Feast or famine

Often I speak to freshmen college students around the world who say to me “I want to be the next Oprah.” Two years after graduating, they call me to ask “You think T-Mobile still hiring?”

And that’s the reality for many of us. Our hopes and dreams are constantly at battle with our obligations and responsibilities. Armed with degrees or expertise, we assume we’re exempt from life’s financial obstacles.

This is not to say a job at the T-Moble store is less glorious than, say, what you went to school for. This is to say that the reason you invested in your education is to open doors once closed for you. So you may not have thought that, after graduation, you’d be a Starbucks barista or an Apple genius. But that may very well be where you need to be. And that may be a better path than the one you planned.

That said, we’ve seen ourselves in seasons of luxurious feast. When it seems the money grows on trees, the food is unlimited, the safety is comforting. And then famine strikes, the economy tanks, business slows down and you learn how to make twenty bucks last two weeks. Just me?

At some point, we have to get serious about feasting. About getting to a place of consistency. But it’s going to take some thinking and ingenuity. It will mean that we can no longer do things the way we’ve done them.

What I’ve learned, and what I try to teach students, is to consistently make brave moves that require you to grow. No one asks the struggling actor to make her own film, or the entrepreneur to launch her own lemonade stand, or the blogger to write her own book. The goal is to create value, not wait for someone to give you the okay.

And if this scares you, consider the path of a pilot or brain surgeon. That path is laid out and known, where there is a precise way to success. But for most of the working population, there are many paths to take, with many forks in the road. We have to notice these forks, and choose wisely.

Ups and downs occur. The goal is to be up more often than not. But in order to achieve that, we really have to consider all the options available to us.