I got the opportunity to do a talk to a young professionals group here in Phoenix; it was the first live event I had done since the beginning of the COVID pandemic we have all been dealing with. Man, did I miss doing things live way more than I thought, it was so much fun! And it was a great group of people too, which made it that much better.
My talk was entitled “Don’t Jobify your Passion – Making a living versus making a Life” and I focused on sharing my journey as a Pro Racquetball player only to learn later that I should have been a Fireman who played Pro Racquetball as my lifestyle. The main theme was, as you can probably imagine based on the title, that I took a passion of mine and tried to scrounge a living out of it, which ruined it for me. My goal was to get people to at least think about their own life and pursuits a little differently. I had not done this talk previously, so I wasn’t sure how exactly it would be received.
Things went very well I think, the feedback I got was very positive. In addition to that, an interesting theme emerged throughout the evening as spoke to people individually. Literally eight different people spoke with me directly and they all expressed a very similar issue they were dealing with. In essence, this was the problem:
Some were doing very well financially, literally in cruise control when it comes to monthly income. Others had quit a job, gotten furloughed or laid off during COVID and had taken a “Band-Aid Job” in the time being, trying to figure out what’s next. Two people had the unusual “problem” of having more time on their hands then they knew what to do with, and they weren’t sure how to solve that conundrum. They both had their finances in order to the point of not needing to jump into another job immediately, but didn’t know how to fill the void that this situation had created.
For a majority of the others I spoke with directly, the problem was more along the lines of this:
–I picked a safe career path and went to school to for it
–I’ve done this job for a while now, and I do not like it (hate it/am burned out. etc.)
–I don’t know what to do next and/or have to solve this problem
It was interesting to see such a common theme in the conversations I was having. And this was largely the MAIN conversation I was having with the individuals from the group. I have to assume there were a few others that were having the same thoughts and didn’t feel the need to discuss it with me personally. Some it appears that a sizable chunk of a group of young professionals were all struggling with the same issue. Sidebar – stop thinking you are a unicorn, as someone somewhere is probably dealing with similar stuff that you are. It also appeared to me that they were not discussing this with their peers in this networking group, and maybe not at all with anyone else. It is easy to feel like you are the only one with this type of issue, or the “embarrassing problem” of I am doing well but I am not happy.
You can blame some of this on social media and our society in general these days, as so many post a highlight reel of their lives assuming that is “proof” that they are happy and doing well. But the truth behind that mask is what I am writing about above. Many are not happy, have fallen into the trap of living at or beyond their means, and trapping themselves into working a job they hate to keep up a lifestyle they are not enjoying. They feel empty, they intrinsically know they are missing something, but they can’t put their finger on it. And they were all looking for something from me that night:
Permission to do things differently
I don’t mean that to sound condescending in the least bit, but rather that because I was thinking differently than much of the world and my example was the permission that they could too. The goal of a talk is always to get people to think about whatever topic I am speaking of, but this one really seemed to resonate. It was clear I hit upon a topic that was bubbling up under the surface for many, though few would verbalize it in close company. It took a stranger to talk in front of a group to make them realize they were not alone. Mission accomplished…
This comes down to one thing in my mind: How do you want to live YOUR life? Not what your parents want you to do, not what “society” thinks you should do, but WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO BE? It is a difficult question for many, but some of that is because we don’t think of things in these terms, our OWN terms. It is easy to be a sheep, following the herd, reacting to things you barely see because others do. I even said that to someone during the Q&A part after the talk, as politely as I could. I never want to offend someone, especially someone willing to speak up in a group setting. But kind in mind the quote, as I often refer to it myself: A Lion does not worry about the opinion of Sheep.
No one, and I mean NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON ON THE PLANET has your life, your experiences, your struggles, your triumphs, your dreams and your desires. Therefore, there is NO WAY for someone to understand the totality of you and effectively be able to make decisions for you. The world is VERY different now versus when your parents and grandparents were your age. While the human and existential struggles may be similar, the options and choices open for you today did not exist to them, so you have to factor this into to conversations with them about life. Your family ultimately wants you to be safe, happy and self-sufficient, so you need to also factor this into the advice they dole out. Playing it safe with a job in finance might have been what they did, but that doesn’t mean this your destiny also. Only you have the keys to the bus your are driving, and you need to remember this more often.
You are driving the vehicle you are using to get from here to there…wherever “there” may be. Expect that you are going to make wrong turns on occasion, need to backtrack or flip a U-turn every once in a while. But if you are enjoying the ride, the scenery and the experiences along the way, you are doing better than most.
I posted the video of this talk on my website if you want to check it out. Love to hear your thoughts on this as well.