I was bored.
The college professor was droning on at the front of the class.
Many of us have had that experience.
After completing high school I had selected accounting as my career choice.
The college was chosen.
It was a few months in.
And the reality was becoming clear.
I hated accounting.
But I decided to persevere and finish my first year.
So the next year I decided to pivot.
I transferred to an education degree where accounting was just part of the mix.
And just as in business we have the options to adjust our life and career mid-course.
The first career
After spending the next 3 years learning how to be a teacher I was given my first posting.
A small private school.
In a city I had never lived in.
600 miles away.
My fellow teachers were supportive and the environment and culture was disciplined.
It was a junior college and the teenagers were boisterous and bursting with energy.
It was a happy school.
But as I spent the next few years teaching I realised I wasn’t happy.
Just showing up.
I hated my first career.
After 5 years I had enough and I couldn’t stand the thought of another year teaching people who mostly didn’t want to learn.
They are called “teenagers”
So I came up with a novel plan.
The strategy was inspired by my role as a work experience coordinator at the school.
During the school holidays (the big summer break) I tried 3 careers in 3 weeks.
Thinking is one thing but actually doing and experiencing it are another.
The dream and the reality are often worlds apart.
To really understand a new career you need to get into the trenches and see it from the ground.
Get your hands dirty.
The 3 work experience roles were selling life insurance, real estate and working in the tech industry.
It was an eye-opener.
The choice became clear.
And that is where I have spent most of my last 30 years in various roles and businesses.
It has been an exciting adventure.
Designing your life is not a destination but a journey where the experiences, joys and failures make it a rich tapestry that is never boring.
You have never arrived.
It is never perfect.
So what did I learn along the way?
Digital has changed the game
The messy process of designing a life, a business or a startup is something I have often contemplated.
But in the last decade, the opportunity to do it with less risk and greater opportunity has now exploded the possibilities and the potential.
You can build a business while doing your day job. I started my online publishing business while working a 9 to 5 job.
I used low cost and free tools like WordPress and Twitter. It cost me $10 for the domain name.
The world of digital, mobile and social allows you to build a business with little risk with a low budget.
I tested ideas with small investments in time and money.
It’s all about you
Let me start with what the process isn’t.
It is not looking at it from a distance.
Dreams and reality are two different things.
Sure…dream but then leap in and test it.
Also, it isn’t what your parents want for you.
They designed their lives.
We are unique human beings.
Your path is not their path.
“When I grow up I want to be me”.
You are not Steve Jobs.
You are you.
Idols are one thing.
Inspiration is what they provide.
But their habits and routines can be emulated.
You bring your own skills, passions and innate ability to the table.
The messy process
So here it is from 30,000 feet.
It starts with some questions.
- What are my strengths? This is easy to say and sometimes hard to grasp. But by starting you will discover strengths you maybe didn’t expect.
- What do I love doing? (What makes your heart sing). Awareness is needed here. Reflection and listening and feeling your emotions when working and playing.
- What is my expertise? Reflect and look back at what you have learnt over the years.
- Where do they all intersect? It will often not be apparent.
Here is a way that I discovered to unearth my passionate purpose.
It starts with a messy process.
If you were hoping for a perfect formula then I can’t help you.
But these are some of the essentials that worked for me.
#1. Read and research
Consume everything you can find on a topic.
Blog posts, books and videos.
Write down some ideas.
Come up with different options.
There will never be a perfect answer.
The reality is that many different options could work.
They could all be what you love to do.
Many of us today have 7-8 careers in our lifetime.
If it is a business start with a minimal viable product.
Or if you are wanting a career then do an internship.
I did 3 careers in 3 weeks.
Make low-risk failures.
Share your creation with the world.
Publish your work.
Take the risk of being judged.
Then ignore the critics.
Put yourself out there. Social media has given us this freedom.
Use it to discover what resonates.
The simple act of sharing has power.
By stepping into the light you will change the world and the world will change you.
Many people give up when success is often just around the corner.
Failure and pain are a human condition.
Get used to it.
Comfort is overrated.
Keep going despite the setbacks.
You learn from mistakes and challenges, not comfort.
#6. Keep learning
In a digital world, the pace of disruption and transformation is accelerating.
Keep learning, watching and adapting.
Be quietly paranoid.
Expect the world to change the rules.
Change will disrupt you. When you least expect it.
Remember you are on a journey into the unknown.
Embrace the mystery of the adventure.
Your first efforts will be amateur.
The creation imperfect.
But as you show up each day mastery will emerge.
In one year your skills and expertise will grow.
So be kind on yourself.
Masterpieces are the work of a lifetime.
One day at a time.
Strapping in and doing the work.
That is how you design a life.
And you will need some success habits as the support crew to get there.
Making sure you last the distance in the marathon that is life requires routine and habits that sustain and nourish you.
Creativity doesn’t emerge from randomness but routines and habits.
Steven King sits down and writes 1,000 words every day.
- Consider being in the now. Mindfulness. Meditation is the crack in the universe where the light shines in.
- Being grateful is a habit that puts perspective on what you have.
- Reading. Innovation and ideas do not come from a vacuum. You need to consume to create.
- Exercising. You are running a marathon and your machine is your body that supports the mind and being. Look after it.
- Play. Doing what brings you joy will add fuel and energy that you need to sustain the ups and downs.
- Surround yourself with successful people. If you want to fly like an eagle don’t hang out with the turkeys.
This is just a quick list. But they will lay a foundation for success.
The real magic?
Real magic comes from doing.
Acting on your dreams.
What you thought you were good at and enjoy are only revealed when you leap in.
And one more thing.
You will never arrive.
Designing your life that brings happiness is never finished.
The joy is in the journey.