Confessions of a Confidante

Life. Analysed.

Category: work

A Sense of Purpose

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It is near impossible to live a life without a true sense of purpose. Whether or not you’re a religious person, you’ve got to believe in some capacity that you were put on this Earth for a reason. Or if that’s too deep for you, you might think ‘now that I’m here, what can I do to make this all better? What can I contribute?’

As we grow up, go to school, travel, learn, grow and live we start to figure out what we enjoy and what we’re good at. We might even figure out how to make money and build a stable life around doing that very thing. But often we’re steered off course. We’re lead to believe that there are greener pastures somewhere else. That money, corporate ladders, international opportunities, or fame are more important. So we give them a go. Why not, we’re bright and capable of achieving anything we set our minds to right? Moreover, we have lots of talents and don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves. We’ll challenge ourselves while we’re young, push the boundaries of our comfort zone while we’re unattached, and then, if we’re still not satisfied, we can go back to that thing we were destined to do. That thing we’ve secretly been certain of all along.

This is not a bad path to take so long as you DO end up achieving your true purpose. In the popular job hunting guide ‘What Colour Is Your Parachute?’ Richard Bolles asks his readers what mark they want to leave on the world. He lists nine possible options. The likelihood is that a few will speak to you but probably one much more so than the others. We don’t often think of ourselves as being so important that we’re leaving a “mark on the world”, but it’s not a bad question to ask yourself when you’re deciding on a career path.

The recent news of Steve Jobs resignation as Apple’s CEO has resulted in a lot of inspiring editorial coverage. Not only is he an extremely brilliant and innovative man, but seeing as his health is unfortunately depleting, he is asking himself (and us) many important questions. Questions about life’s purpose and our purpose in it. He’s personally expressed great feelings of content for having spent every day of his life working on something, building something that he believes in and loves. Can you say the same thing? And if not, what steps can you take so that when death is on your doorstep you can?

Confronting Rejection

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How does one prepare themselves mentally and emotionally to face all of the rejection that they’ll experience in their mid to late twenties? Unfortunately rejection is inevitable- at every stage of your life of course, but it seems even more so when you’re in your later twenties. You look behind you and see years of work, years of preparation and experience. You’re ready to put yourself out there and give it your best shot. You’ve got the degrees, you’ve done the internships, put in the hours, but when it comes time to apply for jobs it seems the answer is often no- if we even get a reply at all.

Similarly, people in their late twenties look behind them and see a string of relationships, some positive, some destructive, others fleeting and never properly defined. You’ve travelled, learnt and grown as a person; you think you know who you are and what you want. And again you put yourself out there, into the world of love, sex and temptation and the response you get isn’t always the one you wanted.

And that’s when you realize, that all that flattery, all that praise and encouragement you received from parents and teachers every day growing up- the reason for it all was to prepare you for a world that is often unfair. To ensure that you would continue believing in yourself and your potential even when the world seemed cruel.

Fathers call their daughters ‘princesses’ because in the microcosm that matters to them- family- that’s exactly who they are. But also because they have to, if they want to make sure that their daughters grow up believing that they deserve nothing less than a prince.

Teachers tell their young students that they have potential, because they want them to know that they could do anything. That there are always options for them. That they shouldn’t be discouraged if one thing doesn’t work out because there are so many others that could and will.

The world is full of love, but it is also full of rejection- even for those deemed ‘lucky’. And that rejection can start to eat you up and take a chip off your confidence. It can make you feel empty, ugly and incapable. But that’s when you have to remember all of the encouragement you were given. Remember that all of that confidence still exists inside of you. That’s when you have to pick yourself up, shake off any hard feelings and put yourself out there again. Because generally speaking, fearing the ‘no’ results in fewer ‘yeses’.


Change The Subject

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For those of you who love Sex and the City as much as I do, I’m sure you remember the scene when Miranda, in her feminist way, stands up amongst her girlfriends and demands that they talk about something other than men for once.

Whether you’re obsessing about guys, body image, money, work, or friends, it doesn’t matter, it’s all unhealthy. It’s time for you to change the subject. And I don’t just mean the conversation you’re having with your friends, I mean the dialogue that is on repeat in your brain. It’s time for you to remember who you are and all the things that you have to be grateful for. It’s time that you do the world a favour and get off your self-pitying butt and go out and be your best self.

Am I suggesting that you never allow yourself the time to reflect? That you never allow yourself the time to mourn or sleep or articulate how you feel? No, absolutely not. I am the first person to acknowledge that not every day is filled with sunshine and rainbows, that there are times when even the brightest stars find themselves behind a dark cloud that is taking forever to pass. And in those times one should allow themselves to vent and they should expect their friends to listen. But there is a fine line between feeling a bit weak and allowing ourselves to fall into a hole of self-pity and loathing, and it’s the latter we all need to avoid.

Try to think back to a time when things were simpler. When you were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and looked forward to every morning. Make a list of the resources at your disposal and take advantage of them. Surround yourself with the people who make you really really happy, and make the decision to do things that will make you feel good about yourself more often.

Summer is around the corner and it is high time that we all put a spring back in our step. It won’t be long before the sun stays up till ten, dinners are eaten outside every night, and you look absolutely stunning with a great tan. Look out world- she’s coming back!

Broadening Your Horizons

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Life is busy, plain and simple. You might be someone who lives a fabulous existence, in a great city, with wonderful friends and still you don’t always get to enjoy it all. When 50 hours of your week are spent at work and 50 asleep, you’re only left with 68 hours for yourself. And even those are reduced by things like getting ready for work, commuting and going to the gym. Which leaves roughly 5 hours (sorry for all the math!) per day to kick back and unwind. For most people that time will be spent with their nearest and dearest or doing an activity that they know and love. While this is completely reasonable, it sometimes feels like a shame to not spend more time meeting new people, trying new things and really take advantage of what’s at your disposal.

