Goals For My Career

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want out of my career. At the beginning of this year it came down to money. If I was making good money I would be satisfied with what I was doing. Through both personal experience and stories from others who have chased a secure career, I’ve found that this isn’t the most important thing at all.

Monetary stability is only one of four very important factors in finding a fulfilling career. What I’m saying may not apply to all people but in these very early stages of my career, they are the things I value. For me, the most important part of a fulfilling a career is doing work that utilizes my talents. If I feel like I’m doing work that doesn’t play to my strengths, it gets to me. It feels like your work or maybe even talent isn’t appreciated and that your time spent at work is going to waste.

The second thing that is crucial for fulfillment in my career is doing work that I care about. This is a common desire. We all want to feel that we are making a difference. It’s the reason that some people working for massive corporations feel empty and almost ashamed of what they are doing. This seems similar to doing work that utilizes our talents but it is an important distinction.

Everyone wants to leave this earth feeling like they made a mark. At the end of my career, I want to be proud of both the specific work I have done and the impact it has made. This is one of the hardest things to mind in life. Finding what we are passionate about is a long and tricky process. I don’t know everything that I care about right now. When I’m 35, my opinions, motivations, and outlook on life will be different. It’s easy to feel like you may be going down the wrong path. To avoid this I’ve tried to identify just a few things I know I really care about. If it turns out I’m not as passionate as I thought I was, well then no harm done. At least I tried and I can scratch it off the list.

I don’t want to sound like money isn’t important to me. It is. But at a certain point, there is very little correlation between an increase in income and an increase in happiness. This is something Roman Krznaric addresses in his book How To Find Fulfilling Work. He interviews people that have jumped the financial levels and asked them about the effect more money had on their overall quality of life. In most cases, it did virtually nothing to make them happier. The problem is that once you level up, your expectations do as well. It’s a never ending process and it leaves many feeling empty at the end of their career.

The last thing that I know is important to me is a certain level of freedom. Don’t think that I’m saying this out of laziness. I hear people say this sometimes and it easily comes across that way. One of the great goals for my life is to merge the border between fun and work. I want what I’m doing in my career to be enthralling. I want to wake up equally excited for my work and my fun.

Freedom is a pretty crucial part of this. Having the typical 9-5 really affects people’s work ethic. Having a rigid schedule set for you takes an element of freedom from your work. The last goal for my career is to be able to set my own schedule. Again, don’t misinterpret this to mean I’m lazy. It’s the most important part of finding freedom in your career.

Taking Risks

Changing careers is one of the scariest challenges adults face during their lives. We are hesitate to go down a new path even if the switch would be extremely rewarding. We don’t think about the upside. We are wired to think about the potential dangers.

The challenge will often come down to job security over working on something that makes us feel valuable and that we are making a difference. It is one of life’s great challenges to find a career that is both intrinsically fulfilling and extrinsically secure.

When considering the possible outcomes of changing careers we tend to focus on the negatives far more than the good that could come from it. Especially while you are young, focusing on the positives is absolutely a risk worth taking. There’s something to be said for just doing something cool and that you really enjoy while you’re young.

At this point in life, you don’t have all the burdens that come with age. Why not take a risk? The bottom today isn’t that low. If you decide to take on a new challenge that may not pay off try to think about what might happen if it does. The very worst case scenario is you go through a couple months where money gets pretty tight. Chances are you will be better from the experience even if it doesn’t work out.

Stop Chasing a Title.

People see having a career that brings them a certain amount of respect as pretty important. It’s one of the main driving forces when people think about what they want to do with their life. Respect, security, and freedom are the three most common things people are concerned with when finding a career. Security and freedom are usually understood but there is a common misconception when it comes to respect.

We tend to confuse a fulfilling career with a career that sounds important. An example would be a doctor or lawyer. The idea is that when you tell someone what you do, they go “oh wow now that’s impressive.”

