I've been bathing myself in the writing and teaching of two authors that I deeply respect, Dan Miller and Jon Acuff. Now if you haven't heard of them, first of all go look them up and get you hands on some of their material, it is life-changing.
Seriously go look them up. I will wait.
Now that you have heard of them you know that they are both in the business/entrepreneur/life coach type sphere of influence. This topic has always been interesting to me, and I find myself consuming this type of material possibly too frequently, but I digress. The fact of the matter is that I found their messages converging on an interesting topic recently: ladders. Really? Ladders?
Yes you read that correctly. The angles of the conversation were slightly different, so I really have two insights that I have gleaned, but they are related and I think that it is suitable to lump them together as such. So, without further ado...
We've all heard of the corporate ladder right? You know, the one that we are supposed to climb in order to achieve success. Well, maybe that ladder is not for you. The thing about ladders is they raise you up to a higher level. Up on this plane of existence we begin to see all the people below us and it immediately goes to our heads. That's just human nature. One step up on the ladder and you begin to feel a million times better and more valuable than those other losers who haven't hit the first rung. There are two reasons why beginning this ascent might not be in your best interest.
1. You begin to hold yourself above others and begin to think that the work that you are doing is better than it really is.
Think about this for a second. Once you go up on that pedestal it makes your work feel more valuable than someone else's. Then, when you compare your work to that of someone who has a lot of experience in your field you realize that maybe what you are producing is not so great after all. This can be detrimental to you, and may even cause you to give up.
2. You begin broaden your focus away from your area of expertise, rather than strengthen your area of competency.
This one may speak for itself, as I hear from higher level managers and executive types that started out in a technical area, but are now doing nothing more than managing people, projects and contracts. Don't get me wrong, this is great if that is the career you are looking for, but what if you would rather just be really good at the technical work?
So, what I'm attempting to get at with this post is focus on what brings you the most joy. Don't just blindly climb that ladder because it is what you are "supposed to do." Instead focus your time, effort, and passion on the things that bring you joy, even if it "seems" like a less successful career choice. Maybe answering phones at a call center brings you joy, or collecting trash, or working in a corporate cube farm, whatever it is chase after it with all your heart. The world doesn't need more burnt out and disgruntled engineers and scientists, it needs more passionate people doing the things that they love. So go find what makes your heart sing and live the life you were meant to live.