Career Changers

Dream Jobs, Part 2

March 26th, 2013

In response to my blog on Dream Jobs vs. Fantasies, a reader posted a comment about how he made the move to Southern California to achieve his goal of combining his design background with his love of movies. He went back to school to learn new skills, put in many hours honing his craft, and wound up working on major Hollywood movies, doing 3D stuff. He wrote that there has been frustration and sacrifices to get where he is now, but that is also what has made his journey so rewarding. The only drawback is he's living his dream in SoCal, and he'd prefer to be working in Hawaii. I have a feeling he will find a way to get back home so he can share what he's learned. (Have you noticed many successful entrepreneurs also like to teach and share their knowledge?)

Which brings me to the ultimate goal of a rewarding career: it's not "happiness," per se... it's about finding purpose in the work you do. Time and again, the people I meet who seem most satisfied with their career choices, are those who make a difference in the lives of others through what they do. In many cases, they have survived difficult circumstances and even personal tragedies. Or they have dealt with life and death situations, such as addictions, domestic violence and war. The kind of things that make you question whether there is a God, because it doesn't make sense that a beneficent Higher Power would allow such awful things to occur to good, decent people.

I'm certainly not the first to ponder these existential questions. Coincidentally, I recently came across a piece in This Week magazine about Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was a survivor of the World War II Nazi concentration camps. His experiences and observations led him to write the book, Man's Search for Meaning, published in 1946. In it, he examined the differences between those who survived and those who died, and he reached the conclusion that it came down to one's attitude. Those who found meaning in their suffering were more resilient. They latched on to some higher purpose that gave them the will to live. They made a conscious effort to endure their struggles by linking it to a specific goal. But the ones who gave up hope did not make it out alive.

Of course, many who clung to hope still died in the gas chambers, so there's a limit to what positive thinking can do in any circumstance. Yet, for anyone who does live through a terrible ordeal -- be it war, 9/11 type events, abusive spouses or dysfunctional families -- the question remains why some adjust, while others never seem to recover. Frankl's book suggests those who chose to help others found meaning in their suffering, which allowed them to find satisfaction and purpose in their existence. Happiness comes as a byproduct of how we live.

By contrast, people (think kids, young adults) who seek "happiness" as their goal in life are likely to be disappointed because what they're really pursuing is short term pleasure. Sure, it feels good to be happy when you're partying or doing fun things. But unless it somehow results in affecting others in a lasting way, you're left feeling empty and unfulfilled. It doesn't surprise me in the least that many recovering alcoholics and addicts wind up going into counseling work themselves. It's a way for them to convert their personal pain and tragedies into something meaningful -- helping others.

I guess that's why I write, and also what I look to do through my Career Changers TV show. By sharing the stories of people who have overcome challenges and adversity, I hope others will be inspired to find meaning in their lives through the work they do.


You can see examples of survivors and people who make a difference on the current Career Changers TV episode, which runs until April 5. For daily viewing times, please visit our website. You can also watch videos from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

2 Responses to “Dream Jobs, Part 2”

  1. Erika Brown:

    I enjoyed reading this. At times I have felt my career choice was wrong. My ceramic business fizzled out 4 years ago and even though I kept my day job I felt lost in my quest to earn a decent living. I know that what I do makes a difference and so I am happy were I'm at.I do see a purpose in my career. I just wish I could find a way to make money in my own side business to help make ends meet.

  2. Rich Figel:

    First, don't give up the dream until you've done everything you can to make it succeed. Analyze where you came up short before -- was there more you could have or should have done to promote your biz? Have you sought out successful people in your line of work and asked them for advice or suggestions? One thing I find is successful people often WANT to help others achieve their goals because most have had help from mentors or people they looked up to. Network, network, network... many artists are introverts who don't feel comfortable with self-promotion or doing the networking thing (me included!). But it makes you grow as a person -- and as an artist -- to get outside your comfort zone and try things you haven't done before.

    For instance, look at Etsy -- the handcrafted products website, which is now a HUGE success. Many small crafters have found success there, and I believe there is a Hawaii ETSY team you could try connecting with. Find like-minded people for support, and then offer them your support and help as well. What goes around, comes around!