When I was a boy, I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. By the time I was in high school, I had begun telling people that I wanted to “write for a living and teach for pleasure.”
Miraculously, I actually achieved my boyhood dream. Miraculous only because there was a time in my life when I was homeless, hungry, and facing the possibility of a prison sentence. Back then, my dreams of becoming a teacher and writer seemed as far away and impossible to reach as Neptune.
Not everyone seeks the career that they dreamed of as a child, nor should they. Many people discover new interests. Divergent paths of employment. Previously unknown horizons to chase.
This has also been the case for me. When I was a child, the idea of owning and operating a wedding DJ company never entered my mind.
Perhaps the last thing I wanted to be was a minister who officiates weddings, conducts baby naming ceremonies, and even fills in for vacationing ministers on Sundays.
For most of my life, the idea of performing onstage for a living was never even a fantasy. Never did I envision that my performing career would lead me to become a coach and consultant to Fortune 500 companies, advertising agencies, colleges and universities, hospital systems, attorneys, and more.
Honestly, I didn’t know that some of the work I do today existed even five years ago.
Elysha says the craziest thing about my performing and consulting career is that until the pandemic, I taught storytelling at a world renowned yoga and wellness center in the Berkshires.
She might be right. As much success as I’ve had teaching at that beautiful location, I don’t exactly fit the yoga and wellness archetype.
I’ve also worked with a Mohawk tribe in Canada, prosecutors in Indianapolis, and a merry band of Santa Clauses here in Connecticut, which all seem equally improbable.
Having said all that, here are three thoughts on career trajectories:
- Though I am thrilled to have made my childhood dreams come true, I’ve also landed in jobs that I never imagined for myself, and in some cases, didn’t know existed when I was a child. This is true for many, many people.
- Many people move beyond their childhood dreams and find careers are more interesting or for which they are better suited, which also makes sense. But many people simply give up on their childhood dreams or fail to realize them. As a result, they live lives of quiet desperation. This is a damn tragedy that should be avoided at all costs.
- Many of the jobs that exist today did not exist when I was in high school and college. This has always been the case and will continue to be true. For this reason, we should work hard as parents and teachers to help kids become proficient, lifelong learners. The goal of education should not be skill acquisition, memorization, or specialization. Instead, we should seek to raise a generation of children who are prepared to take on new challenges in fields that haven’t even been imagined yet. We should want our children to become nimble, curious, flexible thinkers who are willing to work hard to make their dreams come true.
With all of that in mind, I present Alfred “Alfie” Date, the 109 year-old Australian who knits tiny sweaters for penguins who get caught up in oil spills as a means of minimizing the amount of oil the birds ingest while preening themselves.
When Alfie was a little boy – and when Alfie was 100 years-old – the idea of knitting sweaters for oil-covered penguins had never entered his mind. The man lived for more than a century before discovering the volunteer work that he does today.
Incredible. The man found a new line of work at the age of 109.
Let this be a lesson for all of us:
You never know when a new opportunity might present itself to you. You never know what previously unforeseen job might suddenly need to be done. Remain nimble, flexible, and curious. Word hard. Keep your eyes open for new horizons. Never be afraid to chase your dreams, but always keep your eyes open for your next, great chapter.
The world is a constantly changing place. So, too, should you.