What’s next? Career advice from off the career path.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life; I’ve attempted to make careers out of my passions, and so far I’ve done okay.

As parents, we want to know our children will be alright. We want to know that they will make good choices and see success—however it’s defined—as they grow up and out into the world.

RCD_Naysayers_1I want my son to know that it’s okay to try new things—to jump in head first, all-in, go-for-broke—and pursue different things even when everyone around you says it doesn’t make sense. I want my son to know that it’s good to follow your dreams at every stage of life, and you don’t have to listen to the naysayers on the sidelines of your life.

I grew up in the generation that got a job, worked for decades and then retired. Your career path—and the things you did to set yourself on that path—was a critical choice for a young person, and the decision was a benchmark of adulthood.

But I’ve seen far too many people following a path that no longer inspires them (“Only 14 more years until I can retire…”), or have found themselves locked in vanishing industries with no realistic options for moving on. To often the notion that our careers define us—especially dads—handcuffs our sense of adventure, fulfillment and worth.

I reject the notion that a person MUST have a “career path”—the idea that by the time you leave high school, your life has a plan and a path that is mostly predetermined, and you will continue along such a path. I’m not saying there aren’t people who find their calling and anchor in for a lifetime. Power to them. It’s just that the notion of it is so pervasive, that we assume it’s natural; it’s expected.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have one passion for my work. Or, rather, I was lucky enough to have many passions and the opportunity to pursue them professionally. I am fortunate that the people in my life trust me and allow me to pursue opportunities.

I don’t want my son to see a “career path”. Rather, I want him to see commitment, excellence and growth throughout a lifetime as normal. I want him to see what it’s like to create and deliver value to others on his terms. I want him to respect his skills and passions, and find ways to use them throughout his life.

Regardless of what you are doing, do it well. Learn to do it better. Be proud of the value that the job brings and don’t diminish the importance of doing the job right. Take the time to learn something different, and how you can work it into your activities. Take the time to try something new, and see how it fits. Take the time to explore new passions and see where the adventure leads.

Added to my catalogue of “Best Advice Ever”, a colleague recently shared this: “Whenever you are given an opportunity, just say Yes.” You can always step off the train, but it’s almost impossible to catch up once it leaves the station. Open your eyes to new ideas and new possibilities, and possibly, it will be the one moment that makes all the difference.

Never be afraid to say, “That was good. What’s next?”

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I’ve been busy.

I know the worst thing a blogger can do is go silent. Extended breaks—especially disappearances—are a slap in the face to regular readers and undermine any credibility to those who just pop by for a peek. There’s really no excuse.

Except, I’ve been busy.

I am not a professional parent, and I have no commitment to this blog other than my own narcissistic desire to write and share. I don’t owe anyone a story or article. And, I try to write about timeless topics, so the content isn’t technically stale.

There are two promises I made to myself when I started this blog:

One, I wouldn’t ever tell my family I’m too busy to be with them because I need to write. That would single-handedly contradict everything I believe about fatherhood; nothing is as important as being present. This blog is simply a writing hobby.

Two, I would try to offer an optimistic perspective about things that matter to me, and hopefully other modern dads. This is my soapbox, but it’s not in my nature to rant about the topic-du-jour unless I can offer a little insight. I don’t need to jump on the social issues of the day with little more than ill-informed rhetoric, and I certainly don’t bring any authority to parenting skills such as a Phd or years of experience.

In the course of being busy, I was also struggling to find topics to share authentically and intelligently. Blogs, it seems, love a controversy—sometimes even a contrived controversy. Blogs that get attention have a simple strategy; take an extreme opinion, poke the bear, let the rhetoric fly, close comments, and set up the next issue. I really didn’t have the capacity or mindset to defend my opinions—and some issues are just too important for a flippant remark—so I went quiet for a while.

But I’m back, now. And I have a few things I’d like to share.

Thanks for reading.

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Unsolicited Advice

Talk with me. Don’t talk at me.

I don’t know anyone who likes getting unsolicited advice. Especially the kind that comes from one parent to other. The abundance of parent blogs, though, shows us that people aren’t really averse to offering or reading advice. So the issue is really around ‘unsolicited’.

If you’re an avid advice-giver, you may want to check your methods.

What makes advice awkwardly unsolicited? Here’s a story:

As the warmer spring weather hits our community, my running-errands fashion leans towards formal beach wear; shorts, t-shirts, a pair of sunglasses, and the easiest footwear I can find. Sometimes that means flip flops.

In the schoolyard, one of the parents walked straight up to me and said “You wear flip flops here?” and then immediately launched into a lecture to tell me “You’re going to get plantar warts because you wear flip flops. I did, and the doctor told me it was because of my flip flops. You shouldn’t wear them. You should always wear shoes.”

I was annoyed. I was comfortable in my flip flops, but annoyed.

I don’t want plantar warts—I am sure it sucked for her when she had them—but I didn’t need an amateur medical lecture in the school yard. So how does she share a little wisdom without sounding like an ass? Here’s another way to share similar advice.

“Hey, nice flip flops.” Then pause. After moment, say, “I don’t wear them anymore. I got plantar warts once, and my doctor told me it was because of the flip flops.” Again, a short pause. If the flip-flopped person doesn’t turn away, perhaps offer a little more. “I’ll admit it surprised me when my doctor told me. Have you ever had problems?”

Did you see the difference?

Unsolicited advice 1) is relentlessly directed at my action, 2) assumes the person knows everything about my current situation, 3) is delivered as though the person is clearly smarter and more informed than I am, 4) is shared as a fact, and 5) is not requested, obviously.

I don’t mind someone telling me about their quirky life or medical issues, or even their opinions on the world—within reason, of course. It’s how I learn new things and deepen friendships (and let’s be honest; I also get inspired for blog topics). However, where fruitful conversation trips over into unsolicited advice is simply the delivery.

As a dad, I get plenty of “wisdom” offered to me on the playground. Parents who believe that they are smarter and more experienced at parenting offer plenty of helpful hints to make me a better person. Some of it is useful.

But unless you are an expert and my life is in imminent danger, talk with me, not at me. If I want your advice, I will ask.

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Wake Up Call for Aspiring Athletes

Plenty of parents want their child to play sports, and some kids even excel. And anyone who hangs around long enough knows that parents of Olympic level athletes share a common story of early morning practices, and the dedication shared by the family.

I heard the best commitment strategy idea for aspiring young athletes who start the challenging but important early morning training schedule of their chosen sport.

“Wake me up to get you to practice.”

Let the young athlete set the alarm, climb out of bed, and perhaps even get the coffee brewing. Let the young athlete get their gear together and fuel up with a smart breakfast. When the young athlete is ready, wake up dad or mom.

Let the young athlete own the commitment, and the parent can support them.

Every sport parent knows about the early morning routine. It’s a chore made worse by the fact that we feel we’re more committed to success than our children. We’ll defend it in the context of ‘helping them succeed’, but in reality we’re protecting them from the consequences of their lack of commitment—the disappointed coach; the weaker performance; the missed victory; the frustrated team.

I don’t think it applies to all situations, and certainly requires an advanced level of athletic performance and success. This is only for the athlete who chooses intensity.

Parents of athletes don’t always know where to draw the line between a child’s activity and a parent’s activity. It’s easy to see situations where the commitment to winning is more important to the adult. This switches it around and gives the sport—and all the effort required to win—back to the athlete.

Posted in Adventures, Inspirations, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments