“It’s often been said that if you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you’re going to end up somewhere else. This can be expensive in many ways. It’s OK to suck at planning parties, or home improvement projects, or the occasional client project; suck at planning your career, however, and you will be unhappy for a long time.” – Matt Livesey PHD
If you were wondering where your Packer article for the day was, here it is, sort of. You know I pretty much leave this place as a personal dumpster with an open cover, so for today anyway, you can be privy to this Packer fan's dilemma this morning. As you are well aware, if you don't like it, tough luck.
Here's the scenario I was given: “What are the big-picture, 50,000-foot, life-long things you want to accomplish? Brainstorm a bit on this. Include not just job-related goals, but life goals (balancing these is a challenge that will last your entire life). Dream big.”
Now, if that isn't a tough enough question, we also have to include tactics and strategies for achieving these goals. Lump that together and it becomes a daunting and quite frankly very personal task. So, I put some thought into it (I have been for years) and figured I would share it with everyone. I mean what could be more helpful than feedback from several hundred completely insane Packer fans. Yeah, it thought so too... awesome idea.
I'll warn you in advance, this may be a lengthy read and has nothing to do with the Packers at all. But, “To have a career, you need a plan.” Here's mine.
Goals and 50,000-Foot Lifelong Things
The brevity of this question amuses me, but nonetheless I have plenty of goals.
1. I Want to be Happy
I'm not a very happy person right now. Outwardly this probably makes sense to most of you who listen to me on a daily basis. But, it shouldn't. I have a pretty decent life at the moment. It's not flashy by any means, but I have the world's greatest wife, an awesome array of pets, and am less than nine months away from accomplishing my goal of graduating from college with honors. This is probably more than most people could ever ask for, and quite frankly it should be. Yet, I often find myself in the past and still cannot look in the mirror without feeling unfulfilled. I still find myself searching for a purpose. I come from a family in which success has unfortunately been measured by the title after your name. I haven't found mine yet.
2. I Need a Title
I'm 38-years-old now and I still don't know what to call myself. For eight years I have been using student. For the record, that isn't always received like one might think. When I tell people I haven't seen in awhile that I am going back to school, you can immediately see the unemployed loser light turn on in their head. I am continuously making sure to avoid family reunions and social functions just to avoid that question. I suppose I am allowed to use freelancer, as I do perform some jobs on the side as a graphic designer and web-site consultant. But once again, try telling someone your are consulting and freelancing. Trust me, student works better.
You might also find this odd, but I never, and I mean never, mention The Packers Lounge to anyone. I know this sounds strange, and maybe I should take a little more pride in a completely self taught venture that seems to have turned out semi-successfully, but I never bring it up. This place actually generated a little revenue this year, and I am proud of that. I cannot think of anything that I have ever put as much blood sweat and tears into. Yet again, try telling someone you're a blogger and watch the reaction as that person inevitably assumes you live in your parent's basement. I need a solid title, it will make me feel better.
3. Get Over The Past
I spend a lot of time feeling like I have to make up for all the wasted and stupid moments I had as a younger man. I gave up on life for awhile in my twenties, and partied away the better part of a decade. That kind of commitment to self-destruction comes at a price, and my situation is certainly no different. No matter what I do, it never seems big enough or grand enough to make up for my list of transgressions. There was a point in my life where I was poised to do great things. I was an actor appearing in numerous stage performances, and I was a classical pianist left with a box full of dusty awards somewhere in a shed behind the old coffee maker. Dwelling on these could-have-beens completely impedes my progress, and leaves me bitter.
4. Define My Core Skill
Like I just got done writing, I need to let go of old dreams in pursuit of new ones. Becoming a professional musician or actor isn't realistic for me anymore, and I need to play to my strengths. Unfortunately, I don't have many skills outside of what I call “writing and relating to the common man.” I have a gift of taking a story and making it pull at your heart strings. It may not impress someone with a PHD in English, but for the average reader, I consider myself, and have been told that, I am entertaining. I went back and reviewed my skill set and one thing always came up. I don't how to explain it, but I compare it to having perfect pitch as a musician.
