by A. KEITH TILLEY
As parents, there’s an unwritten rule that we must tell our children they can grow up to be whatever they want to be. Of course, most of us know that’s not really the truth. The world is not actually their oyster. It’s no disrespect to them; it’s that way for most of us. Michael Jordan grew up wanting to be a major league baseball player but ended up being a legend in the NBA. It turned out to be the right choice to make, which he would later confirm after trying a stint with the Birmingham Barons, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Madonna is a pop music icon, and then she tried her hand at acting. Anyone who saw the movie “A League of Their Own” with Geena Davis and Tom Hanks knows acting is not her forte. Both are great at what they do, where their real talents lie, that is. There are other examples but the point is, one has a much better chance at success in life if their profession is in line with their true skills and abilities. That’s not to say they can’t learn and advance their skills, it’s just a good bet to start with your natural talents and gifts first.
This is not necessarily something Gen Xers want to hear. For young people to feel they have all the answers is not something new, we all felt that way once. Science says this is a result of biological, psychological and social factors. Their desire for autonomy can sometimes lead to a sense of self-assuredness as they attempt to assert their independence and establish their own beliefs. Not having encountered as many challenges or made as many mistakes as older individuals contributes to a perception that they have a better understanding. Finally, peer influence plays a role as they desire to fit in and be seen as knowledgeable or experienced.
Nevertheless, I do think it’s a good place to start your journey into self-discovery by simply recognizing your best assets. Too many jump on a bandwagon profession, or think simply of certain perks and benefits they want that are aligned with a particular career or field when they’re making their choice.
The key, I believe, is to start with a list of personal skills and talents they naturally excel in, and combine them with a compatible list of features they like or prefer about choice professions or career fields. If they do this, they’ll be looking specifically at positions and fields that stand to benefit from their abilities and interest. In doing so, they’ll be setting themselves up for success by displaying their unique and quality skill set in the chosen field, and their motivation and inspiration will be higher because it matches what they like on many different levels. That’s important because it’s much easier to advance in skills you already excel in, and shine brightly in a profession you already like. And, advancing and sharpening your skills is a continuous process if you want to maintain your success going forward.
One quote I like that emphasizes this idea is from Matthew McConaughey, “Start being great at what you’re good at, instead of good at what you’re bad at.” This makes perfect sense and is something I think we all enjoy more. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins expands further when he says, “Be more valuable to what people need. Focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t want.” And, this important bit of wisdom he adds, “When life’s out of control, focus on where you want to go, not the brick wall you’re about to hit.” Do this, and you’ll naturally steer in the right direction that’s best for you.
In my title, I say “Seek and you shall find.” A Bible verse from Matthew 7:7-8. One place this applies nicely is in those instances when their skills are minimal in a field, but their enthusiasm, desire and inspiration are tremendously high. This approach requires a little bit of luck, a lot of leg work and a determination to not quit until you’ve found a way. I call this the entrepreneurship approach because this includes those that have ideas that are not currently, or are limited, in existence. Partial skills are understandable in this case. It’s motivation, desire, a strong will and perseverance that lead to those unexpected connections and open doors to opportunities that weren’t there before. You have to be “looking for it” in order to find it. That’s the simple secret. Look long and hard enough, and often the opportunities materialize when you least expect it.
Determining your absolute best path in life is challenging, and a mission so many never accomplish. Yet, that doesn’t diminish its importance and the benefits received from making the effort. You won’t know until you try. In the end, this is a lesson that doesn’t just apply to the young.
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