Feeling trapped in a place or situation that you never planned or imagined yourself to be in is no fun.
‘It’s only temporary’ you tell yourself, only to find when you look up from the monotony that four years had passed with no progress to show for it? What happened to the goals? The dreams that were being chased? For that matter, where did the time go?
That was me before I made the first real dive into becoming an entrepreneur.
I was strongly encouraged to get a college degree so that I could get a stable job and have money so that I could then pursue my passion. Or better yet, get a degree in a field that I’m interested in so that my work would be something I’m passionate about! Just as long as that degree isn’t in something like performing arts like music, dance or theater. Maybe computer science would be good, or law. Be passionate about those and you’ll do good, right?
I ended up settling on majoring in Strategic Communications — semi-cop out major for me and part wanting to get into marketing or PR but not have my options too narrow.
There were a couple of local firms that did interesting projects nationally. I wanted to be a part of that. I prepared a portfolio and even had the opportunity to pitch a campaign to a hospital. Nothing too glamorous, but it was real world experience! Getting a real job should be a piece of cake.
Well, the hospital didn’t accept the campaign, and getting a job didn’t taste like cake. After not hearing back from my top two choices I submitted applications everywhere I could think of within the midwest. Then further. And then further still. Maybe it was just bad luck, but I wasn’t getting any bites, and being a college graduate with student loans, I needed to find some income before the situation got worse.
I ended up applying to places offering entry level bilingual positions after someone mentioned that it would be easy getting a job since I could speak Chinese (Mandarin) and English. I heard back from a Fortune 500 company within two weeks and accepted the job as soon as the offer was on the table.
Funny thing is I didn’t actually get placed into a position using both languages until about a year after getting hired. Oh well, money was money and I was making more than I’d ever made. It wasn’t my ideal career, but work was work, right?
For a while it was. However over the months, I began to understand why everyone hates Mondays and the concept of the weekend warrior. Monday through Friday I’d essentially shut off. I’d wake up, go to work, perform my job duties, go home, watch TV, browse the web, go to sleep.
Sometimes I might go out for a bit, or travel over vacation; but by and large, my time was taken up by my job and the commute to and from there.
Before I knew it, one year had passed. Then another. I realized that time had passed, 730 days from which I could recall maybe one or two memorable events. What was I doing with my life?
It was like that old Adam Sandler movie Click. The movie’s been out for 10 years already if you haven’t seen it by now, sorry for spoilers. In the movie, he has a TV remote where he can fast forward or skip through periods in his life. He skips through the parts he finds ‘boring’ and tries to get to the parts he finds more exciting. As he watches himself (because he can) while he’s fast forwarding, the ‘him’ living his life in fast forward appears dull and indifferent. It’s going through the motions, just performing enough actions to get by.
Suffice it to say, he ends up skipping through most of his life waiting for that exciting time. The ‘him’ that was going through his life didn’t take care of his health or his relationships and didn’t care to achieve anything out of the ordinary during the skipped moments.
Whether you like Adam Sandler movies or not isn’t the point. I was, and I feel many of us do, live our lives day to day waiting for that exciting time to come.
When I finally stopped and looked at where I was going, I wasn’t happy with where I’d gotten. I wasn’t living with intention, but floating through life. What do I mean by living with intention?
Take Control of Your Life
Always be in the pursuit of knowledge. Be willing to accept that what you currently know may one day be invalid, and be willing to take in new information. A key habit among all successful entrepreneurs is the willingness to be wrong, and to continuously learn new things.
Just because you have a college degree or even a Ph.D. doesn’t mean you know all there is to know. Be willing to change, adapt and learn. This will enable you to thrive in an ever-changing world.
Know What You Want
Take a minute to think about you want. Stop.
You shouldn’t be thinking about things like “I want to not have credit card debt” or “I want to get out of this job” – those are things you don’t want. We all have a lot of those. Take time to think about what you truly want in life so that you can pursue something positive, rather than spend all your energy trying to avoid what you don’t want.
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
One thing that contributes to a sense of numbness is the lack of a sense of gratefulness. Similar to knowing what you want, it’s too easy to think about what we wish we had, rather than what we have now. Chances are you’re reading this from your computer or smartphone. We have a wealth of resources and comforts available to us. Take time to give recognition to things that you can be grateful for. Really give it some thought. It will change your approach to getting what you really want in life from one of constantly chasing, to one of achieving.
This one’s pretty simple, and one that I’m always working on.
Give. When you have an opportunity, give something. Give your time, your money, your service. Whatever it is, do something beneficial for someone else. It can be someone you know or a complete stranger, but the act of giving opens you up to receive as well. A lot of the time there are opportunities and resources heading our way, but we aren’t willing to open up to accept them. Try giving, and see what comes your way over time.
It won’t always be sunny and 75 degrees (my idea of a nice day). But it doesn’t rain every day either. Enjoy the people and things in life as often as possible. Life’s full of ups and downs, and you don’t climb higher by always looking down.
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