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An electrician I know is bored of electricity and has switched career to become a professional videographer. A videographer I know now only makes videos as a hobby so he can build his IT and web business. The head of a website agency I work with dreams of making it as a musician. A musician I know just wants to be a schoolteacher. An ex-schoolteacher is retraining as a psychologist. The cycle goes on.
One great thing about today’s working world is that, at any given time, you can choose a different path and begin a completely new journey.
But what if that means we are in a constant state of believing the grass is always greener? What if by not sticking at a career, through tough times and all, the workforce of today misses out on the satisfaction and rewards that can be gleaned from longevity? What if the grass isn’t actually greener?
It’s easy to want to progress. Up a career ladder, up a pay grade or up the pecking order. It’s easy to want what someone else has, or be persuaded by a recruiter. It’s harder to not take your current reality for granted. Sometimes it’s hard to remember just how good you have it at this very second.
If it’s so easy to change tack at any given opportunity, where’s the incentive to stay, to focus, and to build something really great?
What happens when you shift your attention, find a new career or start a new business, and then realise that you just switched problems a, b and c for problems x, y and z? You still need to solve the problems, but now you need to learn the solution from scratch. Daily challenges you once had the exact answer to are now taking over your day and you’re at the bottom of a steep learning curve because you put yourself there.
In the book The 50th Law – a collaboration between Robert Greene and 50 Cent, they advise that you should focus intensely on what’s going on around you and build the foundations for greatness through mastery of your actions. Avoid short-term, quick fixes and work to outlast your rivals. In other words, carefully plan your next moves based on your own considered view of the future.
I’ve seen people make disastrous career moves based on a case of grass is always greener. They took for granted how good they had it, they were blinded by some bright lights – then guess what? Same sh*t, different company. Except now you’re further back than you were before, peddling furiously to keep up, just to prove to anyone that will listen that you made the right decision. The honeymoon period fades – it always does – and then it’s onto the next fix, like a drug addict stuck answering their short-term impulses.
Flit about like this forever – always give up when it’s hard – and you’ll be lapped again and again by those who didn’t give in. Leave your job when you’re really good at it. Until then, just be exceptional and think long term.
I’m not saying that you should force yourself to do work you don’t enjoy. I’m not saying it’s not OK to change your mind or take a new career direction. I’m saying be realistic about what you’re entering into and don’t be fooled into thinking that there won’t be challenges to overcome with any new path you take. Be honest with yourself. Do you need to find different, less challenging problems or do you need to get better at dealing with those you have? Everyone, in any profession, has parts of it that they would rather not have. Soon the honeymoon phase you enter will become your new normal and you risk having jumped ship without going anywhere.
In Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, he differentiates between the ‘craftsman’ mindset and the ‘passion’ mindset, to explain “whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you”. His book argues many reasons why “follow your passion” is bad advice, and encourages readers to “instead put your head down and plug away at getting really damn good… put aside the question of whether your job is your true passion and instead turn your focus towards becoming so good they can’t ignore you”, which he alludes will lead to a more fulfilling and successful career. The book also addresses Dan Pink’s work on motivation, specifically Pink’s findings that the true measures of career enjoyment and satisfaction are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Achieving autonomy, mastery and purpose at work, says Newport, is a lot to do with longevity in the role and mastery of your craft.
Here’s how I see it, for my own life and career: Everything that I am doing right now, I will be doing forever. I will never underestimate the benefits gleaned from continuing to relentlessly put the work in when others around me are becoming distracted and veering off course. It’s a strategy of consistency, longevity, incremental gains and futureproofing. Some years there will be small growth, some huge, some we’ll stay the same and regroup. I’m no more or less likely to change my plan in any of those phases.
Operating in this way means I can handle blips in the road because I know the general trend is up. I’m not sidetracked by anything I see on Instagram. I can support my friend opening her own coffee shop without feeling like I want one too. It means I can take inspiration from success stories without envy of any kind.
If you know your own mind and your own path, you will never be hit with a case of grass is always greener. Each move you make will be thought-through and on purpose. You’ll have the wisdom and the foresight to differentiate between genuine opportunities and distractions in disguise.
April 8, 2019 at 07:59AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs