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No right way

Career advice from author and entrepreneur Charlie Hoehn:

“Just DO things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Stop acting like you have a set path because you don’t. No one does. You shouldn’t be trying to check off the boxes of life. They aren’t real, and they were created by other people, not you. There is no explicit path I’m following. I’m not walking in anyone else’s footsteps. I’m making it up as I go.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

I also think it’s essential for people of all ages to adopt this mindset, especially when they cannot pursue a traditional path because life circumstances don’t allow it or it’s simply not right for them.

It’s hard to watch everyone around you moving in a single, traditional, seemingly productive, and advisable direction when you can’t or shouldn’t. It doesn’t mean your own path won’t bear fruit and lead to happiness, but when you’re alone on your path, watching everyone else move in a different direction, you can begin to wonder if your path will ever lead to the promised land.

I know this feeling. I felt it often.

But Hoehn is right. There is no set path. Choose your own way. Walk in your own footsteps. Embrace the unexpected, nontraditional path even when it’s forced upon you.

This is coming from someone who…

  1. Started living on his own at 18.
  2. Didn’t make it to college until he was 23 years old.
  3. Earned his first degree from a community college.
  4. Turned down a full scholarship from Yale University in favor of Trinity College so I could be closer to my job managing a McDonald’s restaurant in Hartford, CT.
  5. Earned my teaching degree at an all-women’s college (by exploiting a loophole in a college consortium agreement) while simultaneously earning my English degree at Trinity College.
  6. Rejected the offer of a permanent position at a school in my hometown in favor of a one-year position covering a maternity leave at a school in a neighboring town because I liked the principal.

These were certainly questionable decisions at the time. Some were admittedly forced upon me by life’s circumstances, but most involved me making a choice that many of my friends thought was unwise, impossible, or just plain stupid.

But looking back today, those choices were absolutely right for me.

People, young and old, must be told that there is no shame in choosing a path different than those around them. Conventional wisdom is not right for everyone because many of us are not conventional by nature. Our lives are different than those around us. Our needs and wants do not conform to the expectations of the masses. We lack the support or means to follow a more traditional path.

Whatever the reason for your unorthodox road, just do things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Accept the limitations that life has placed upon you, but do not allow those limitations to stop you from moving forward. Find a way to work around them or bust through them if necessary.

My friend Plato is fond of saying, “The truth is one. The paths are many.” I know he’s quoting someone else, but in my mind, it’s Plato’s wisdom, and he’s right.

Most of all, do not allow the direction of the masses to make you feel any shame or embarrassment for being different, choosing an unconventional direction, or taking a longer, more circuitous path.

There is no room for self-doubt on our journey. No need to compare ourselves to others.

This never bears fruit.

We’re all making it up as we go. Some of us are simply more inventive than most, by desire, necessity, or a combination of the two.

Charlie Hoehn is right. Follow a path best suited for you, To hell with everyone else.