Quote of the Week – The soul would much rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s. David Whyte
David Whyte is a poet, writer, and organizational development consultant. I first heard this line in a keynote speech that he gave at a professional conference in Boston several years ago. Having done a significant amount of career transition coaching, the quote resonated with me right away. I sometimes modify it a little: “Most people would rather fail at their own lives than succeed at someone else’s.” In fact, I think this is what he said at the conference!
Many clients who have lost their jobs have told me that they chose their initial career based upon what their father or mother had done for a living. The majority of those clients told me something like this: “I went into banking because my father was a banker.”
Other clients have said something like this: “My mom was a corporate lawyer, and that was the LAST thing I wanted to do! That’s why I chose something very different.”
When looking for work, people sometimes realize that they want to change careers. If they go through a process of examining their interests, values, skills and temperament, they often find that they devoted a significant amount of time to a career that was not a “good fit” – or that is no longer a “good fit.”
Whyte’s quote reminds me of a conversation that I had with my father about one of my career/job decisions. When I left a large corporation when I was 35 years old to start my own small company, my father questioned why I walked away from an exceptional pay and benefits package. Having started his career during the Great Depression, any job that paid well and offered good fringe benefits seemed like “a keeper” to my dad!
I guess that I was willing to take the risk of “failing at my own life,” rather than succeeding at my dad’s concept of a good job. Have I ever had second thoughts? Sure. Yet, I was fortunate enough to succeed in business and to keep the business going – even after my first partner passed away. And I was lucky enough to find a great second partner!
For more David Whyte quotes, click here. For a very interesting career workbook for individuals with ADHD and other disabilities, see this link to Finding a Career That Works for You by Wilma Fellman.
Questions for Reflection:
- What is the worst career advice that you have given or received?
- Have you ever found yourself trying to succeed in “someone else’s” career?
- Have you ever changed jobs because your job was clearly a bad fit?
- Have you done an “inside-out” examination to determine what kind of job matches your unique skills, character, interests, and values? What did you learn? What changes, if any, did you make in your job or career?
- What price does a person pay if they stay in a job or career that does not fit with their soul?