essay Excellence. I guess you could say I’m leveraging my expertise, experience, and contacts to create the life I want…and I’m loving it! I feel very blessed.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I was actually in a panic trying to figure out what to do to earn a living…It’s all worked out.
Sorry so long. And thanks for the blog spark that led to taking a look back at my journey!

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