Compare and Despair

growth, Polymaths and Multipotentialites, reflection, strategy


Sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in situations where although we know something is wrong deep down, we decide not to say anything out of fear. Not only is this unfair to you: it can be dangerous.

My sister Janet is a top breast surgeon at NYU. Back when she was just finishing her residency, she sat my family down and shared the devastating news that one of her classmates had just committed suicide. This woman was brilliant, one of the brightest in their class; she had just declared her specialty in surgery...but Janet and her other classmates all knew that this woman just wasn’t cut out to be a surgeon. Slowly but surely, the class could see this woman becoming more and more worn down by the demands of her selected specialty. They all knew something was wrong, but no one thought to say anything because they just didn’t know how dire her situation was. So they remained silent, watching helplessly...until it was too late.

Sadly, I meet people like this all the time: people who you can tell are on the wrong path. They have different levels of awareness of their situations, but the thing they have in common is that they just can’t seem to get off that runaway train. The thing is, with an issue like this, there’s only so much another person’s opinion can do. That desire for change needs to come from that person themselves.

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When I look back at my own career path, I remember how lost and depressed I was. I went from Developmental Psychobiology to Industrial Design to recruitment, bouncing around from position to position, trying to get a handle on what I truly wanted to do. It seemed that everyone around me had one clear cut path; they all seemed so settled, whereas I felt that I was constantly closing doors because I was unfulfilled.

No one understood why I was looking for something new again. Was I doing this wrong? It took me years of anguish, depression, and even therapy to figure out why I didn’t love what I was doing, while the people I compared myself to seemed to have it all figured out. My biggest takeaway from this early journey can be summed up in three words: “compare, and despair”. No two people will have the exact same career path so the worst thing you can do is constantly measure your journey by the standards of someone else’s success – especially someone in a different industry. I always say that I’m the ideal customer for the Thrive By Design program and I honestly wish I had it back then. This painful journey is the reason I built the TBD program in the first place: because it was the one resource I so wish I had when I was at that point.

There’s such a draw and allure to design, strategy and innovation. If you’ve had a taste of using your design muscles to solve someone’s problems, you just need to do it some more. I get it. I know what it’s like to help another human being. That’s what it feels like for me when I help my clients break through their barriers to get to the point of thriving. I feel so utterly grateful that I was able to help them unlock their highest potential.

Even if you have more tenacity and determination than most, you still need a strategy to understand where you’re going instead of just plowing through. Would you keep banging your head against a brick wall trying to get through, just because you have the energy to do so? Think about the consequences of that. Wouldn’t you want to step back a bit to see if where you’re trying to go is even where you need to go?

If you know someone who might be relentlessly hitting that brick wall, speak up. Help them stop for a moment and talk about stepping away to figure out if they’re even where they need to be. Life is too short, and the world of work is way too competitive to just be guessing based on sheer determination.

There are few things in the world more difficult than admitting you’re wrong – and few things more dangerous than allowing pride to get the best of you.

Tagged: growth, Polymaths and Multipotentialites, reflection, strategy

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