You know how when you meet someone for the first time, you immediately share things you may have in common? Intimate relationship, kids, education, work, etc. You spout off your status, and they say, “oh, I’ve always wanted to do that, but…”
What have you done lately? Close your eyes for a moment and think about your accomplishments.
Now, close your eyes and think about your opportunities.
Are they about the same, or does one outweigh the other?
To tackle an obstacle is to learn;
To adjust from your experience for a better outcome.
To deny or refute a challenge completely?
That is to deny or refute a chance to better yourself.
Thinking back to those numbers we discussed, accomplishments versus opportunities… I don’t mean what you have socially succeeded in (in terms of society’s definition of success), but rather what you define as a success. Did you clean the carpets for the first time in two years? Did you finish your Bachelor’s degree? Did you hook that dream job? Or maybe you were able to wake up, with a smile on your face? Success is relative to your situation, and no one can define your successes for you.
Can we agree on that? You bet.
So why then, if no one can define your success, can everyone define your failure?
Tenacity will take you a long way in this world; no one wants to waste their time on a playful soul without concrete intentions.
As a society, we have placed premiums on the most valuable humans influencing our communities. We pride those with intelligence, showmanship, and economic stability. For our drive of individualism, we sure judge on conformity, don’t we? *blush* How dare you do what you love when it won’t earn you an entry-level, six-figure income? (There is absolutely nothing wrong with be accomplished—that’s what I’m here to tell you, right? I’m just saying, there is more than one way to get there.) I was, and still am, so overwhelmed by how many people disagreed with my life choices. Everyone was so sure of what I should have done, without knowing much about me at all.
What They Said: You should pick a different college. You shouldn’t study that. You shouldn’t have gotten married before you finished your degree. You’ll never make money doing that. You shouldn’t have married until you knew what you wanted in life. You should wait to have children.
What I Heard: You shouldn’t have left your established comfort zone.
My god, if I had listened to them, I would have never left tiny-town Illinois. I would not have been the first person in my family to graduate college with both an Associate’s and a Bachelor’s degree, and with honors, no less. I would not have successfully completed an internship with a law enforcement agency, built lifetime professional relationships, and hooked my dream job in a foreign country… all while raising a daughter with my amazing Airman.
Oh, if I had listened to them.
We brush it off, but it sits in the back of our minds, forcing us to consider whether we really made the best decision for us. But… why does that even matter? Why are we so scared to divert from the cookie-cutter norm and explore life’s treasures on our own merit? Well, because there is no security in different; only opportunity. Nothing is certain. And that’s terrifying.
But, ALAS…………… *breath in, chest out, back straight, hands on hips*
No significant accomplishment has ever come from the comfort zone.
Get creative. Uncharted waters leave a whole lot of room for mapping. Identify exactly what you are looking for. Searching for a career field to study? Making a career change? Firing up your own company? Looking for reading materials on a specific topic? Wanting to volunteer? You are your greatest resource; don’t’ waste it.
Establish contacts. Once you know what you’re looking for, find out who can help get you there. For example, you find the research company you’re interested in. Are you going to contact the CEO? Nah. And by nah, I mean no. There is probably someone who handles program inquiries, and you should definitely start there. Same with college-level programs; seek the contact for the person in your field that can help with admission and answer any questions you may have. When exploring your outlets, look for a few ways to verify the methods of outreach for your contacts: phone, e-mail, Facebook messages, etc.
Communicate. Once you find the contact, reach out and explain your objectives. This is a good time to mention that multiple lines of communication are a much better approach; some people can respond better and more quickly on different media (depending on their situations). A company may have a Facebook, but they may not use it much or check it frequently. Having their e-mail address could certainly boost the likelihood of them seeing the message, let alone responding to it. I have definitely reached out to a group, and when I finally contact them a different way months later, they’re all, “oh, shoot, we don’t use xxx anymore!” Use the skills you have learned during your studies, jobs, or otherwise gained to reach out to these potential relationships professionally.
Save for later. I am a packrat. I keep everything, all the time, for any reason. ‘Cuz you know how it goes; you toss it and then you need it 6 months later. I have a folder in each e-mail inbox that I use specifically for potential career connections. I save all e-mail traffic, just in case. I recently reached out to a failed contact from a year ago, to conduct a follow-up. I know you won’t believe me if I tell you, but that won’t stop me from saying that I was hired the next day into a full-time job in the career field I worked so hard to conquer during my undergraduate years. Yup, you heard that right. I never thought this contact would amount to anything; another failed outreach summoned to the wastebasket. And here I am, whistling a much different tune than the last few years (if you read my post, “The greatest danger in life is to risk nothing.”).
Take the focus from falling to flying. Here is that fear we discussed earlier. What if I fail? What if they don’t like me? What if no one responds to my business? What if they don’t like my lack of experience? What if they don’t want me? What if they don’t respond? My question to you is then…. What has changed? If you don’t reach out at all, they definitely don’t know you exist or are interested in their program. If you reach out and they don’t respond, now they know you exist, they know you are willing, and you are still doing the same thing today that you were doing yesterday. The big difference? They know of you. This is also why I keep contact information for later. I’m not above annoying the everlivin’ crud out of a potential career relationship. (Tenacity will take you a long way in this world; no one wants to waste their time on a playful soul without concrete intentions.) If a few months go by, with no response, you can now conduct a follow-up; they may have missed your e-mail the first time. If you let the negativity sit in the back of your mind, it will fester until it has consumed your dreams. Stamp it out before it stamps you out, ya hear?
Whether you are looking to volunteer, start your career, start school, start a business—anything. These 250% apply. I also have this really god-awful knack for persistence. Like annoying persistence. I am so unbelievably bad at taking ‘no’ for an answer, but I truly feel like I am where I am because I am the way that I am. Bottomline? Don’t be afraid to do things your own way. Just because you got married at a young age doesn’t mean you can’t still work on you. Just because you had children at a young age doesn’t mean you go to a backburner. Just because you are 30 and never started a college-level program doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t. Don’t be afraid to do you.
I refuse to believe that anyone set my life in motion. There are aides and leads and ideas and motivations, but at the end of the day, you are the only one who controls the decisions you make. You are the only one holding you back. You are the only one that can move you forward. And for the love of experience, don’t silence that inner voice.