Recently, I had dinner with friends I had not seen since last summer. We sat over cocktails catching up on family activities, surgeries, and our children. Both of my sons are in college. My oldest son is a college junior pursuing a Fine Arts degree majoring in photography and is still considering his minor area of study. My youngest son is completing his freshman year and has already changed his field of study back to his original love of cultural anthropology with a minor in philosophy. His original college degree consideration was an international business with a minor in marketing.
Of course, whenever I discuss my sons’ college majors, the first questions I receive are:
What type of job can he get with that degree?
How many jobs are available for that career?
Will he be able to earn a living?
As a parent, I understand the basis of these questions. Fine art and anthropology degrees don’t conjure up wealth and prosperity like business degrees. But I have always advised my sons to “pursue your passion and you will find your purpose. You will find a way to earn a living and support your family.”
From an article written in Forbes by Paolo Gallo, Career Lessons from Steve Jobs, Bruce Springsteen and Snoopy, “Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said in his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 that we should look in the mirror each morning wondering: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” He added that, if the answer was negative for too many days in a row, it would be time for a change.”
My passion growing up was to be a writer, journalist, or editor. I remember sharing this idea with my father across the dinner table late one evening when I was sixth grade. I had written a story and my English teacher had written positive feedback on my school paper. Encouraging my father to read it, I told him I wanted become a journalist and I had even set my sights on where I wanted to go to college. As usual my timing of this big discussion was ill-timed, he was drunk. Not just drunk, wasted drunk. But then again, my timing would never be correctly timed because every night was the same. My school assignment was in the exact same place on the kitchen table the next morning. His silent answer told me all I needed to know. I would never make it as a writer.
Throughout my childhood, anything I accomplished was always met with the same response from my father, “Girls can’t do that,” or other similar responses, but the worse response was his silence which was the response I received that evening long ago. His silence, whether drunken or in rare sobering moments left with me wondering about my own abilities.
My father didn’t keep me from pursuing my passion. I did. I allowed the negative tapes from my childhood to keep playing in the back of mind. I wasn’t going to allow those negative tapes to become a legacy tape for my children.
I pursued the business route, climbing the ladder, and earned a very good living despite those negative tapes. But that path still led me to an upsetting end in 2009 when the U.S. economy collapsed. I might add however, I still could have been an out of work writer too. My point is, no career is guaranteed but doing what we love doing gets us through the night, if not the day.
I have learned a lot over the last seven years about myself, commitment, pursuing passions and earning a living. But the number one lesson for me is material wealth should never be the goal unless that is truly your passion.
Everyone’s path is different and everyone’s concept of success is different.” Jim Gaffigan
I am currently working in a job and for a company I enjoy. It provides the necessary income to pay the bills and invest in a 401(k). While the job doesn’t fulfill my passion for writing, it does allow me to pursue my love of writing when I am not at the office.
If I had started my career with the lesson of material wealth, not being the goal, but the goal of pursuing my passion, I may have had more than one published book by now. Would I now have material wealth? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is I didn’t stay true to myself.
My advice to my sons is not just for their career, but how they approach their future.
“Stay true to God, stay true to You, stay true to your dreams,” I advise, “You will find a way to earn a living and achieve happiness if you continue pursuing your gift. Ultimately, your ‘gift’ leads you to your purpose.” Sheri Prielipp-Falzone
I remembered an argument from someone a few years ago when my first son was graduating from high school. I believe the argument derived from the television show, American Idol. The person’s argument was that these kids were being given bad advice as to not to give up their dream even though it was obvious they could not sing and achieve stardom.
I’m sorry. I didn’t buy his argument that we should pee on someone’s parade.
While I agree they may not achieve top of the chart stardom, they still can have the passion to be a part of the music industry in some fashion. Perhaps their voice simply leads them to explore and expand their musical expression in a different form of success.
“Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude.” Zig Ziglar
I am happier now than I have ever been in my life having gone through the last seven years of rejection, reinvention, and renaissance. I certainly don’t want my sons taking a lifetime to figuring out their purpose here on earth. Our purpose involves the gifts God has blessed us in our abilities. He has blessed each one of us with a passion to pursue.
My career advice despite your age
Write down all your responsibilities, talents, and abilities. Divide all three into columns of what you can do but would rather not do, like to do and don’t mind doing, and then what you really like to do. Let’s face it. We all have to do something in all three columns in our career, but concentrate on what you really like to do. Even if it is just a day job and you are pursuing your dream elsewhere. This is the path I took in developing my own contracting business and now into full-time employment.
I am staying true to my dream of writing. There is still a lot of ink in this fountain pen, and I aim to keep writing. As for my sons, they are doing outstanding in their chosen disciplines at college, and I have no doubt, they will be successful in life too.