As the old saying goes, advice is cheap. When we are on a path that is unknown and there are no clear direction signs, we look to one of two types of people to help out: Those who have walked this path before and those at the end who know what lies ahead. Unfortunately the logic behind this is flawed. The previous path walkers can only tell you the obstacles that they encountered and cannot possibly predict where you will step. You and your decisions are your own. There may be some usefulness in listening to those already at the destination of your journey, but they can only give you advice based on an aggregation of observations of other people on your path. You are not like everyone else. Often, the hardest image to see is a true reflection of yourself. Recognize the advice you receive as it relates to you personally.
Several common advice themes taken at face value become fluffy platitudes that have little meaning. They are only right if they fit your needs and desires. Listen to the advice, consider your own reflection, and then decide if it is worthwhile.
- Follow Your Passion? – Look in the mirror. You can’t see passion can you. Most of the time others can’t either. Ask your reflection this question, “Are my life passions unyielding or is it possible that they will change over time?” The reality of that elusive thing everybody calls a passion is that you are setting up your own obstacles if you stubbornly stick to a mindset planted by your parents, professors, or friends. Open your mind, go out, and find your passion rather than trying to make your passion reality. Professional athletes begin with a passion for their sport and succeed, but most do not. The hotshot neighborhood basketball players who make it to a high school team only have a 0.03% chance of making it to professional hoops.
- Be Yourself? – Chances are that isn’t going to end well. At what point in time do you benchmark yourself as the person you will be forever? This does not mean that you can compromise your values and be whatever someone tells you to be. It also doesn’t mean that you have no control over the path you take. See that reflection in the mirror? See the person you want to be a year from now, five years from now, or when you retire. Make a plan to improve at key points along the way and become the person you want to be. One characteristic of a choosing an employer is to find a match to your goals. You bring the future “you” to work there and they give you the tools to become exactly that… to your mutual benefit.
- Build Your Personal Brand? – The primary reason for personal branding is to market that image so that employers will buy it. It is important to know the target audience and tailor the brand not only to the reflected self image but also to the eyes of the ultimate client. If there is any proof that personal branding is of little consequence to a job interview it would be this: It is impossible to target every company. A genuine appearance to one can look phony to another. Image is important but it will not offset shortcomings in other areas. Waxing your car will make it look better, but it is the stuff under the hood that really counts. Take care of the fundamental values of who you are and your brand will take care of itself.
It’s not all about you unless you live alone in a cave. You must bring value to the people that you touch with your life. At the same time, you must also be satisfied with yourself and the reality you are living.
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