31 Jul 10 Unique Lessons on Creating a Dream Career
Here are 10 very important lessons I’ve personally learned while discovering my own career path in life:
- The journey of self-discovery is more important than you realize.
- Don’t assume you’ll have just one career all your life, even if it’s something you love to do.
- School is not the only environment where you can learn.
- Attitude is everything.
- Bouncing back from any adversity as fast as you can and building momentum in any career direction is far better than being idle and going nowhere.
- Having difficulty making decisions in your career? Get started, own your decision, start with small decisions and avoid procrastination.
- Focus on what you love to contribute to others and find meaning and purpose in your work.
- If your life is full of paradoxes, it’s an important clue that you may not be on the right path.
- If you think having a career isn’t right for you, then you can always forge your own path through entrepreneurship.
- Your ability to switch off from work is just as important as your ability to switch on for work.
How do you know what you love when you’re not even sure about who you really are? When you’re making career choices, your first subject of study should be YOU. Understanding your skills, your values and your passions or interest matters much more than you might realize.
At 16, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I wanted to be on a plane and travel around the world. But when I got an angioma, a tumor at the back of my right eye that affected my eyesight, I had to give up on my first career choice.
At 19, I finally understood why I had poor eyesight, when I was diagnosed with Von-Hippel Lindau (VHL) syndrome, a rare hereditary disease in which the body continually forms cysts and tumors. The doctor at that time told me that people with my condition don’t live past 30 years of age! So, I gave up on my future as well as having a career. After all, what was the point?
However, eventhough I didn’t believe in the future, I was still tempted to have a career in the advertising industry, where I thought people lived a very creative kind of life. So after spending more than two years studying graphic design at art college, I applied for a job in the advertising industry. But except for a job selling ads for cinemas, which I turned down, I didn’t get any jobs I actually liked.
To survive, I worked on building my own business and did wheeling and dealing here and there. But then, I started making more money than my friends. In fact, I was already becoming entrepreneurial but at that time, I didn’t know it yet.
In my early 20s, my early business ventures were earning money and that allowed me to buy my time back and enter a massive period of self-discovery. I traveled on my own and got to know myself better. I discovered the values that make me tick.
In my opinion, values don’t change. Once you truly understand them and how they’re expressed in all forms, you’d often find they never change all throughout your life. When you get honest with your values, you’ll discover why you do what you do and what your true north is.
During my self-discovery phase, I created a values checklist, to help me understand my values better: my intrinsic values (intangible rewards related to inner motivation and satisfaction), as well as my extrinsic values (tangible rewards, earning potential and job titles).
In my intangible values, for instance, influencing others, experiencing adventure, gaining a sense of achievement, and finding opportunities to express my creativity are still as important to me now as they were back when I did this self-assessment twenty years ago.
A structured formula of understanding your values can be your starting point in determining who you are. Take all those personality tests, read books and do what you can to identify your true values. You will have no shortage of information at this day and age.
Your values are your true north. Once you find your true north, you can then determine roles, skills, industries, environments you can apply yourself to and build a career that complements your values.
If you’re still undecided on what to do, then that means you haven’t been able to distinguish your values and identify who you really are yet. If things still don’t feel right, you have to go back to reassess your values properly.
In this fast-paced, modern-day age, only a few lifetime careers still exist. It’s dangerous to assume you’ll be doing just one thing for the rest of your career, even if it’s something you know you love to do.
Unlike our grandparents, and their parents before them, you don’t have to stay in one place or industry anymore throughout your entire career. You can explore many types of jobs in various industries for your personal and career growth. You’re no longer considered a career-hopper by having multiple careers, but a versatile and talented worker. In today’s ever-changing workplace, adaptability has become a much-prized asset.
Have you ever been recognized for being good at something you enjoy doing or think you could have a lifetime career in?
When I was in high school, I was good at athletics. I ran some races and won, but because I didn’t take it seriously, I never considered it as a possible career. I was also good at drawing, and went so far as to study for two years at a prestigious art college, where I was one in only four students who got accepted with Year 11 qualifications. But eventually, I realized a career as a graphic designer wasn’t right for me either. I felt I was better suited to apply my creativity in other industries such as the advertising industry, which appealed to me. I thought that it was a very creative environment to apply myself in, but I couldn’t get a job. As a result of that door closing, I had to recognize other avenues where I can apply my creativity. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that I have a natural capacity for business. I’ve since enjoyed expressing my creativity as a businessman for the last twenty years.
