Sunday, June 5, 2016

Career Development Rule #4: Focus On The Problem You Want To Solve - Not What You Want To Be

From the time that kids are around 5 years old they get asked what they want to be when they grow up. Their response is based on non-existent or extremely limited knowledge of their vocational options, and is often unconsciously chosen to impress or ingratiate themselves with the person asking the question.

Flash forward twenty years later and the same child, now a young adult and an imminent college grad, has a different response that sounds more coherent, concise, and even more convincing. The problem is the response is still unconsciously chosen to impress.

The question of what do you want to be when you grow up is deeply flawed in both philosophy and science. It first assumes that one will in fact grow up (what happens through maturation) as opposed to merely growing older (what happens naturally). 

Because the prefromtal cortex (which controls executive functions of the brain such as reasoning and planning) doesn't fully mature (at the earliest) until age 25, most career decisions made by those under 25 are not likely to be long-term. This is why I've always contended that learning who you are is the most important assignment for those under 25. Discovering what you want is a close second, but miswanting leads many astray when career planning.

For this reason, the problems that you can identify and solve for clients (if you want to be an entrepreneur), a particular industry, your own company (or a company you would like to work for), an aspect of some business, or life in general, is what college grads or those actively developing their careers should prioritize. 

What you want to be is stagnant; solving problems is fluid.

This career development rule allows you to move from one position or role to the next in the context that best utilizes your superpowers for the causes that capture your interests and passions. Solving problems can also provide you with a purpose - especially when that purpose is tied to your mission

From this point forward, focus on the problem you want to solve - not what you want be - and you will evolve into the most valuable version of who you were meant to become.

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