Do you allow yourself to dream? Do you have dreams that seem so different from the life you lead that you can’t fathom making them real? Do you ever think back to what you imagined at age 23? If you are 23, are you struggling with how to be financially independent and “responsible” without “selling out” your dreams?
About a year ago I was asking myself all of these questions and wondering how I could have spent 18 years of my life in a career that I no longer felt connected to… had I wasted 18 years of my life? Had I “sold out” part of myself for achievement and money? I struggled with this for months… sad, disappointed, lost, and confused.
Slowly, I pulled myself out of the past and what could have been… I started to see the first 18 years of my career not in terms of my title or achievements, but in terms of the experiences I had, the wonderful people I worked with, and the skills I gained… I wasn’t sure what I would do next, but I was certain that somehow it would all fit together and one day I would look back and it would all make sense.
A few months before I left Deloitte, some interns in my group asked to “shadow” me to experience what the partner gig is all about. After spending a few minutes on background, the interns started peppering me with some pretty deep questions… we ended up in a conversation about career, life, dreams, and possibilities.
I found that the interns, 20 years younger than me, were struggling with the same questions I was… they were just at different points on their journeys. They were looking to me for guidance and I wasn’t sure what to tell them… then the big realization happened…
I asked one of the interns what he dreams of doing with his life. He looked me straight in the eyes and said “I dream of writing skits for SNL”. I asked him why, and he said “because I want to be the guy that makes people laugh after they’ve had a hard day”. Wow… pretty noble. He then went on to tell me about his struggle with accepting a job at Deloitte… he liked the work more than he thought he would, but he was afraid he would sell out his dream.
Out of my mouth came the following thought… “this is perfect… public accounting could be the perfect place to get some great material for SNL and to understand the people who you are trying to cheer up”. As soon as I said this I knew that I had stumbled upon the answer to the questions I’d been struggling with for months…
I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The first part of my career was just preparation for what I’ll do next… the understanding I had gained, the leadership skills I had developed, the empathy I felt, the places I’d experienced, and on and on… my mind was spinning… this was a true moment of the teacher learning from the student!
The intern looked at me with relief… he had no idea what was going on in my mind, as he was thinking about his personal journey. He was excited that taking this public accounting path could be supportive of his dreams… perhaps his dreams would evolve to become even richer.
What are you doing now and how does it support your dreams? How do some of the seemingly most different things in your life fit together perfectly? The stages we experience are unique and meaningful… each builds upon and compliments the other… culminating in complex and beautiful symphonies of our lives’ work.