When I was in primary school, I remember learning the alphabet and the words being put together. One day, I asked a question to the teacher, and she said she would get back to me. The whole class moved on from there. I was really puzzled. I didn’t know why I couldn’t make out the words when I knew very well that they were written in my own language. Imagine attending school and the class not only went outside of your pace of learning, but left you in the dust, going miles ahead while you got stuck in the beginning. At the time I was never diagnosed but clearly, I was dyslexic.
Because of my adversity, formal schooling just didn’t work for me.
I’ve since realized that learning doesn’t just occur in universities or schools to get degrees or diplomas. All learning is self-learning.
Self-learning is you pursuing your own interest, at your own pace, at your time. This should be a constant in your life.
Ultimately, what the structured school environment does is hope you get an education, whereas life experiences such as adversity, failure, applying yourself in business, and challenging yourself to become more, force you to learn. For example, how can you not be changed after a brain operation, or losing millions in business? However, you can spend millions in tuition fees and hope that school will educate you.
One hopes you become; one forces you to change.
Life is about growing and books help you grow. Follow your interest and what resonates with you, whether it’s about getting to know yourself on a deeper level, or like me, pursuing and understanding marketing and business. The greatest shame is when people don’t pursue education, given all the knowledge at our disposal these days.
They say that studying seventy-five books in a specialized field of your interest is like having a four-year degree. So technically, you can have a four-year degree in about six months, as I’ve done before. It’s as though I’ve gained three or four degrees in those two years of intense self-learning during my mid-twenties.
But ask yourself: what am I going to do with all this knowledge? Don’t read information about what you’re going to do someday; read with intent to discover more about yourself, what will help you create deeper meaning in your life, or that can help you transform and improve what you’re trying to do now. Ask yourself, what is my next step, then find the information to guide you through it and help you make better decisions for the near future.
Attitude sets the tone for your focus. In my experience, it can represent as much as 60% of your desired outcome. For example, how I view my own health adversity can sometimes be a matter of life and death. If I approach my cancer battles with an attitude of fear and doubt, I don’t think I may be around much longer. But my resolve and energy gives me a level of determination that helps me attain the mental toughness to confront and overcome any adversity or obstacle that I might face.
However, I realize that sometimes, you don’t get exposure for these things unless you’ve been tested, broken, rebuilt, broken again, rebuilt, and tested, again and again. It’s a constant cycle. Attitude and mental toughness will not make for a bulletproof plan, but it’s a great characteristic that will see you through most of life’s adversities. You have to be committed and firm on whatever you do, otherwise, as the great Rocky Balboa once said, “[The world] will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.”
No matter the circumstances, your mental toughness will help you gain inner strength, confidence and act with commitment and purpose. You’ll become a force to reckon with; not a force of a superhero, but a force of mental strength and focus that anyone can attain.
That mindset will allow you to create deeper meanings out of life, and will not only help you find your career path, but also heighten your own sense of personal fulfillment.
After my brain operation in 2005, I experienced something phenomenal. Unlike many people who go through such an adversity, I experienced the exact opposite. As a result, I gained some very unique perspectives that I wrote about in a dedicated article.
My extreme and constant health challenges make me ever more grateful for every day I have and I recognize each day as a gift. So while I’m alive, I might as well make my life count. I work every day. I really push myself to think and live large, because the access to a higher and greater source of inner energy only happens at the momentum level. Do you ever wonder why the strong athletes grow stronger, or the rich people get richer? It’s really that momentum energy principle at work. By constantly moving forward, I make that energy work for me in every way. Its tremendous power can’t be felt as much when you’re still and settled. When you constantly keep yourself in motion, doubt and fear may take hold of you momentarily, but because you’re constantly making decisions and problem-solving, you can easily shake them off.
Follow your interests, learn more about yourself and the meanings you place on what you like. Your environment, your life, your interests, will combine and accumulate to create opportunities for you. Don’t worry too much about what’s ahead of you.
