My Single Greatest Mistake in Career and Purpose Pursuit

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My Single Greatest Mistake in Career and Purpose Pursuit

Flash back 22 years ago. A young boy is in his final year in primary school. Although he is among the top 3 performers in the class, his favorite subject is English. When it came to creative writing assignments, the whole class of about 40 knew that it was his forte. They would stand aside and watch, literally. Each time, there would be no one who did as well as he did. Each time, the English teacher would have him read out loud his creative writing after he had marked the assignments for all the students in the class.

The Hint

The boy would brim with confidence and he would feel…anointed…as he read through his work. There was just an easy flow about it. Much as the other pupils tried to replicate this performance, they just could not make it.

This was a major hint for this young boy as far as his career and indeed his purpose are concerned. I vividly remember one of the titles of those creative writing exercises, “The Unfortunate Old Fox”. Those were the days. But what did we do with this hint? Well, we did absolutely nothing, other than bask in its glory and moved on to other things. When I say we, I am talking about:

  • Myself: What do you think I could do with that hint? I was a child. I was being mentored at home and at school to follow a particular path. My mode of operation was largely “obedience” and “trust”. I placed my life in the hands of my elders and totally submitted to the direction that they would take it. Frankly, this is repeated the world over. Can you see the host of kids all over the world in this condition? They cannot make great life decisions in terms of career and purpose by themselves. However, those around them should help them whenever such hints are shown. These days, I am so particularly keen whenever I see a “hint” in people, most especially my children. Ethan is good in public speaking among other things. Serah…I am yet to figure out.
  • My parents: They are both schooled and so it was not a difficult thing for them to notice my gift and talent in creative writing. What did they do about this? Of course they were elated for a moment about this. However, I had to “concentrate on my studies” and get a degree (which I never got to date), in order that I could be a Lawyer, Doctor, Engineer or Accountant. That was their focus, and so they did not see how creative writing would help me achieve that goal. No one “gives a job” to a talented creative writer! You must be the “big 4”, and you must pursue that to the hilt. Today, I am in the exact position that my parents were years ago. I must not repeat their mistake. Of course they meant well for me, no doubt about that, but they were wrong!
  • My Teacher: What else do you think he do apart from nurture my writing potential for years? I am sure he looked forward to reading my essays. Frankly, he did all he could, but unlike my parents, he did not have the power to emphasize that I needed to lean in on my gift and talent. His glory was to see me get admission in a Provincial school (now National School).

New Frontier

And so to the Provincial High school I went. I encountered new things and new people from all over the country. I was top 5 in my rural school, but I found it so difficult to keep up with the new boys I met at high school. At best, I was 70th out of 120. What happened to the writing? It got crowded with other important things like Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geography, Agriculture and Social Ethics!

It was Still there!

Credit to be given to the talent though, it never dies. It stays dormant. Three years later, my English teacher had a guest teacher mark our creative essays. Do you know what he commented on that paper? I will never forget it for as long as I live. He said, “Has Great Potential!” That was totally different from what teachers would indicate in our work. They would either say, Good, Excellent, Poor or just indicate the percentage and let it go. This one was actually moved by what I wrote. Another major hint on the same gift! What did I do with that feedback?

Directionless

I craved to write after school. I wanted to go and improve my writing skills. But that is not what you would do those days. You had to either go to college or university and get a Diploma or a Degree. People do not employ those who do not have degrees, so I had to get one…but I never did anyway!

My Greatest Mistake

Why am I telling you all this? It is simply this. My greatest mistake in my career and purpose pursuit was to ignore the hints of my natural talents. Instead I tried to fix those areas that I was not good at such as Chemistry and Mathematics. Lots of time was spent (read wasted, now that I look at the experience retrospectively) on those things.

Even when the spark of talent kept flickering, the greatest mistake I did was not to honor it and pursue it. I kept looking for jobs so I could pay bills. There is a place for jobs in our lives, but we do not work for 24 hours. My greatest mistake in my purpose pursuit was to think that if there is no obvious path of profit (in my known world), then there is no point of pursuing what I thought mattered greatly to me.

The Greatest Misconception

My greatest mistake in my career and purpose pursuit was made because I was looking for quick fixes. Purpose, potential and gifts are things that take lots of time to develop, package and deploy so that you can earn from them. Frankly, I never knew that I could earn from my gifts. I thought that I could only earn from my academic performance. Today, the highest ascend I have made in my professional life was not because of my academics, it was despite my lack of a degree.

Not Seeing the End of the Tunnel

Finally, my greatest mistake in my career and purpose pursuit was made because I could not see the end of the ladder of success with my gifts and talents. And perhaps this is the greatest of all mistakes. We want to see a proven path before we can start. I have since learnt that the proof of purpose is not in the distant future, but the proof is within us. If I am talented in speaking, then speaking I must pursue even if it makes no sense at all at the moment. My responsibility is to nurture my gift, passion, talent, and what matters to me regardless of how it looks in the “mainstream” way of doing things.

The rest should be left to the Divine to find a way of connecting the weird with the weird to form a masterpiece. That’s what He does anyway. So if I was to go back 22 year ago and make a decision, I am telling you I would never have gone to High School. Crazy? Yes! Well, probably I would have gone begrudgingly. I would have poured all my time in writing, seeking writing projects and reading. I would have sought to hone my sole talent until it is totally refined.

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