While this may be important for our personal ego, I don’t believe it’s the type of respect we truly value in our careers. When I talk about respect, I’m talking about the respect that you get from your colleagues. It doesn’t come from that family member you tell at thanksgiving dinner. It comes from confidence in the value that you as an individual provide. It comes from knowing that you are an important part of your team and that others respect your place.

I’m reading a book by Roman Krznaric called How To Find Fulfilling Work. He addresses this topic in great detail. While gathering material for his book, Krznaric interviewed hundreds of different people involved in different industries.

The strong pattern found in their answers is that there is little correlation between getting respect from people because of a status simple and being personally fulfilled. It turns out that what really matters to people is knowing that someone values their work. This is an important point for young professionals and parents to think about.

It’s easy to think about what we consider to be “successful” people and say okay well lawyers, doctors or engineers get a lot of respect so that certainly can’t be a bad career path to go down. Parents are guilty of pushing their kids into careers in the same way. It’s natural to worry about the future of your child and their security but there is much more to a fulfilling career than having a flashy title.

Speech #4

Last night I was able to get in front of a fairly new club at the University of Pittsburgh. They are still small so I wasn’t expecting too much out of the talk but it ended up going really well. Unlike my previous presentations, this one was solely about Praxis and my experience in the program.

I didn’t expect it, but I had more to say about Praxis than either of my past lecture topics. I also had fewer notes. But that didn’t matter. The few notes I did have were points that I had a story to go along with. In my other speeches, I checked my watch somewhere around the 20-minute mark and then I became very aware of the time at about 35 or 40.

But last night I really didn’t even think about the timing until I looked down and saw that 45 minutes had gone by. I didn’t feel like I had to persuade them or convince them of something they didn’t believe. I could just tell my story and the skills I’ve developed since entering the program.

There was one girl who I originally thought was interested in the program but it became apparent that she was really just skeptical and wanted to challenge me. During the Q/A, she asked about the pricing for the program. After I told her you have a fee at the beginning of $10,000 she asked well what are you paying that for?

I almost didn’t understand the question because I had just finished going through all the incredible things Praxis has done for me. I answered her question and made the point that students jump into school every year and pay up to 5 times that much with the promise do to that for the next 4 years.

It’s always interesting to me how people view college as worth it no matter what the cost is. But if you present something that will actually prepare you for your career at a fraction of the cost, people become skeptical about the amount of money.

 

A Bright Future

People are slowly beginning to understand that going to college does not guarantee success or even a job out of college. Our parents grew up in a time when their degree opened many different doors for them. The degree was still a valuable signal to employers. Now, that isn’t the case. Some might despair at this reality but I see it as a very good thing for all young professionals.

Instead of relying on a degree, young students have to start building their future themselves. To make sure they have different career options lined up they have to start building a network, acquiring skills, developing a positive reputation, and searching for ways to create value.

This might seem like the future is dark for young students eager to begin their careers, but it’s actually a very freeing reality. No longer do young people have to blindly jump into school. No longer will they have to sit in classrooms and jump through hoops for at least four extra years. No longer will they begin their careers $50,000 in the hole.

Degree inflation has dramatically brightened the future for people like me. Now someone’s success is determined by what value they are actually adding. It’s not abstract. You don’t have to put your faith in some ambiguous system.

The expectation is on us and it’s a wonderful thing. It means people will see themselves as adults at a younger age. The future is bright for those that want something and work towards it. So don’t be depressed that your communications degree is bs. Rejoice in the fact that now you don’t have to rely on that. You decide what happens to you. If you ask me, that’s a whole lot more encouraging than hoping for people to notice your special piece of paper.

Yet Another Toxic Part Of School

There is such a strong disconnect between college and the real world. If you really think about it, it’s weird that going to school is still considered the right thing to do. It’s clear school gravely handicaps you financially. People know they are giving up four years of experience in their career. People even admit they aren’t going to school for an education.

The reason people still go to school is to earn a signal that will get your foot through the door with future employers. People don’t even really believe that anymore. Now the argument is that an undergraduate degree is the equivalent of the high school diploma. So to be successful you have to go to 4 more years of school. It’s getting laughable isn’t it?

