What is your (career) purpose in life?

I’ve been thinking about a blog post from Penelope Trunk titled Being an expert takes time, not talent. On my mind was this part:

Figure skating is a good example. I figure skated for ten years. I was good, until I went through puberty and then was clearly the wrong body type to be doing double flips. I should have been a basketball player. Maybe.

My kids are at that age where they are doing stuff – skating, basketball, singing, piano, etc.  We shell out the money to get them lessons.

I didn’t have these lessons because I came from a big family, and those things were not a priority.  But we are helping our kids get this type of training (and our oldest is actually paying for some of it). Since it’s money out, I like to analyze the value of this spend.

Penelope gives a subtle message that even though she spent ten years figure skating perhaps she should have pursued something else.

I feel like that, sometimes… since I wasn’t uber-successful in something, perhaps I wasted my time and should have done something I could have been better at (like curling?)

At my age I can reflect on all of the things I have done… even though I played basketball for a few years, and really enjoyed volleyball, I never went on to play professional basketball or volleyball.  Even though I enjoyed weigh lifting I never went on to be a professional body builder.

But I don’t think that those were wasted years, or wasted effort, or a wasted experience.  Instead of having laser focus, like an olympic athlete might have, I enjoyed a plethora of things.  For me, the time spent on those activities made up who I am today, and I don’t look back thinking “if only I spent all that time curling, I could really be someone today.”

Can you related this to your career path?

Perhaps you majored in something and you work in a totally different field.

Or your internship was in one industry but you have really gravitated towards a different industry.

Or you worked in different fields for the last 20 years and still aren’t sure what you want to be when you grow up.

Yes, you can think “If only I knew what I wanted to do when I was 45, then I could have started at 20 and not wasted so much time.”

I think this is flawed thinking. Instead of regretting what you spent time on, think about how those things built up who you are now.  Think about the relationships you realized outside of your current industry.  You should have a broad, open way of thinking because of the diversity you bring to your current role.

All of the journey contributes to where you are now.  You can regret it but you can’t do anything about past decisions, except accept them, learn from them, appreciate what you got from them, and figure out how to use them to build on.

(this idea reminds me of my LinkedIn post about channel vs. destination… not totally related but enough that it keeps nagging at me)

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