I was carried away by the sound. Beautiful beyond words. Beautiful beyond anything I had ever heard.
Each note, each passage, more glorious, more magnificent than the last
A soaring concerto.
A virtuoso violinist.
I was the commencement speaker at a high school music academy. And this – this masterpiece – was the evening’s prelude… played by a graduating senior.
I leaned over in my chair on the stage and whispered to the assistant director sitting next to me. “What music school is he going to?”
She frowned and rolled her eyes. “He’s not. His parents want him to study economics.”
I was stunned. And sad.
What the world would never hear.
Even more, I knew how the story would unfold.
You see, many of my clients seek me out for career coaching. Quite a few of them are in their 30’s although some are in their 40’s or 50’s. They’ve gone to great colleges, graduating at the top of their classes (and have a lot of debt). They’ve gone on to graduate school, business school or professional school… and excelled. They’ve landed the plum job with a great salary… and a lot of prestige.
And they’re miserable. They hate their lives. They don’t know how they got to where they are. They can’t figure out how to break free.
For the young violinist, it was the moment he walked off the stage.
Because he had the wrong map.
In a recent article, Dick Bolles, career guru and author of the ten million copy best seller What Color Is Your Parachute says that following your dreams still matters; love still matters; love of what you do.
Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago studied 120 athletes, artists and scholars in order to determine the ingredients of greatness. He controlled for intelligence and family background and all sorts of variables… and what he discovered was that there was only one common denominator for greatness: extraordinary drive.
Extraordinary drive fueled by passion.
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself,” said Abraham Maslow.
I asked a coaching client today how he ended up a lawyer rather then pursuing the graduate studies in philosophy that he so loved.
“People told me that I needed to be realistic,” he said.
Too many parents, following a well-worn map and pressured by cultural expectations, push their young adults into a college paradigm that is economically broken, into hollow, empty fields that masquerade as ‘real’ jobs , only to end up seeing them unemployed, in debt and living in their basements. Or worse, to see them on my doorstep – after the years have dulled their eyes and sucked their souls – empty, sad and lifeless.
Despite our best intentions, it is a map that leads to nowhere good.
Those who read me often know that I am passionate about life-long learning and about success.
But if you’re going to climb that ladder of success, you better make pretty damn sure it’s against the right wall.
And the only way to do that is to start from a place of love.