Year after year we see college graduates enter the workforce without any real skills or network to help them. Why do young people keep doing it then? It comes down to false assurance. The real world is scary so it’s pleasant to think a special piece of paper will make you deserving of a fat check each week.

But the dangers of school don’t just stop there. School is nothing like the real world. Your classes are nothing like your job will be. The college student goes through his classes each semester without having to spend too much time on their studies. Finally, finals come around and every student crams as much as they can for a week or two.

I’m at a loss for why this is supposed to prepare young professionals for the real world because that’s simply not how it is. The professional world doesn’t all stack up into two weeks. Employers value consistent employees. They want to know someone will be there at any time they need them. They value decent and predictable work over fantastic and sporadic work.

College doesn’t prepare students for this. Students are used to half-assing their work for weeks at a time and then performing at a very high level for a short period. I spoke to a boss just a few weeks ago who brought this problem to my attention. He said there is a very direct correlation between how recently someone graduated and how consistent they are as an employee.

Once again, college is ruining young professional’s lives. I really do wonder how much longer school will be considered the correct next step for high school graduates. It seems like it shouldn’t be long but hey, a lot of people will disagree with the content in this post so there you go.

It’s Not the End

There are moments in everyone’s life where it feels like your entire world is crashing in around you. Like everything you’ve worked for has just been flushed down the toilet. Today I experienced this. I have yet to eat today. It’s all I can think about. Earlier in the day, I was a wreck. I was basically ripping my hair out from the root.

I’ve felt like I’ve really messed up in the past but never quite like this. I’m older now so I guess I understand that it’s not the end of the world but it still absolutely consumed me. It got to the point where I could barely breathe and I just wanted to punch a wall. This wasn’t because I was angry or felt like I was being treated unfairly. I didn’t know what I was feeling. It’s just a rush of emotion to the point that you don’t know what you’re doing.

There are two ways to handle this. You can follow your instincts which probably means punching a wall or something. You can think it’s the end of the world and that after this you have absolutely nothing left. It may hurt. It may have dire consequences. But it’s not the end.

There’s always something new. Today I tried my best to realize this. Even though I know it’s true, in the moment, it’s still almost too much. My way of dealing with this was productivity. I’m not going to lie I’m still pretty distraught but getting stuff done has helped me realize there are other things out there.

Failure is an important part of success. It just matters how you take it. You can use it as a wake-up call and a kick in the rear, or you can give in. You have to learn to accept failure. Do your best to not make the same mistakes again and realize you learned something.

Life is long. This tiny moment won’t mean much in the long run. I’m going to focus on my highs and try to put my mind past this low. There are always better things out there. I’m not done by a long shot.

Freedom: Politics vs. Entrepreneurship

I’ve always been interested in finding new ways to experience personal freedom. I joined Praxis because I didn’t like the box that school seemed like it would put me in. It was going to take too long, it might not pay off, and it would result in me being in debt for the foreseeable future. Graduating with a degree that might not mean anything and owing ridiculous amounts of money didn’t sound like a free life.

I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by Libertarians. I always loved the ideals and the mission that the movement is about. At the same time, I kept wondering why I felt like it was all almost fake. It seemed like it was the farthest thing from the real world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about ideas for how we can reach a freer society, but in the Libertarian world, that almost always means working to change the system through political means. This didn’t sound like a free life either. Constantly fighting a battle and getting mad that no one else saw what I saw sounded like a miserable life.

The more time I spent around it the more against the idea of Libertarianism I became. If you really want to work towards a free society, why not start with yourself. Work towards your own personal freedom and how you can get past the limitations that come with living in a government ruled society.

This can be little things like learning how to save money on your taxes, living somewhere you love, setting up a career where you decide what you work on, or in my case, making myself valuable to employers at a young age.

