Remember, this is YOUR life. There will be a lot of pressure to aim your life in one direction or another, but if you allow yourself to be swayed by the pressure, where does that leave you? What does that say about you? What does that say about who you are?
I encourage you to ask the big questions before making any big life decisions. What is your purpose in this life? What makes something important? What are the most important values to follow?
Once you have answers to these questions that you’re truly confident in, you then have a foundation to build on. But if you start building before that foundation is firmly in place, your life could all come crumbling down one day when you realize that everything you’ve been doing has been for the wrong reasons.
So I encourage you to find your purpose and live true to that purpose, even though it will be frightening at times.
Remember, this is YOUR life.
Now, it would be irresponsible of me to give you the idea that if you just figure out what your mission in life is, then everything will just fall into place and you’ll live a beautiful life with sunshine and rainbows.
The truth is that life is hard. And that high school and college often don’t prepare you well to succeed.
For those of you going off to college (and it’s fine NOT to go, by the way) . . . but for those of you going off to college, know that most professors are going to train you to be academics, even though they know that most of you are not going to become academics. It’s stupid, I know, but that’s the culture of most colleges.
Now, it’s not all terrible. There are many amazing things to learn in college, many of which are very much applicable to the non-academic working world. The thing is that it’s likely going to be completely up to you to make sure you learn both what you want, as well as what you need to be able to earn a decent living after you graduate.
You might very well get that dream job right after college, but don’t assume that you will, even if you’re the valedictorian of your college.
I encourage you to spend time figuring out what skills are in demand in the economy, and then supplement the college classes you really enjoy with the study of those marketable skills that most appeal to you. You can learn these skills through college classes, through private workshops, or completely on your own. It doesn’t matter how you learn them, as long as you learn them.
Or you might even want to say “the heck with working for someone” and seriously explore ways to start your own business. What matters is that you spend some serious time learning about the marketplace and figuring out the most appealing ways for you to generate income in that marketplace.
So whether you end up going to college or not, my advice is the same: live your own life, learn what you love, and figure out the best ways to blend what you love with what the market wants.
If you’re too idealistic from the start, you could end up in serious financial and emotional trouble after you’ve finished your formal education. But if you merge your idealism with practicality, and plan your career strategically, with the realities of the economy in mind, you can set yourself up to dive right back in to your true mission in life just a little while later.
Remember, the goal isn’t survival, it’s the fulfillment of your mission. It’s not easy. However, if you take the long view, plan strategically, and keep getting up after you’re pushed down, you’ll have a solid chance at achieving your dream.