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Whip Misdirection Into Submission or, It Doesn't Matter How Fast You Get There, If You're Heading the Wrong Way
Just last month, I was rushing on a subway from the Village to the Upper West Side to meet a friend for dinner. Because I was in such a hurry, I didn't take time to read the subway map. I wound up on an express train . . . that was a little too express. Before I knew it, I had gone 60 blocks in the wrong direction.
Too many of us make this mistake in our rush to find a career-and then we remain at our wrong destination, which is the career equivalent of settling for hanging out at a K-mart, because that's where the subway stopped, when you wanted to meet your friend at Taste of Tokyo Sushi Palace. You may be tempted to throw up your hands and stay right where you are. But trust me:
It's better to have a short wrong job than a long wrong job.
No matter how satisfying the price breaks are at K-mart, they still won't fill that craving in your belly for tuna sushi rolls.
For instance, I originally arrived in advertising as a profession because I thought it would be glamourous, cool, and exciting, and I'd get to be creative. Eventually, I found all that fluffy glamour stuff thoroughly unsatisfying. Basically, I was being given the opportunity to afford to wear expensive, gorgeous clothes while having to write embarrassing, vapid, soulless TV spots.
Pussy Talk I remember once I was working on creating the Purina Cat Chow jingle of the nineties. I was told that I could only use a three "chow, chow, chow" hook, because that was what was trademarked. Two chows weren't. I could, however, use four chows, as long as that fourth was close enough to the first three in rhythm to feel like a three-chow/one-chow. After the jingle was produced, the client and I debated in long, drawn-out meeting for days-and weeks-and months-whether the hook I ultimately created was a "two-chow" or a "three-chow/one-chow."
Consistently, I felt that rather than being paid to become the best copywriter I could be, I was being paid to improve my political skills. Finally after seven years of feasting on hefty expense-account dinners in glamourous clothes while having a famine of creativity, I decided I wanted out. I fantasized about becoming a real writer with free time-a profession where I could grow as a provocative, original thinker and communicator-my true passion.
Unfortunately, by the time I truly realized this, I was raking in big bucks-a six-figure income at age 27. How could I give this up? Or, I guess the real question was:
Do you pick a job for its cash-in value-or its passion value?
I went for the passion. Why? My "on-the-job research" as an ad exec had revealed to me that money does not bring happiness. So, I decided to quit and research how happiness can bring money. My research proved positive. Pursuing my passions proved profitable on many levels-and it has proven so for many of my friends, as well. I believe this is for two reasons.
1. When you do what you love, this is most likely where your true talent lies, so you'll stand out in your field.
2. You'll be so enthusiastic about your pursuit, you'll have more energy to jump over annoying obstacles in your path.
For example, look at these people:
Gill started off as a lawyer-but was bored. He always dreamed of making movies. So, at age 29, he left his law practice to work as a groveling, unpaid intern at a film-production company. He is now a highly successful film producer who recently garnered three awards at Sundance-and is gearing up to produce two more films.
Phyllis started off as a top commercial director's agent-but wanted to do something creative instead of just representing creative people. She left her job to start Leibowitz NYC, a stylish, successful, home-products company that specializes in products created from unusual textiles imported from India.
Stuart started off as an account exec in advertising, then decided he wanted to work full-time in a more visual business. He became friends with clients he serviced at L'Oreal, and they helped him switch over to the client side, as a marketing director of new product images.
Susan started off in public relations, then went through a "mid-wife crisis." She realized she wanted to be a midwife. She went to nursing school, and now delivers babies-instead of headlines-for a living.
All these people originally landed in the wrong career destination, then moved on, and are happier for it.
You Must Resist Job-in-the-Hand Jobs
Right now you may think it's easier to stay where you are, rather than seek new opportunities. "Things aren't that bad," you rationalize-maybe you will get a promotion next month-that same promotion promised two years back. I know, I know. It's exhausting even thinking about getting back on that career subway and going to a new company or even a new wing of your present company. Plus, you may wonder: Will you ever be able to make sense of those map squigglies? But you must stay determined.
The Purpose of Your Life Is to Find the Purpose of Your Life
There are no extra humans on this planet. You are here to do something. Some of us are meant to be doctors, others musicians, and at least one of us was put here to invent that plastic doohickey that holds up the pizza box. It's up to you to figure out your career destination and how to get there.
The problem is: Too many of us consult the wrong map.
Some of us wind up looking at an outdated map that doesn't show how old destinations have been closed down or how new, exciting destinations have been added. We're still heading toward some dream place that we picked back in college or grad school-maybe even grade school-and look how much we've changed in the meantime. Or we consult the map our parents gave us-or our friends gave us-or the media gave us. Basically, many of our career maps are the equivalent of the maps Columbus was given: wrong.