Being preoccupied in a healthy way is really good for us. And it doesn’t come at a personal cost. It adds to our lives. When we are working in a job, no matter what the job may be, we get more money, more experiences, and gain new skills, perspectives and lessons. We contribute more and make an impact in some way on the world, for better or worse, but hopefully for the better.
When you find yourself in a career rut, I suggest that you just keep working, because it is easier to turn a ship while it is in motion. So keep working and moving. Don’t stop trying. Don’t settle.
After losing a lot of money in one of my business ventures, I avoided real work by laying low. Then I got a job, but only for 6 weeks, selling seminars and earning commission from leads. I broke the company’s all-time sales records. Because I was earning so much more than my other colleagues, I quit. Not long after, I was able to establish my new business ventures on my own terms.
I’ve since found it helpful to observe in your own life what you are avoiding and why, as well as notice what you’re overdoing and what you should be moving on from. If you have losses, cut your losses and move on. The sooner you deal with such losses, the faster you can bounce back and start making progress in the right direction.
As soon as you’ve found something to do, focus and follow through on that. Avoid aimless and unstrategic action. Many people are merely reacting to things when they should be responding and thinking of their approach, direction and ideas already. Start from there. At least you now have a signpost ahead of you. Get ready, go for it and align your aim as you go into motion.
6a: Get started.
You don’t need to have everything totally mapped out before making a decision. Getting yourself started is far more important than planning or envisioning whatever you think you need to do. Why are you not getting started? It’s because you’re not trusting in yourself, or believing your capacity to handle something.
Life is a journey. So if you know how to drive, you drive somewhere. But along the way, there’s going to be confusing signs, people pulling up in front of you, dogs, cats and children running up and other kinds of dangers. At the end of the day, it’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you handle it. When you trust in yourself, you start believing that you can handle any obstacle that comes your way.
6b. Own your decision.
Just to get to that point of owning my decision was an impossible exercise when I was younger. I can definitely relate to many people who have no idea what they want to do or understand what they are interested in. It’s okay to feel that way. Ask yourself why you are on that particular career path. Has an interest or circumstance led you there?
When I was younger, I was always looking for answers outside of myself. I was paying a lot of money for consultants to find out which career best suited me. I didn’t have the confidence to decide for myself. When people don’t back themselves, and don’t believe in themselves, they will always have difficulty making decisions. If you don’t back yourself, who will? If you don’t trust yourself, who else will trust you? If you’re not resolved, all it takes is just one punch, and you’re out of the game. If you don’t fully own your decision you’ll end up constantly blaming others and being angry and negative instead of moving on and making a better decision. So, when you can, make sure you’re the one making the decision, not your family or society’s expectations.
In a world where change is inevitable, it’s always better to be the architect of your own happiness.
Life is a constant series of change. It’s either you make the change by designing it, or change will occur to you by somebody else’s design. Are you going to be the one to manage your circumstances, or will you allow somebody else to manage your circumstances and affairs? At the end of the day, take responsibility for your life when you can.
6c. Start with small decisions.
If you don’t know what the next step is after making a decision, focus on making small decisions first. Then you can expand more and more, and slowly make bigger and bigger decisions.
These days, we have more choices than ever before, and multiple paths to get there. Just take it one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Ask yourself, how do I make a little change here and there so I can make an impact? And then you realize that making a little change throughout your day here and there can result in a five percent increase here, and a twenty percent increase there. Compounding it throughout the day means that you are very effective and progressing toward the direction you set out on.
While career is a big word, I’d rather focus on the fact that you’re going to make decisions, big and small, towards making a living that’s going to be filled with work, that you love to do, that is a true expression of yourself, if you make the right choice. But first, make sure you ground yourself. Assess where you are at the moment. It’s good to dream big, but at the same time keep your feet planted firmly on the ground as you make that small step forward.
6d. WARNING: Avoid procrastination.
Most people who have regret are those who delay their decisions. I’ll do that dance class sometime, I’ll go on that trip someday soon, one day. Why not do it now? Before you know it, time moves even faster as you get older. One day, you might find yourself barely able to walk anymore. So don’t delay your decisions. You don’t have as much time as you think.
