Why You’ll Fail to Have a Great Career

Don’t you love the kind of straight talk that slaps you in the face to get your attention?  No sugar-coating, no beating around the bush– just in-your-face, brutal honesty?  Okay, not always, but sometimes that is just what we need to inspire us into action.  I’m a pretty sensitive person, but when the raw truth is delivered with humor and the right intentions, tough love can certainly set me straight.  In another of my favorite podcasts titled, Why You’ll Fail to Have a Great Career, Economy Professor, Larry Smith does just that.

Why we will all fail sounds like an upbeat topic, huh?  Well, it actually is.  His message is optimistic because the speaker is funny, and he leaves us with the hope that we can achieve greatness.  His points may seem grim or condemning; but it’s really not grim, unless you choose to see it that way.  Why you’ll fail to have a great career boils down to 3 main reasons.

The first. Passion.

You won’t find your passion because you’ll make excuses not to.  We’ve all heard that to have a great career, you need to find your passion.  But life can be hard, and finding your passion can be harder than we anticipated.  Am I right?  Maybe I am, but just because it’s hard to find your passion, why should you ever give up on yourself?  I struggled for my whole life to find a passion, and even now the thought of expressing it still makes me a little nervous.  I can’t explain why, but it does.  Mr. Smith says, “Passion is your greatest love.”  Maybe that’s why!  Committing to your greatest love is scary stuff– especially if you’re not sure it’ll love you back.

And by the way, interests are not passions.  If you settle for your interest, you might fail to find your passion.  Instead discover twenty interests, and one of those may grab your attention enough to become your passion.  It never occurred to me, but this is right– that is exactly how it happened for me!  The very thing that set me into motion was trying out different interests just for the sake of doing.  Ultimately I didn’t find my passion, but it found me.  The more we explore, the more we’re likely to find our match.

Darn it.  I can’t highlight it all here.  You should go listen to the podcast because he is so funny and has so much insight to offer. 

So let’s say you find your passion.  How sucky is it to know that after you find it, you’ll still fail to have a great career?  Oh right, passion alone isn’t enough.

The second. Human Relationships.

You know why you’ll fail?  Because you’ll find another excuse, which will be your decision to focus on relationships.  Unfortunately, there’s an unconsidered side effect here… If you avoid your passion because you want to be a great parent or a great spouse, look at the unintended responsibility you’re putting upon your family.  Instead of being your reason and inspiration for having a great career, they become your excuse for not having a great career.  As Mr. Smith asks, “do you think it’s appropriate to use your children as a shield?” Whoa!  Talk about tough love.

How about when your child shares her dream with you?  You want a wake up call?  Listen to this part of the podcast, and it might make the dreamer in you weep.  What do you say to your child when he comes to you and says he wants to follow his dream?  You question it, and you suggest a steady, stable path… essentially dismissing his dream.  You can’t say, “you should follow your dream, because that’s what I did.”  You can’t say it, because you didn’t do it.

Oh shoot, you really should listen to this talk because I can’t even cover all the good stuff here.

Then there’s that big whammy reason that is actually behind the first two excuses.

The third. Fear.

Here comes our old friend fear… the biggest excuse around.  We are afraid.  We are afraid we will fail.  We are afraid we will look stupid.  We are afraid we will make the wrong decision.  Because of that, we hide behind the first two excuses.

I’ve been afraid a lot on my journey.  I chose dentistry because I thought it was the right thing to do.  I gave up staying abroad in Spain another year because I promised I would come home and go to dental school.  Who knows what could have happened in my life had I stayed. I don’t have any regrets, but maybe I would have found my passion– or maybe not.  When I committed to come home to start school, part of me wanted it, but part of me also wanted to stay abroad.  It’s clear now that dentistry was an interest, not a passion.  When my interest was unable to hold me up through the tough times, my interest in my interest waned.  Years later when I was desperate for change, I was so stifled by my own stagnation, that I was afraid to even search for a passion.  I was afraid I would end up the fool, I would never find it, or that I would fail.  I was so afraid that I couldn’t even admit I had any interests, let alone passions.

But the more I learned about myself and opened up my mind, the closer I got to finding my passion.

With all this talk of a great career, what is that anyway?

We all have a different idea of what that is.  Maybe it’s making a lot of money, or helping people, or having influence and receiving recognition.  Maybe it’s a job that allows you to have balance in your life and love what you do while you maintain happy personal relationships. Maybe it’s having it all.  How do you define a great career?

And, oh, if you haven’t found it yet, when are you going to decide to find your passion?

Have I mentioned yet that you really should do yourself a favor and listen to this podcast?  My summary does not do this Ted Talk justice at all.  Larry Smith’s talk is motivating, inspiring, entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking, and I’d love to hear what you think!

6 thoughts on “Why You’ll Fail to Have a Great Career

  1. I really do enjoy reading your blog. Mostly because I can relate to all of what you say as a former dentist myself. I wish you well with your new job career advising.

    1. Thanks so much, Mark! I always appreciate your input. It’s amazing how so many different, unique people can share such similar experiences. I’m not sure I know what you’ve decided to do since leaving dentistry, but I remember you were trying to figure it out! I hope you’ll keep me posted.

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