There’s an interesting paradox out there. Conventional wisdom says play it safe: get good grades to get a good job. More and more literature instead suggests you live your dreams and follow your passion.
That’s incredibly not helpful. How should you think about these conflicting pieces of advice?
The trick is to think about it through the lens of your kids, whether they be real or hypothetical. Doing so changed my life, and I’ll tell you how later in this essay.
Before going any further, allow me to clarify that I’m not attempting to pass any judgment on how to raise kids. That’s a decision to be made between the parents. Instead, I’m trying to change the way you think about your own life and own career.
There’s a difference between what most do (the safe path) and what they want to do (live your dreams)
Following the safe path is inherently safe and inherently predictable. It’s safe because if you go to school and get good grades, you have >90% chance of getting a job. At the risk of greatly simplifying, an unemployment rate of 4% means 96% of people are employed.
So what do we do? We watch others live their dreams and hate them for it, wishing it was us instead who had decided to follow our passion.
Or, you see people push their dreams onto their kids. For example, like this jackass.
If you don’t recognize him, this is Lavar Ball. He was a pretty terrible college basketball player whose career never panned out, despite repeated claims he could beat Michael Jordan. To compensate for never living his dreams, he pushed his kids to become good basketball players so he could live the life.
Most of us aren’t Lavar Ball, though. Instead, we encourage our kids in a different way.
Follow your passion & live your dreams is the standard graduation advice
Whether consciously or subconsciously recognize it’s what we personally want to do, we give our kids advice to “follow your passion” and that “you can be anything you want growing up.”
But here’s the thing: there is hypocrisy built in here.
This advice almost always has a particular slant to it. The advice is “do what I say, not what I do.” How many of us live our dreams? Yet, we still tell kids to follow their dreams.
We push our kids on the path to the life we have and hate
Despite all our good intentions and well-measured life advice to live your dreams, we tend to push kids on the conventional path.
It’s easy to do so since society is set up in such a structured manner. Our kids go to school and we push them to get good grades. We want them to learn as much as they can from a young age.
Then, we want them to turn those good grades into acceptance in a good college. Then, we want them to get good grades so they get a good job.
And then you blink and your kids are living the life you have. A 9–5 at a job they, statistically likely, will hate.
Is that what you want for your kids? Personally, I don’t have kids but I think about hypothetical kids frequently using this line of thinking.
I’ve written before I have a cool job, but I wouldn’t want my hypothetical kids to have my current life. I know the negative impact it can have.
Use the ‘kid test’ to question whether or not you need to make a change and live your dreams
The Kid Test is simple: would you want your kids to live your life? If you don’t have kids, rephrase the test to: would you want someone you love dearly to live your life?
Based on the fact most of us hate our jobs, I don’t think the answer is yes for most of us.
I think that realization is powerful. If you wouldn’t want someone you love to live your life, why are you living it?
If this is you, that means it’s now time to change your life. The kid test is what made me realize it was about time I started down the path to live my dreams. It’s why I’m chasing my goals now, why I love personal development, and why I write at Ten Minute MBA.
Let’s live our dreams.