I’ve noticed that those who think they’ve got all the time in the world become the biggest procrastinators and live a life that’s fear-orientated. They’re so full of self-doubt that at the end of their lives, they’re almost embarrassed because they’re not highly accomplished and are full of regrets. What a waste of life. Do not be that example!
Before my brain operation in 2005, I didn’t know what I wanted in life and could’ve easily become one of those people. But after my brain operation, I no longer had any shortage of wants. I didn’t waste any more time entertaining my fears and excuses, and simply went for whatever I wanted. And doing that means doing it NOW, ready or not.
I love what Muhammad Ali said: Don’t count your days; make your days count!
“Time is very important. It’s the only commodity you can’t buy,” says Warren Buffet. Once it’s gone, you can’t bring it back.
There are two ways you can make a contribution to others:
7a. Start a business as your vehicle to create a new service or product that you can contribute to others;
7b. Work at other people’s businesses that are in line with your own interests and causes.
If you’re exploring a series of interests, it’ll only be a matter of time before you find one of those interests to be far more compelling than everything else. “Finding your passion” has become a cliché, but the reality is it’s not at all easy to find your passion. Over time, as you explore all your interests, one of those will be something that you’ll resonate with even more than all your other interests, and that will most likely grow as your true passion over time.
All around us are other people’s contributions that reflect their passions in life. There are people out there making millions and having creative and fulfilling careers out of making chairs, or umbrellas, or trampolines or designing gardens, etc.
When you love what you do, you automatically add value to your work because love is the highest form of energy in the universe. As a result, the work produced out of love will always be of the highest standard. Joy would be the closest emotion to love, and when you’re working, that should be present as well because it represents care. When you care about what you do, that means you’ll do whatever is necessary to bring your work to a certain level or standard that others will see value in. That’s why you always have to find something that you’re willing to really care about. When you care about something, you will have enough meanings and reasons behind what you do. No matter how simple or small you think that job is, it’s important that you love doing it. There are people who’ve made their fortunes selling nothing but toothpicks or doing nothing but making fortune cookies. As the Dalai Lama says, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!”
Oftentimes, it’s more helpful to care more about what you can give than what you expect to receive.
I once knew someone who was making a lot of money in his business. But as soon as his business had ended, he was devastated and horrified and had no idea what to do next. He didn’t trust in himself and his ability and now he’s financially broke. He doesn’t know what to do. Making money is such a drama in his life. I tell him the only reason why it’s such a drama is because he doesn’t have enough meaning and purpose in his work. One shouldn’t be focused only on making money. Work is so much more than that; it’s your opportunity to serve others and to further develop your interest in the work that you do. When there’s not enough weight to the reasons why you should do the work, you’ll always be avoiding work and dabbling: going after one quick deal or yet another job to the next.
With meaning and purpose, however, you’ll be fully resolved to do your job. You’ll jump out of bed willing to pursue what you’re doing, and at the end of the day, retire to bed feeling truly accomplished and knowing you’ve taken one step forward in becoming all you can be in this life.
How do you know when enough is enough? How do you know what’s the right path in whatever it is you’re pursuing? How can you gain more certainty in the decisions you make? I have a unique observation that I’d like to share.
In my early years of work, there were so many paradoxes in my life that I didn’t pay attention to. For instance, I was making a lot of money from my first business, a packaging and assembly factory, and yet I was so bored with it. I had reached what I thought I wanted to achieve financially, but I was still unhappy and miserable. For me, this was the true definition of failure, even more than trying something you want to do and not succeeding at it.
When I established realestate.ph, a real estate portal to help consumers find a better way to buy and sell properties in the Philippines, I invested millions trying to become an online real estate market. I loved the work so much. I was really being creative and doing everything I could to make it work. Yet I was commercially unsuccessful.
But the paradox that I was experiencing in my life at that time didn’t go away. I was happy doing the work, but I was sad being away from my family. I was enjoying making progress and creating, but it was costing me a fortune and making me broke. It all came to a head with another health challenge I was confronting at the same time, in which I learned that I had two tumors growing in my brain. This forced me to finally stop the business. If I didn’t have the brain operation, I would have just gone too far with it. One doesn’t have to go through a brain operation like I did to realize such things.
