I would like to take a little detour with this piece, so it has nothing to do with marketing or communications, but perhaps, it’s more relevant in its own way.
Every time I lecture a group of graduate students (or any students for that matter), I make a point of starting or ending with a conversation about career paths and life, as they, for the most part, are about to embark upon their journey.
The beginning of the end
It all starts with graduating from high school. All the pressures of studying, the joys of a busy social life and the month-long holidays are over. Now you’re off to study further, get a diploma or degree – or if you choose not to study, get your first job.
No-one realises how critical their first job is, there is no proper investigation or planning done; unless someone knows exactly what they want to do (be a pilot etc.), they tend to ‘fall into’ what comes along.
When I lecture grad students at advertising schools, I find exceptionally few who know anything about the industry after three years or more of study. Sure, they know the theory and their craft, but virtually none can name the top five agencies in the country. How does one choose the right job on that basis?
The fact is, a lot of us choose our jobs by what we can get, and who offers a position, not on what we want to be doing, not what we always dreamed of doing.
It’s like anything in life, to build a fulfilling, rewarding career and work life, the beginning, the foundation, is the most important part.
Debt is modern day slavery
A soon as you graduate, or start doing well in your first job, you suddenly have cash to spend. Credit cards, overdrafts and insurance policies follow. You feel important; you can afford nice clothes, cool stuff, even a car a little down the line.
You have ‘swagger’. Welcome to slavery. You have just been plugged into the matrix. Now you’re in a cycle of ‘having’ to earn money, to pay for your stuff, three or four times over.
Society is plugged in. It’s all about the big title, the fancy car, the house in a good suburb; everyone works more and more, harder and harder to go home to more stuff. Real living becomes a weekend thing, and maybe a holiday twice a year.
So it goes; the more you earn, the more credit you’re offered, the more stuff you buy, the more you ‘need’ your job in order to maintain your lifestyle. Have you noticed that every time you get an increase, you are soon spending it all, just like you were doing when you were earning less?
Looking forward to Friday
This is what really gets to me: Go onto any social media site and from Sunday all you hear is complaints about the fact that it’s almost Monday and that the weekend is over. All week long you hear about how people hate their jobs, their bosses, their colleagues and how they are looking forward to Friday.
So we are all wishing away five out of every seven days of our lives. When we reach our end, how many of us will look back and wish we had worked more?
A book was written by a nurse who worked in a hospice for many years, she compiled a list of the eight most common wishes people had before they passed away. Number two on that list was: “I wish I had worked less and lived more.” If we can help it, I don’t think it should be on any of ours, do you?
So, what then?
I’m not saying don’t work. Money should become just a tool in our lives, instead of a fanatical focus. What I am saying is, try your best to get paid (in a job or your own initiative) for doing what you love. I’m saying, if you’re stuck in a job now that you don’t like, get out. It’s the scariest thing in the world, but trust me, I’ve done it, and it is also the most liberating thing.
The best advice when it comes to money and life is: Get out of debt. Or if you are just starting out, avoid it like the plague. Wait a little longer for the things you want and you’ll be able to afford more. Don’t spend your life paying your blood, sweat and tears to credit cards, overdrafts and loans. Get rid of your cards, get a money-clip, it’s cool.
Some of the happiest people I know just walked out of impressive positions in top companies, put a few things in a backpack and went traveling. They came back to start their own companies and get involved in their passions and they are happy – and they make a good living, in spite of not concentrating on the money.
It’s that simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Living creatively and joyfully requires dismissing gloom, defeatism and negativism. We have to acknowledge the problems, but must not allow them to dominate our thinking and our direction.
The future, your future
Joel Osteen says: “You’re never too old, it’s never too late and the mistake is never too big. Your destiny is bigger than your mistakes.”
I must say I share this optimism – the world around us is changing so fast, if ever there was a time to break the cycle, unplug from the matrix and find a different way, the opportunity to do it is now.
I always tell my grad students: Take a minute and forget about what you are studying and the money spent and the expectations of your parents and people around you. Find what you really love, your passion, what gets you out of the bed in the morning. Choose to do that instead – and then figure out a way to get paid to do it.
So, in conclusion, you can work for someone, buy stuff and die as you lived: A slave. Or you can wake up.
It’s time to wake up. If you’re going to be alive, you may as well be incredible.