Wise advice from Dan Millman: “Just fit in until you find out where you stand out”


Image by Hamed Saber

One of my constant sources of inspiration is best-selling author Dan Millman. I am starting to notice a pattern here: two of my spiritual guides (Jack Lalanne and Dan Millman) were former athletes, and shared their perspectives on life with others in a rather public way. If you know of more characters like these two, please drop me a comment at the end of this post.

Let’s get back to Dan’s words. You can find the original piece, which was entitled ‘Dream Small‘ on Dan’s personal blog (click here for full article). On it Dan talks about the unrealistic expectations that Gen Y’ers typically have; and the impact this has on these young people when they get to compete for jobs in ‘the real world’. Dan’s advice? To dream small, take it a bit easier while you find yourself, and allow sufficient time for you to gain experience and develop yourself, your skills, and your own dreams.

This article made me reflect on 2 issues that I have been thinking about for quite some time. Firstly, it reminded me that we no longer recognise inexperience for what it is: a wonderful opportunity to try different things and find yourself. In today’s ultra-competitive, uber-complex world, we expect our children to choose-their-path as soon as they finish high school – ideally even before- and charge ahead with determination and perseverance. Newspapers and books around us are filled with ‘inspirational’ stories of those who found their calling at 14 or 15, started their career with impetus and energy, and became famous and/or a millionaires by the age of 25.

The problem with this abundance of stories on successful people is that it reinforces the illusion that we should all do the same. Not just that people can, and if you’re lucky enough, you will have the experience and skills and motivation to do it; but that it is only a matter of wishing-for-it strongly enough, and it will happen. Add to this the latest craze around ‘The Secret’ and ‘The Law of attraction’, and you end up with a generation that believes that the only thing you need to do to succeed is sit around dreaming and affirming your desires, and life will put them in your plate effortlessly.

Unfortunately, the world just does not work like that. Affirmations and desire are important, but it takes ACTION inspired by those dreams to make things happen. Today, many people have forgotten this second – and critical – part of the equation! My advise then is not to stop dreaming – but don’t just stop at dreaming, or you will be seriously disappointed.

The second topic that Dan’s article reminded me about is the concept of ‘defining & taking control of your career’. In today’s corporate world, there is an inbuilt expectation that everyone WANTS a career. But I know many people that just want a job that provides sufficient for their needs, without draining them of the time & energy they need for their life passion. And these people typically do not give a hoot about where their career is going. In a way, they are enjoying their lives while supporting themselves with a job. Unfortunately, this concept does not sit well in the corporate world of today.

It is amazing to think of just how universal has this concept become in today’s corporate world. Especially when we know that not everyone needs and wants a career. Large consulting firms have developed particularly discriminatory practices on this regard. Many of them have established policies that stipulate that if you don’t move to the ‘next level’ within a set period of time, you must leave the firm (‘Up-Or-Out’). For clerical or administrative staff, they adjust it and suggest that if you are not developing new skills or moving up the performance curve, you must leave (‘Grow-or-go’).

But where does this leave the single mother of two who needs a decently paid job to support her children, yet has reached the Pinnacle of her learning and efficiency curve? Or the young guy who decides to follow Dan’s advise and ‘just get a job’ so that he can pay the bills while he gets enough life experience that he can figure out which direction to take?

We live in a mad world. The corporatocracy we live in adores mass, homogeneous markets, and abhors diversity. Unfortunately, the side effects of these principles of industralisation are insidious and corrosive; Something must be done. If you agree with these ideas, why not joins us in trying to do something about it?

You could start by sharing some of these thoughts with co-workers; question the whole idea of career-obsession, and ask them how it has affected them, both positively and negatively. You can then engage your HR department in a dialogue about the diversity of needs their workforce has, and highlight the benefits that implementing more progressive policies could have in their ability to attract and retain a more productive and talented workforce. Or if you want to be a bit more extreme, take am intellectual break from your career-oriented life, and stop to smell the roses. Live in the present; Dream small, like Dan suggests; and observe – really observe – what happens in your life. Your outlook on life and love and those things that matter most is likely to change; and then you can say that at least you have managed to change the world and reduce its number of career-extremists by one.

Go crazy. Seize the day.

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