Thursday, June 16, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up?

June 2011

Seems like a simple question, right? Millions of graduates are being asked that question during this graduation season. (Most of them by their parents who want to be sure that they're moving out of the house and paying their own bills. :)  )

I speak to thousands of "grown-up" people every year and many of them don't know what they want to be when they grow up.  Do you find it odd that we expect a 17 or 18 year old to know the answer as they graduate from high school?

The belief or expectation that this is a simple question to answer can often get in the way of actually answering it. It’s not a simple question!

As I think about the question from my past (What did I want to be when I grew up?) I realize that I'd have to ask my parents and friends from back then because I really don't remember.  I know in high school I wanted to coach sports. But then again, I thought I was pretty smart so maybe I should go pre-med in college. That made a lot of sense because those 2 professions are so similar... not!  One difference that became abundantly clear to me is that as a college basketball coach I would get to pick my players and work with people I had hand-selected ...  as a doctor, I wouldn't get to pick my patients.  I also remember from before high school that one thing I was NEVER going to be was a public speaker. I turned down the nomination to be the President of the National Honor Society and instead became Vice President because as the President, I would have been required to give a speech. Horrifying!!

Part of the problem with answering this question is the question itself. The "what" and the "be" don't match up! The "what" is extrinsic... a thing, tangible, measurable.  The "be" is intrinsic... immeasurable, ever-changing, ever-growing.

We really should be asking:
  1. What do you want to do?  AND
  2. Who do you want to become?
These questions are more easily answered.
So, WHAT do you want to DO? Do you want to do something technical, something creative, something inspirational, something meaningful? What would that look like in your life? “I like to work with my hands.”  “I like to work with people.”  “I like to do accounting.”

Now, I believe the more important questions are... WHO do you want to BE? or Who do you want to become?  I've heard some people say "I want to become a multi-millionaire."  "I want to become a teacher."  "I want to become a CEO."

If these are in line with your thoughts, will you allow me to share another perspective with you?

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