Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paths and Planning

“We have a strict no Journey rule here.”

I was running sound for a little band once and we were rolling through sound checks. When it was time for the keys to do their thing he immediately started playing Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’.

Jokingly one of the guys exclaims, “We have a strict no Journey rule here!”

Who would have thought such a song would turn into an anthem for people of all ages. This song bonds a diversity of patrons in any bar in any town on any given night. It has show-choirs practicing their best Steve Perry vocals and unites every teen-aged boy in his bedroom rocking out on his air guitar.

This epic song also has a great message, one that has been turned into a squishy, soft, over-used, and manipulated mantra for many lives. Disney and all sorts of celebrities promise kids that they can become and do anything as long as they can dream it up. Often these sorts of messages set people up for failure. The dream must be realistic, according to the dreamers’ skills, personality, education, etc., but also must not stop with a vision. The reality is that little Tommy who is 5’2” and has horrible hand eye coordination, but loves the game of basketball, will never be in the NBA. He is the type that is set up for failure. Well-meaning people pump these overly optimistic thoughts and encouragements into little Tommy’s head, creating unrealistic expectations. Years later Tommy feels like a failure because he didn’t achieve the dream. This is damaging, this is wrong, so the, “if you can dream it, you can achieve it,” should have an asterisk, an addendum that demands responsible and realistic expectation setting.

I’ve learned over my short life thus far that I have a particular personality type. Myers-Briggs calls it ENTP. I am a visionary. I like to think big, but, interestingly enough, my biggest area of weakness is in the follow-through, the details, the plan. I’m in an odd place in life right now, where I am trying to figure out what exactly I am going to do. I adapt well and can do many things well, so rather than just doing well at a career that I have fallen into, I’m looking to find a career path that I can enjoy at my very essence and excel in because I want to, not just because I can. Instead of waiting for something to come to me I am going to go out and make something happen and use all the tools I can to do something. Luckily I am surrounded by great people and have been meeting with quite a few lately to discuss my future and such. I have met with a fantastic career counselor, Barb Skinner, who has helped me greatly figure out what my personality type is and what I would be best and most happy doing. She has been relentless in her efforts to help me along my way. If you find yourself in a bind, confused about your career, or know someone, I’d highly recommend getting in contact with her. I have also met with my father-in-law, Dr. Greg Sipes, who is a very wise and caring man, and yes, I’d say that even if he weren’t my father-in-law.

Most recently we met for dinner to catch up and one of the many things we discussed was my career and most recent activity in attempting to sort things out and what I wanted out of life. I usually dislike the question about where you see yourself in 10-20 years because I feel inadequate answering it. Most times when I answer this in interviews the interviewer looks at me like I have a monkey on my head and says my answer is too ambiguous. Ambiguity has it place though. No one knows what life is going to deal out in 10 or 20 years, anyone to even claim this is either delusional or outright arrogant. So, no, I don’t know exactly what I will be doing or even want to do in 10-20 years. Responding to a question coming from family I felt a bit more comfortable to be honest and ambiguous.

In 10 to 20 years I’d like to be a great husband, great Dad, someone others model themselves after, making a good living in a job I enjoy with a good work/life balance.

That’s pretty much it for me. Greg accepted that, but gave me some advice and said some things that have resonated with me as things I need to share with others.

The two most important things to me that I want to be in the future are being a good husband and a great father. I’m not talking about just being a husband or father but being one that young men and others will strive to be, one that makes a difference in lives. My wife and I were sitting on our back porch the other night and she was reflecting on how her and her dad would eat breakfast together every Thursday for years and how much that meant to her. I hear that and see how much she respects her dad and that is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say I want to be a good dad. I want to be the type of husband that inspires girls, that get a chance to hear my wife talk about me, to raise their standards in men. I want to be able to teach young boys about respecting their women and what proper love and marriage looks like. I want to be a great husband. At the end of my life if I can accomplish only two things, these would be it for me. I’m saying this to my father-in-law at dinner and he simply responds with, “Well, Adam, if these are the kinds of things that keep you awake at night and the kind of things you think and dream about, then you will definitely be them. I continued my discussion with him about my career choice and he gave me a similar response, but added a little twist, he said it was all about planning and building credibility.

He begins to tell me about what each decade of life was for from a career stand point.

• 20s are for choosing a path

• 30s are for gaining credibility

• 40s are for using the credibility to set yourself up for the best

• 50s and 60s are to thrive on years of hard work and planning

In bullet points that is basically what he said. You cannot just allow things to happen to you, to fall into a career, you have to make plans. I think it is important to learn from older wiser people because they have had to experience things for themselves and have been through what you will go through. So, no longer is good enough to just choose a job and do it well. What sets one apart is choosing a career path and making a general plan to reach success.

Don’t stop believin’ will not get you to a point of success. Obsessing over a dream cannot make that dream come true. This is not field of dreams that we are talking about, building it and expecting it to come or happen isn’t prudent. Singing it in the middle of your school day in a large Network may get you a popular show (Glee), but ultimately you have to come up with some kind of plan to achieve and build your success. The truth is that if your mind possess a dream or strong desire that meshes well with your natural talents, gifts, personality, etc. then by focusing on that dream and building a plan around it is what makes it happen, not just the thought itself. What keeps me up at night is thinking of being a good provider for a family and being happy with a career. The fact that this is consuming so much of my mental capacity produces evidence that these are things that I will do, but just thinking gets you nowhere, and I’ve learned that you’ve got to seek some sound counsel and make a solid plan to makes things happen. With these wise words I am now gearing myself up to tear apart things until something happens.

Maybe you find yourself in my shoes, no not size 9, classic Sperrys, but my situation. Maybe you are at a place trying to figure out what you’d like to do with your life and need to hear these words, you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with trying to figure things out and being uncomfortable. Don’t stop believin’’, but don’t forget to make a plan. What keeps you up at night? What thoughts fill your mind? Pay attention to all those you are surrounded with and seek advice. Make time for yourself to sit and think about these things and make some kind of a plan. You’ll begin to feel a lot better about things. So keep your head up, keep dreaming, don’t be discouraged, and start planning.

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