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Passion and Purpose (Part 2)

I received a rejection letter a few days ago.

A group of people decided I was not good enough to be hired by their team.

It didn’t even make me blink.

I had calls to make, people to see, projects to work on so there was no time to blink.

Or feel disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg addressed the topic of purpose in his Harvard graduation speech, saying how our challenge as a generation is to create a world where everybody has a sense of purpose by focusing on three things;
– Taking on big meaningful projects together
– Redefining equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose
– Building community across the world

As much as it was a nice speech, it didn’t inspire me to reactivate my Facebook account. Don’t get me wrong. Facebook – the company – fascinates me as a case study for world domination through technology, but I don’t like Facebook the product because of its time wasting capabilities.

But the speech pointed out something that I missed in my previous post, and that is the importance of having a cushion to fall back on while attempting Level 3 and 4 jobs.

Because of the inherently high risks of jobs at those levels, they become harder to execute for people in their mid-careers shouldering many responsibilities. If you’ve been reading my blog long enough you know that I’m not for “Quit your job to follow your passion” because it’s horrible advice. And besides, talking about mid-career people, their purpose might be derived from keeping their families happy anyway, so they shouldn’t feel guilty for not aspiring to get such jobs.

Ideally, aiming for Level 3 or 4 jobs should start when people are still students,  whether in high school or university, because they still have the freedom to explore what they would really love to do with their lives.

The only problem is this, students are least likely to think beyond getting Level 2 jobs. Maybe it’s because of social expectations or their lack of exposure to other ideas, but you come across kids who talk about repeating the same career paths as those handed to our millennial generation; doctor, engineer, lawyer and accountant.

Which is not so bad, because remember I’m talking within the context of third world countries where education is still the main key to escape poverty, and if you’re going to be a first generation college student who puts themselves in debt for years, might as well get it in a field where statistically you’re more likely to get a job due to market forces of demand and supply (medicine instead of liberal arts, for e.g.).

What is bad though is when people don’t look beyond their degrees, titles and career paths because of fear; fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of what others might say. The sad part about this fear is that schools partly play a part in instilling it since failing is not a desirable option there.

As an educator, sometimes I wonder, how we can cultivate a school environment that encourages students to fail without jeopardizing their future prospects? To be comfortable with the fear of failure?

Because the system is still set up in such a way that only top students are allowed into top colleges and top graduates get hired by top firms…

But here’s the thing, fear will always be there. The trick is to feel the fear and do it anyway. There’s a line a friend of mine and I always use, “What’s the worse that could happen? If it works out, that’s good. If it doesn’t, it’ll make a good story.” 

So whenever someone asks me, my advice is this, if you’re stuck in a job that’s making you miserable everyday and you have the luxury and privilege to take on a meaningful project part-time, after working hours or during the weekend, go for it.

Many people won’t, not because they have neither the time nor energy (which could be valid reasons depending on the situation), but because they don’t see any potential value in it. They might say, it’s not going to pay or it’s not going to advance my career, or…As if one of the rules of adulting states that “Because I enjoy doing it,” is an invalid answer.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

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Published inPersonal Development