My grandmother must have read it in Good Housekeeping magazine. “If you’ve burned yourself, put butter on it to stop the swelling.” Well ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t work! In fact, it makes the burning worse. Such can be the case for any advice we get in life. Especially career advice.
If I were to determine the single worst career advice I received, it would be my own interpretation of the word “wait.” At the time I first heard this word in the context of my career, I thought “not now” meant “not ever.” Which caused me to lose confidence in my ability to perform. So, sometimes the best and most well-meaning advice can backfire, and that’s why I believe everyone has the obligation to develop their own internal “truth barometer.”
Juxtapose this difficult advice with excellent career advice I’ve received recently: “everyone will have an opinion on your voice. That will never end. People will always say with a degree of authority what they believe is right for you.” And you know, their opinions may have weight, but I choose how to implement those opinions. I have to be able to honestly assess my strengths and abilities.
We all need people that we trust in our inner circle. People like our family and close friends, and a few colleagues whose work and manner we respect-and who respect us. These are the people we can create meaningful collaborations with. These are the ones who sometimes introduce us to ourselves.
No one path is the same. There are certainly people who have followed a tried and true trajectory, but each road we take is unique, because our own unique experiences and personality make it so. When I think of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” he isn’t saying the road he chose was better because it actually was better, he chose to believe it was better because in choosing it, he determined his destiny. Decisions determine destiny.