When I was growing up, I never understood the fascination with celebrities. My mother would take me to the grocery store, and I would see print magazines spilling off the racks, full of minute details about their lives. This was back before the Internet, of course. Now we visit websites, download videos and podcasts and follow Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter feeds of our favorite larger-than-life personalities.
What is it about the people “the world” admires that is different from the average Jane or Joe? What gets at the heart of making someone into a success? These were questions that interested me at a young age. As I grew up, I learned that fame and success were often unrelated. There is a whole other class of people who are highly successful and receive more private accolades and other forms of praise (compensation being only one).
As I was working on my second book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career, I approached this question from another angle. Rather than asking what are the hallmarks of success, I asked how someone can create success from the inside.
The conundrum is always this – how can we do what we want to do and also find a way to make that into a career? If you have young children, you will see that they naturally find things they like to do. Sports, music, art, performance, cooking and other talents emerge. As parents, we can encourage these tendencies, and we often judge whether a child is “actually talented enough” to make a career of something. I hear parents say all the time things like, “Yes, Tim is really good at soccer, but I don’t think he’s good enough to make a career out of it.”
Most of us appreciate, in the context of children, that these judgment calls are important on one level but can be very limiting on another. They can help children develop an appropriate level of risk aversion, and most parents mean them in this vein. But sometimes these comments can take away the very things that give a child joy because they are focused on a bright-line test: the yes-no answer of whether one can make money and success out of one’s passions.
If we could fast-forward twenty years in Tim’s life, we would get to see what happened with the soccer. Did he continue to play? Does he still love the game? Is he athletic in other ways as an adult? What carried through from his early interests into his adult life?
We often view those who achieve success and fame with a lens of sentimentality and a sense that living with purpose, in touch with our interests and values, is out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If I return to my initial question – what do we admire about celebrities? – it is essentially this: they are doing what they love. (Or, at least, they appear so from the outside.) The average Joes, Janes and Tims, on the other hand, have foregone what they love in the service of what they can tolerate and get paid to do.
Now let’s avoid the pejoratives here. Soccer isn’t necessarily a higher calling than lawyering, for example. A kid who loves soccer can grow up, become a lawyer and love his career and life. This means his interests have changed. On the other hand, a kid can love soccer, be told it’s child’s play and he needs to “get serious.” He then looks around, latches on lawyering because of one influence or another (without thinking it through) and end up with a career and life that he abhors.
I’m talking to that second Tim. As a career coach, I get calls all the time from people just like him. They chose careers so removed from their interests, talents and strengths that they are floundering, just treading water or completely overwhelmed in their jobs. It’s hard to talk about concepts like thought leadership or career advancement when they can’t even see a future for themselves beyond the current week.
If you are in that place, here’s a glimmer of where to start. Think of what you loved as a child. Drill down into that. If it was soccer, was it the feeling of being part of a team? Was it the adrenaline rush of a goal? If it was guitar, did you feel “one” with the music, loving the vibrations rushing through your body? Did you achieve a sense of peace that you find difficult to replicate in other areas of your life?
These are just ideas. Rekindle and regain a connection with your deepest desires – or find new ones – and ask yourself what speaks to you when you connect with them. Then, from that place of feeling centered and whole, ask yourself how you can build out your life and career from there.
Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist, member of Forbes Coaches Council, mother of two middle schoolers and former practicing attorney. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook (available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local booksellers).
Image credit above: Adobe Stock.