Did you ever look around your cubicle in your boring office job and think:
“Why am I doing this?”
“Why do I keep coming back here when I really hate this job?”
Well, the good news is that you have made a few strides in the direction of finding the right work for you.
You don’t find the work you were meant to do by soul searching, by taking aptitude tests or doing what your parents expect of you.
You find it by flipping the script!
This is the core message of Chris Guillebeau’s “Born for This”, following on from his success with “The $100 Startup” and “The Art of Non-Conformity”.
Born for This
It makes total sense once you read the book.
People spend years and years training for jobs that they eventually discover that they dislike. All that work can be avoided if you take the time to understand how people find work that is meaningful for them in the first place.
Don’t think like a CEO if you don’t want to be one.
Don’t find a niche, you’re pidgeonholing yourself when you have so many other talents.
Don’t worry about missed opportunities, there are other ones round every corner.
This is the advice that Born for This begins from, but a lot of the real work is something you have to do yourself. The author doesn’t know what your dream job is, he is just hoping to teach us with this book a method that might help you find that out for yourself.
Some of us may think, like I did at first, that we have all read these kind of things before; Tim Ferriss, Dale Partridge, Ramit Sethi, Adam Grant, Pat Flynn. Dozens of other authors are all telling us to do something different and change the way we think in order to achieve our goals in the modern age.
Just take a look at the books on my shelf, I have tons of them about how to be successful:
However, this book isn’t just about structuring your business into a low-maintenance passive income internet phenomenon, though you could come to that conclusion if that is what is right for you. This is a toolset to guide you into a career that makes you happy – the dream job that we all talk about and want. I respect those other authors and they offer a great deal about what has made them successful, but that is not necessarily what can make you successful in what you want to do.
If you want to be an internet entrepreneur then that is great. Go for it! If, for you, success means being that guy who loves going to work, who has co-workers that support you and a lifestyle that you are excited about, then that’s great too. That’s what sets this book apart from the crowd of other books and products like it – it wants to help you get the dream job for you.
The problem is that the amount of information that you have about a potential career is very limited when you are just starting out. As a fresh graduate in 2010 I was terrified, mostly by the actual number of possible jobs there were, and how little I knew about each one of them. This is kind of like the The Paradox of Choice, but instead of just having anxiety about what type of sweets you will choose from the hundreds available, it is an anxiety about what kind of career you should pick from the thousands upon thousands that you are presented with in your early adult life and beyond.
Your path is not set, there is no roadmap that you can pick and apply variables to and get an answer. This is why those job affinity tests are such a terrible waste of time. They don’t take into account what you might discover through doing things that you haven’t done before!
What this might look like
I’d like to illustrate with my own example. After graduating Philosophy and Psychology I worked for a year in a travel company. I wasn’t happy about the data entry I had to do every day, but I dreamt about travelling and getting out of the cubicle. I made plans to move to Japan and got a job working at an English conversation school. I loved it, and found a whole ton of purpose in teaching English and making friends and new relationships, and learning a new language in a completely new place.
It was the best choice I’ve ever made!
After a few years of improving my skills at teaching and working with many schools, I landed a job at Fuji Kindergarten, quite possibly the most famous kindergarten in the world!
I learned from my years here that I loved teaching. I had expanded my employment options to the whole world, then limited them to teaching kids in Japan. I started my own group on Facebook called Live Work Play Japan to help people who want to be successful in Japan. If it does not work for me any longer then I can do the same thing again, and find something else that works for me. That’s the power of this approach: there is no failure, only learning and figuring out the next step.
Even though I love teaching children and seeing them learn and grow, it isn’t enough. And for a long time I haven’t known why – I thought I must be really selfish to not be happy when I was making such a difference in these kids lives. But after reading ‘Born for This’ I realised almost immediately.
I didn’t have flow.
I enjoyed my job and it paid me good money, but I didn’t have the magic combination that Chris Guillebeau talks about in the book. I have success without purpose.
Joy and Flow but no Money makes a starving artist.
Flow and Money without Joy is success without purpose.
Money and Joy with no Flow is success without purpose.
In my case I felt like I have no longer had flow at my job. I was hamstrung by the Japanese school system, which values obedience and rote memorization over individual character and creativity. I have been unable to be as effective as I would like within this education system and I see children not gaining the benefit that I feel I can bring to them. So that leads me to some of my current pursuits, educational reform and development being one of them.
Moving on to the next step is hard, but it always helps to work hard and be fantastic at anything you do. So many people don’t think they can do well at something unless they have learned from the right person or had the right qualification. Remember that now, with the internet, you can become an expert in almost anything if you work hard and set your mind to it. I wasn’t always a good teacher, but studying Montessori and other teaching methods for years has helped me become an effective educator. I tried it, and look how far I have come!
If you’re good at what you do then you will always have a job. That’s why I know that even if I stopped teaching to try something risky, I could always come back and get another teaching job.
Hardly anyone knows what they want to do when they join the workforce, apply for university, or even after they graduate. There are so many options out there, and how will you know which career path you like if you never try it? But life is rarely as risky as you think it is. What is the worst that could happen if you don’t get the job you’re going for? Maybe you have to find another one, but there are always jobs for people who want them. Tim Ferriss talks about practising poverty in the stoic fashion: if you take a day every week or month and wear the worst clothes, eat the cheapest food and sleep on the floor you will still be alive, so you know you can survive with less.
So you have an opportunity. You can flip the script and get a job that gives you Money, Joy and Flow. Nobody else is going to come down and drop the perfect job in your lap.
A quick note on the Sunken Cost Fallacy
The last chapter of Born for This is titled ‘Winners Give Up All The Time’. If you are not happy with your career, don’t just power on thinking:
Well I already worked here for ten years, if I give up now it’ll be like I failed…
By that logic if you are driving and you miss your turning on the motorway, you would carry on hoping that somehow going in the wrong direction will magically bring you where you want to go.
Don’t do that!
If you’re going the wrong way, it’s probably better to turn around or get off at the next exit and see if you can get to the right place by a different road.