Creating happiness with career and success

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Conversations about careers and success seem to be on the rise. On the one had you have the unemployed, on the other those that are employed and on the third hand we have those that are employed and trying to do more than sit tight in uncertain times  – they are career focused and don’t believe that a bad economy is an un-scalable wall. If you are or were unemployed you might appreciate a job, even if it didn’t align with your career. If you are one of those that are just happy to have a job you are okay possibly pausing your career since the paycheck is of primary importance. What is interesting to learn from the last group is that staying aggressive with your career despite the economic climate suggests that a “career” transcends employment or work. Unfortunately, people think that their places of work and the work itself is what careers are about. People sometimes describe their career as what they do or who they are.

Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person’s “course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)”.

It can also pertain to an occupation or a profession that usually involves special training or formal education,[1] and is considered to be a person’s lifework.[2]

Wikipedia entry for Career

If a career were about how we spend our time, sleep would be at the heart of all of our accomplishments. Consider how much time is “wasted” in a given day – can we say we specialize in it? People tend to associate a career with success. Consider Alain de Bottom’s TED talk from 2009.

You can’t be successful at everything … we hear a lot of talk about work life balance, nonsense. You can’t have it all, you can’t. So, any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of lose is. Uh, and I think any wise life … will accept … there is going to be an element where we are not succeeding.

And the thing about a successful live is that a lot of the time our ideas of what it would to live successfully are not our own. They are sucked in from other people.

– Alain de Bottom, TED Talk 2009

Bottom’s message is that at least if we are going to go around using this concept of success, that it be something we consciously work with as it is a measure that ultimately we are defining. As he says (paraphrasing) it would be an awful thing to reach success and find out it wasn’t what we wanted all along. Consider that in the context of how much is given up trying or being successful – since there is something we are losing out on. Add in the time we waste and time we sleep and it doesn’t take a momentous occasion for someone to see that we don’t have a lot of time. The Holstee Manifesto is so powerful because it articulates truth everyone wants to circle around.

As individuals we are always changing. This likely means the definition of success should also be changing. If it is staying the same we are holding strong to the inputs we drink from society. If a career is one’s “course through life” then the artifacts of that journey decorate it but do not define it. If success is a part of that career then there are stories of losing are important ingredients. We often hear, “you should do what you love.” Most people think, “if only I got paid as well.” The right answer is to consider in what ways do I love what I do. If there is no love to be found, it might be time for punctuation. Whatever you love is what all your time should be spent on. Create a portfolio of artifacts that not only help describe a career, but make it out of things you care for and are passionate about, otherwise your career and any success, is likely coming at too high a price.