If you really want to change a government policy, the most effective way is not participating in politics. You’ll spend far too much time, hate what you’re doing, and you might not even make a difference. People don’t respond to being told why they are wrong. The thing that changes people’s opinions is experiences.

A perfect example is Uber. Let’s say you really hated the taxi industry. You thought it was inefficient, the drivers didn’t care, they tried to cheat you, and it was inconvenient. So you decide to go out and tell people this. You probably wouldn’t get too many interested people. Even if you found people that agreed with you, they are still going to use taxis when they need a ride. No one is really going to respond to hearing about how inefficient it is because there isn’t another option.

Now take Uber. Whether people are really against the taxi service on an ideological level or not, they are still going to use Uber because it’s a great service. People realize how crappy taxis really are when they find out there is something better out there. Experiences change opinions because it’s real and tangible.

If you really want to change something that you think is pretty terrible, create something better. I really truly believe the most honorable thing you can do to work towards a free world is engaging in entrepreneurship. That’s what helps people find other solutions to government provided services. Libertarians don’t seem to agree with this. The Libertarian world is firmly set in academia and this is why people think that’s it’s just a bunch of nerdy fuddy-duddies.

Sources Of Confidence

I was struggling with what I wanted to write about today. I have 12 minutes to write my blog post now or else I probably won’t have time to do it later. I was wracking my brain for something to write a short blurb on and I decided on something I’ve slowly noticed over the past few months.

I am very confident. I am confident in my skills, likeability, persuasive abilities, appearance, and lifestyle. Where does this come from? I haven’t always been really confident. A big change came in my junior year of high school. I developed a great group of friends and was involved in a lot of stuff other than that I did very well in. It wasn’t like this though. This is a different type of confidence.

Before, my confidence came from validation or knowing people liked me. I felt good when I had a great night of serving or doing well in school but it wasn’t the main source. It’s also not a secure source of confidence. It means your mood is subject to how those around you behave.

Now I am intrinsically confident. This comes from what I’ve been able to develop, the skills I’ve gained,  and the challenges I’ve faced and overcome. This is where real confidence comes from. Doing new scary things and succeeding. You begin to feel invincible. Ever since I started challenging myself every single day, I have become far more secure in my own skin and happy with life in general.

My Personal Branding Speech

Yesterday afternoon I gave a speech to a small DECA class of about 20 students. I decided many weeks ago that I wanted my first talk to high schoolers to be about personal branding. I was especially excited about this topic because it’s something I can speak freely about and it’s an easy subject to loop Praxis into.

From the very beginning, the talk was electric. It was a very different atmosphere than the college classrooms that I’ve been in but I was still impressed. It gave me a little hope for high school students in general but especially DECA.

One girl said something that I thought was pretty interesting. She asked me how my business partner just let me skip college. It’s not that my business partner allowed me to. It’s that it wouldn’t make a difference. This still doesn’t occur to kids. They are in the same place I was a year ago. They are holding firm to the opinion that they are just students. Real life is still far off and abstract. It’s not around the corner, it’s five years away!

This is the most dangerous part of being a student at any age. This was the main thing I wanted to convey to them during my speech. Throughout the entire talk, I showed them ways that they can actively begin building their future. I told them about how much I’ve gained since I built my website. I went through what I’ve learned from the discipline of writing every day. I spoke about how it’s been one of the fundamental tools for me to build my network, and how writing completely changed for me after I started writing for an audience.

They were very excited by my website building experience with Weebly. I strongly encouraged each of them to go home that night and build their own website. If you really wanted to, you could have an incredible personal site in under an hour using Weebly.

There are a few important things to remember when building a brand. It’s easy to get on the wrong track when you start trying to actively control it. I stressed that their brand needs to be genuine. This helps figure out what you care about, and it means you won’t feel pressure to appear differently than you are.

The students were very excited about the idea of Praxis. It was clear that anything but college had never really been presented to them. When I asked who planned on attending college, every hand in the room shot up. Why? Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Showing these 17 and 18-year-olds that there are more promising options available to them was a thrilling experience and I can’t wait for the next one!