Somewhere between lowly peon and rock-star CEO is a sweet spot where our careers flourish.
We spend our entire adult lives fleeing the former, frantically scaling the corporate ladder like some crazed workaholic monkey to attain the latter, all in an effort to hopefully find that elusive sweet spot where we’re actually happy.
At least, that’s the traditional route, frustratingly futile as it may seem at times.
The corporate world’s worst-kept secret – that climbing the corporate ladder sucks – is actually what led me to start writing about this stuff nearly 12 years ago. And yet I have never answered the quintessential question, is entrepreneurialism the better path to the sweet spot?
Today’s entrepreneur-gone-wild culture answers an emphatic “Yes.” Today’s popular wisdom is that slaving away for the man is the modern-day equivalent of Sisyphus — the mythological Corinthian king who was condemned to push a bolder uphill, only to have it roll back down, for all eternity.
While I vehemently disagree with much of what passes for common wisdom (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) in our content-crazed culture, having pondered that critical career question for lo these many years I can definitively say that there is no one-size-fits-all right answer.
That would be like advising all of you en masse on what kind of person to marry. Career pursuits are personal – matters for each of our heads and hearts to decide. Not only are no two of us alike, our life’s twists and turns are also unique.
But I do know this. The vast majority of you will blindly follow one path or the other like good little drones. How do I know that? Because, that’s what people usually do. They follow the herd — the status quo. That’s not just common sense, it’s biology. It’s an ancient survival mechanism – safety in numbers and all that.
That’s the one thing – the only thing – I would discourage each and every one of you from doing. After all, we’ve evolved these enormous brains since our far more primitive limbic systems decided that humans, like many other mammals, need to follow the herd to survive.
What was true back then is no longer true today. Things have changed a bit over the past million years or so. Humans have conquered planet Earth. There are no predators left. We still have plenty of competition, but in a free society that’s not typically life-threatening.
I think it’s safe to say that it’s now safe to be a unique individual.
By all means come up with a plan that fits your unique situation, but don’t forget to read the tea leaves as your life unfolds before you and do what feels right in the moment. Live and learn, gain confidence and wisdom, and take it all into account the next time you have a decision to make.
Related: The ‘Privilege’ Trap
The thing is, deciding which path to take in life is not like deciding what to buy on Black Friday. There are no specs or reviews that can effectively guide you on your search for that elusive career sweet spot that makes you happy. Only your experience and judgement can do that.
Besides, if you’re the only one who’s going to have to live with the consequences, don’t you think you should be the only one to make those decisions? That’s right folks — it is finally safe to break from the herd and do what’s right for you.
Image credit Paillette via Flickr