If I’d observed the paradox earlier, I would’ve stopped realestate.ph and lost less money and time. Like so many things in life, opposites co-exist side by side without any friction. But when friction occurs from these opposites, that’s the biggest clue that you’re not on the right path and you’ll most likely attain a financial loss.
You will make better decisions and judgments as a result of learning from failures. If you don’t learn from your failures, the odds of you repeating the same mistakes in the future are higher.
My family and society in general tend to equate formal education with job security. Unfortunately, despite making many attempts to get into a professional career in the advertising industry, I simply couldn’t get what I wanted from this job market and educational system with my dyslexic condition. As a result, I ended up having to forge my own way in life. In the process, I had to challenge the status quo, including my own family.
My dad worked for a businessman all his life, but never became a businessman himself. This partly explains why my dad had a risk-averse attitude towards life. He got stressed out whenever I quit my day job because for him a job was a source of financial as well as psychological security. When I bought a property for the first time, my dad didn’t support my move. Instead, he convinced the real estate agent to give a refund the very next day and cancelled the deal because he thought I was taking too much of a risk.
In my mid-twenties, I formally chose to become an entrepreneur, and started my first business called Industry Outplacement where I got five major clients that gave me so much ongoing business. Eventually, I started expressing my creativity by developing physical products to sell to various retail and distribution outlets.
From this entrepreneurial journey, I was able to make all the small and big decisions to arrive to where I am now – as the sole CEO of Remotestaff.com.au, a multimillion-dollar remote working business that has employed over 7,000 people since 2007.
It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur because you need to ask yourself some very difficult questions. Are you prepared to burn all your bridges and live on crumbs? Are you prepared to go all in, with odds for or against your favor? Are you prepared to always be operating at your highest self? Are you prepared to back yourself a hundred percent? Are you willing to trust your instincts? Are you prepared to make some serious decisions even without all the facts at hand? And there are many such decisions to be made.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. At the end of the day, there’s no one else that you can look up to for answers, but yourself. You’re the one making decisions. You’re the one with the inner knowing. You’re the one with the confidence and resolve to do this and that in your business.
As an entrepreneur, I chose remote working as my business because it empowered me to work from anywhere around the world. Even if you have a physical handicap, you can still work and be confident about contributing to others. I’m really proud of my contributions, because I could provide work-from-home opportunities for people to gain financial independence and continue evolving and growing in their careers while servicing our international clients. Also, that means we keep families together. Our staff doesn’t have to commute to work. Our clients, on the other hand, get a chance to grow their business through such labor arbitrage opportunities we provide them on our remote working platform. My remote staff business has given me so much joy and fulfillment and meets my desire for higher purpose work.
Just like sleep, rest is necessary, because always being on a mission can drain you. To increase your odds of success, you need time to recover. Taking time out gives you new space to reassess that things change in life.
Nobody is indispensable. It’s not always about speed, precision, efficiency, solving problems or being a well-rounded individual. At the end of the day, you need a healthy work-life balance. For instance, no matter how hard I try to work, I hit the wall when I’m fatigued. These days, after my second brain operation, it’s much harder for me to overcome this wall. I need to sleep to bounce back.
At the end of the day, spending time with family, friends, and whatever other interest you have, any opportunity that you can get to relax, is just as important as continuing to pursue your mission and purpose. A strong mindset, attitude and drive is a lot of power. You can’t always be racing. You need time to pull over at a pit stop, so to say.
Every time you slow down and stop, you have time to reassess. For example, when you fast, it takes about three days for your bowel system to stop working, dispersing enough energy across the body on a cellular level to flush out the toxins. That’s like work. If you work, your bowel keeps moving; you don’t have time to detox, to rethink, reassess. In my case, I rest and stop, but my health adversities have often been the catalyst that forces me to reassess.
Please don’t wait until you get a brain tumor like I did to reassess your situation. When you constantly reassess your situation in life, it will help you get smarter in what you do. You’ll be quicker to pick up on the errors you make, accepting those errors and criticisms, being open to feedback faster and being able to bounce back from any kind of adversity. So don’t underestimate time off and your ability to switch off; it’s just as important as your ability to switch on.