But entering the world of the unfamiliar is not just about setting the time aside to do it. It’s about having the willingness and courage to try new things. Here are a few scenarios to help exemplify my point:

1. THE ASPIRING WRITER:

Current predicament: Loves to write, doesn’t have enough time to do it, no one to share it with and, like any artist, fears anticipated reactions.

Desire: To meet other writers with whom he/she can openly share work and improve.

Must be willing to: Join a free workshop in the city, take a few classes.

Must have courage to: Start a blog or self-publish in some way and brave the idea of opening up and sharing their work on a public platform.

2. THE HOPELESSLY SINGLE PERSON:

Current predicament: Single and not meeting the right people. Social but typically with an insular group of friends.

Desire: To meet new people but reluctant to step too far outside of comfort zone.

Must be willing to: Accept being fixed up by friends, join online dating sites and social groups where there’s the potential to expand their social circle.

Must have courage to: Actually put themselves out there and take a chance on something new- bearing in mind that it’s only one way to meet people and that their other approaches will still be relevant and necessary.

3. THE JOB SEEKER:

Current predicament: Working at a job that’s comfortable but under stimulating.

Desire: To use their brain and energy in a creative and stimulating environment.

Must be willing to: Network, use contacts, put themselves out there- ie. circulate CV, create a bit of an online presence, do something bold and brave (depending on the specific job).

Must have courage to: Go above and beyond, differentiate themselves in some way, apply for their dream jobs.

So you see there is a trend here, which is that it is fine to have the desire, but there needs to be a willingness as well. And with that willingness, the courage to take action. Because it’s the willingness and courage that separates those who achieve what they want in their lives from those who just dream about achieving it.

Learn Something New Every Day

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Apart from the inevitable death, it seems the biggest fear of many people is boredom. Perhaps they fear their own boredom or perhaps they fear making other people feel bored. I personally take comfort in knowing, that every day we learn new things, we face new challenges, and as a result, life is rarely boring, just as the countless dinners you are destined to share with that one special someone for the rest of your life won’t be boring.

This is a nice thought, but of course, we don’t learn new things every day. We might from reading the newspaper or looking deep within ourselves to analyse what one event means to us, what one hiccup at work says about our character or how it can lead us down a path to self-improvement, but most days for most people, feel exactly the same as the day before did.

While some take comfort in the repetition, others feel suffocated by it. This is what often causes people to jump around between jobs, relationships, homes, even cities. I do think it’s important for people to always be challenging themselves, and if they find themselves in a situation where things are beginning to feel stunted, then it might be time to start planting seeds elsewhere, however, lessons are hidden everywhere. And while your job might not be filled with seasoned mentors dying to impart their wisdom, or new and exciting businesses to pitch to every day, you are learning. Maybe you’re learning to get better at one or two things by doing them every day. Maybe you’re learning how to manage upwards by setting deadlines for your boss and scheduling his time to help you improve. Or maybe you’re learning that you need to find stimulation outside of your 9-5, that personal and career development also comes from the way you choose to spend your free time.

A lot of life’s learning experiences come from the work we do for ourselves, which is why it is so important, especially in the earlier stages of your professional life, to dedicate time to expanding your skill set. This might mean time away from friends or social activities but it will ultimately contribute to your overall professional worth.

Those who make it their aim to learn something new every day will find a way to ensure that they do. Will you?

Generation Lazy

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Work ethic is giving great effort to complete a task. Passion is giving great energy to achieve an outcome. – Simon Sinek

There is no question that my generation (Echo) consists of the some of the most innovative, influential, and impressive young people in history. We have reached a global age where it is acceptable for young people to educate their elders in matters of work, life, art, science, and technology. Young people have been the instigators of major societal changes that have affected business, politics, and the environment. The hippies of my parents generation fought for this freedom and the creative and ambitious of mine are taking full advantage of it… Well, some of them are.

But there is also a huge proportion of my generation who are taking far too long to find themselves. This is of course a product of privilege, and I have no doubt that the privileged of older generations also felt no rush to commit to work and a life of responsibilities and redudancies. But for the most part, members of my parents generation (Boomers), came out of high school or university, started working, and have not stopped for the past 40+ years. And no matter what their socio-economic background, they simply do not understand how we can spend so much time avoiding responsibility and justify it by calling it a ‘soul search’.

I fully support those people who want to travel the world and extend their education with postgraduate degrees, so long as these experiences are contributing to the development of real goals that they fully intend on fulfilling. But if all it is an avoidance then that can’t possibly be alright, can it?

It is critical that one finds something they like to do, something they feel they are good at, and somewhere where the environment is positive and progressive. But one should not confuse that vision, with a perfect job, where everyday is a pleasure, because there is no such thing. Every person has stresses, every job has tedious tasks, there is always a degree of admin to be done and bullshit to deal with, but one must getting fucking on with it, as they say.

And for those of us who didn’t grow up with a stick-to-it-iveness that resulted in a grade nine piano credential or the opportunity to show-jump at the Kentucky Derby, we have to just choose something. Something that we like or that we think is challenging. Something that we want to get better at. Life should be fun, I am a total advocate of fun. But we are all members of a society and if we don’t contribute to it, it won’t be as strong as it needs to be, and that means working. That means adding value in some way.

So think, everyday, about the things that come naturally to you, about the things that you enjoy, and pursue them. Pursue them in a creative way, in a traditional way, in a new way, in anyway. But choose something and make something of yourself. Because life is so much better when you do.

The music I was listening to when I wrote this post