For example, I studied piano hardcore for 20 some odd years and had to practice my butt off. I was playing a piece one day, one I had worked on for weeks, and here comes a guy named Clay Pufahl who proceeded to sit down at the piano, and play back the song perfectly after hearing it one time. It's like that for me when I write. For some reason I can see the piece in my head the same way. It's like it's already been written somehow and just needs to be put on paper. I know this sounds really weird, and crazy, but that's the only way I can explain it. It also makes number five imperative.
5. Write My Book
For those of you who don't know, I have been putting together the pieces for a book for a couple of years now. There are a few of you who knew me before the Packers Lounge that got to read 100 or so pages a few years back. Right now, I have plenty more and its time to get it all into one place and put a cover on it. It's no “War and Peace” mind you, but, it's a good story and more than one person has told me I need to get it down on paper.
6. Re-Connect With My Adopted Son
I won't get into this too much, because the gist of the story is right here. Yet another reason to get the book on paper.
7. Financial Stability
I don't need to be rich. What I do need is to feel secure. I don't care about houses, or cars, or clothes. I care about knowing that if something happens I will have the ability to take care of it. This is a big task for me. One doesn't party like a rockstar without having a credit mess trailing them. I need to find a way to generate enough income to repair that damage. If you throw out student loans, it really isn't terrible at all. I just have never made it over that initial hump. Four months of a decent salary would probably clear things up. A couple more years at that salary, along with my wife's, would leave us in a stable position.
8. Leave a Positive Footprint
This, my last goal, is the one that scares me the most. I want to be able to look back on my life and see a positive set of steps. I want to feel like I have contributed positively to the world. I want to be remembered as a good person and as a success, not a success story waiting to happen.
I think my strategy for accomplishing all of these goals started eight years ago when I decided to enroll at Stout. At the time I was comfortable in knowing I could be an asset to someone creatively, but didn't have all the tools and connections, (and of course the diploma) to get a foot through the proverbial door. I made a promise to myself that I was not going to spend the rest of my life in some two-bit bar arena slinging drinks and spinning tunes. I needed to find a positive and income generating environment for my creative spirit. School will give me the credentials to accomplish just that.
Keep on Keeping On
I get bored sometimes and give up prematurely on what could be a good thing. Right now, things are going fairly well. School is productive, I have started accumulating some solid connections, and have seen more paid work come my way via freelancing than ever before this year. I need to simply keep doing what I am doing. When school is finished I will have more time to add to my list of clients, and of course more time to generate income. I think it's as easy as continuing to put that one foot in front of the other.
This seems like a strange strategy, but for me it may be the most important. I am so used to things falling apart, and losing parts of my life that I love. I have this constant feeling that around every corner something bad is going to happen. I need to step back and tell myself that everything happens for a reason and stop stifling by creativity because I'm worried that it will never pan out.
Tactics and To-Do List
1. I need a financial advisor. Unfortunately, they cost money. This is my biggest problem. I need to go into the bank, swallow my pride, give them my social, and start whittling away at what really isn't that big of a pile. I tried the tactic of hoping to find five or six grand on the ground, but it hasn't panned out.
2. Write the book. For god's sake Alex, you basically have the whole thing done. Get it on paper, put something pretty on the front, and sell it to all your family and friends.
3. I am going to talk to three people about what to call myself: Dr. Livesey my professor, Dan Shoman who runs a creative think tank, and my wife. Through these three discussions I am going to figure out something. It's like coming up with a good All-Star wrestling name. I need one. It will make me feel a whole lot better.
4. My final tactic is really simple: stick with the plan. Somehow I have been able to get it done for eight years, and there is no reason to think I can't excel for another 40 more. I need to tell myself that, repeat it, and then repeat it again. Making the plan is easy for me, sticking to it is the hard part.
So anyway Packer's fans, there is the condensed life plan of yours truly. I will be really interested to hear what, if anything, anyone has to say about all of this. Am I on the right path? Do you think I'm hallucinating? I encourage you, and Dr. Livesey to comment, but more importantly take a moment to think of your own life, and really examine your own plan. Are you where you want to be?
I gotta run, Tony Robbins is calling.
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