Don’t settle for second best at work

It seems strange to me that a parent, teacher or family friend will ask a young child, often just four or five, a grown-up question: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Perhaps one in 100 kids will go on to become a firefighter, a doctor or an astronaut, but do we really expect someone so young to have the clarity required to answer that question?

Surely the vast majority of people chop and change, dream and forget, before they finally stumble upon something of consequence that they might enjoy. Then again, I am convinced that (as sad as it may be) most people never reach a decent level of contentment in their working life. Regardless of the possibilities they were encouraged to create and dream about as children, they end up working in a nine-to-five job from which they never escape.

If you are reading this at the start of your journey, then please pay close attention to the next few paragraphs. If you are some way into your working life and any of the last paragraph rang true, then it is never too late to make a change.

It was in 2002, when I was twenty-three years old, that I finally started to gain clarity on what might keep me excited about getting up in the mornings for the rest of my life. My passion for linguistics was initially a coincidental circumstance of my upbringing – I never chose to study languages so intensively. Had my early life played out a little differently then perhaps I might never have travelled at all. I could have studied politics or dropped out of school to work on a building site. These routes could have been equally successful and drawn out another passion from within me, a far call from the path that I eventually took. Because of my upbringing, something about language connected with me, lit a spark and became like a beacon deep inside my heart.

That means for me, and probably for you too, there is not necessarily a single path you need to find before you can reach contentment. There will be lots of things out there in this big, wide world of ours that interest you, and what you need to do is keep looking until you find one.

To be truly happy in life, what you choose to pursue has to be something that you are genuinely passionate about, or you will always feel you are missing something. I can’t help you discover what that might be, but you will know it when you find it. Likewise, I can’t promise you that going for it will be easy, but if it is something you believe in it will be worth it in the end.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t identified what it is yet – no matter what age you are. There is always time to change or fine-tune your goals until you discover the treasure that you can set your sights towards. As long as you go in the right direction, are honest enough with yourself to change course and in tune enough with your heart, you will get there.

That is what happened to me in 2002, and I’m certain it could be the same for everyone else because I hear the same story (different details) from the other business owners and entrepreneurs I mix with every day. Far too many people settle for second best simply because option one hasn’t happened yet, or worse still because they never discover what option one looks like. I feel sorry for those people because, with a little more drive, their story could be beautifully translated into the language of success and contentment.

It is an important step for any would-be entrepreneur to recognise the real goal for them. Find the something that you enjoy doing as well as it giving you commercial success. This might only happen in stages; it was certainly that way for me, but if you are listening to your heart and your head, it will always reveal itself in the end.

An adapted extract of “Chancing Your Arm: How I Made It Big In Britain” by David García González.