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Following dreams

By Francis Wade

As mentioned in last week's article, young Caribbean professionals are hardly trained to follow their passions and interests in life. Instead they are taught to do what is expedient, easy and apparently will make them some money.

At some point however, all professionals get to the point where they question what they are doing in their careers and why they are doing it. At this critical juncture, professionals in our society are ill-trained to deal with the inner crisis that arises.

Most succumb to their fears, and surrender to a career that they know is just a job to bring in income.

Others migrate to a foreign country in the hope that a change of environment will help them to make the changes they want to make. This actually does work for some, as a break from all that is familiar allows them a freedom to explore and try out new things without the critical voices they are used to hearing.

Most do not realize that they can have a career (and a life) that is built around their deepest interests, in which they spend most of their time working on what truly interest them, and only stray from this commitment in rare moments.

They don't know that constructing such a life has to do with maintaining certain practices, following a steady but gradual process and implementing their life purpose on an hour-to-hour basis.

With a few simple practices, any professional can start to create the career they want. The key with any practice is to repeat this action defined until it becomes a habit.

The first practice is to identify clearly, refine and clarify their most deeply held interests, or the things that they truly love to do. Those who maintain this practice deepen their skill at reflecting on their interests, and knowing what their interests are.

The second practice is to pursue their deeply held interests to the extreme. Regardless of how obscure they might be, the practice involves the pursuit of the area of interest wholeheartedly and completely.

This is not the same saying "pursue a career in the field" (although that is a possible outcome.) Instead, it mean hours of self-study, personal application, day-dreaming and spending time with others who share the same interest.

The wonderful thing about this practice is that it actually does not matter what the specific area of interest happens to be. It may seem quite useless to even the person pursuing it, in terms of any foreseeable practical application.

Yet it doesn't quite matter.

It is better to pursue what one might think is an idle interest, than it is to ignore a deeply held interest in favor of something more "practical" or "profitable."

Bill Gates quit Harvard at a time when desktop computers were a rarity, and he did so against the advice of friends and family. At that time, computing was just a crazy hobby for nerds, and there was certainly no space in the industry for acne-faced college dropouts.

It is much better to learn how to follow an interest with full commitment, than it is to learn how to suppress one.

The fact is, most interests don't last a lifetime. They shift and change, waning at just the right time to give way to other interests. When they do disappear, in the case of the professional who has nurtured his/her interests, they leave behind a person who knows how to pursue interests.

For example, Bill Gates recently decided to give up a daily role at Microsoft, and has taken up a new role for himself as a global philanthropist. He has approached this new career with the same intense commitment he had for computing as a twenty year-old.

While the practices are important, they are not sufficient by themselves to plan an entire career. For this, a young professional needs to take a much longer view.

A professional who wakes up to the fact that they are in a job that they dislike, should not quit on the spot and do themselves a disservice.

They are much better off thinking of the changes they want to make as part of a process, and that gaining the necessary expertise to be a successful business-person is a different matter than just having an interest. While it is accurate to say that great business ideas come from people who care passionately, not every passionate person is able to become a successful business-owner.

Where should someone with a regular 9-5 job start?

First of all, the fact that they have a job is a good thing, as it may be a place to express their interests. Interested in art, but currently hold a job as in an accounting firm? Offer to decorate the office with new and different art that helps the company to create the environment it wants.

Interested in football, but occupying a job as a lawyer? Pull together a legal team to play in the business house leagues.

The current occupation or job can often be a place to deepen an interest.

Outside of working hours, a professional can create opportunities to assist, volunteer, sit on boards and otherwise be engaged in deepening their interests.

While they are developing their knowledge and contacts, they can start to look towards a career in the field that they enjoy. Well before they make a transition, however, they should have developed an expertise in the field.

In short, the process can be designed to be a gradual one.

Day-to-Day Purpose
How a professional uses their time can make the difference between pursuing their interest and merely wishing that they had the time to start.

The difference can be as simple as consciously arranging what exactly gets scheduled into their calendar. If their calendar today consists of meetings with other people, then it is unlikely that their interests, which at the beginning are only promises they make to themselves are going to be fed.

If, however, they actually schedule time in their calendars to accomplish their purpose they are much more likely to execute the tasks they intend. For example:
Monday, July 2nd -- 9:00am 10:00am: Fulfill life purpose by calling to arrange for counselling opportunities at church
Sunday July 8th 10:00am 11:00am: Invest in life purpose by calling to set up classes in Counselling 101

When the purpose is included in the way appointments are worded, there is a greater chance that they will be treated seriously. In this way, a professional who has discovered a new interest, or life purpose, is more likely to take the tasks they set themselves seriously.

The is the second article in a series, inspired in part by a speech given by Steve Jobs to the graduating class at Stanford. He amply demonstrates some of the points made here. Point your browser to in order to watch his speech, and post any comments or questions about this article there.

Francis Wade is the owner of Framework Consulting, a firm specializing in conducting high stake interventions for Caribbean companies, and the author of FirstCuts monthly e-zine.
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