Thursday, August 9, 2012

The American dream

Be a woodsman - find what works and cut your own path.

And why you need a hatchet

I have known many people freshly graduated from college, who, for the life of them cannot seem to find a position pertaining to their degree. I have been in this pickle myself, and I can confirm what an awful predicament it can be. Applications, resumes, references, personal Web sites, portfolios, professional contacts, calling, e-mailing, calling to confirm e-mails, interviews, second interviews, parking, hotel stays, gasoline, business attire, etc, etc. The list goes on.

Job searching is a full-time job, and you don't get paid. You will experience more rejection than at almost any other period in your life. The voices oozing pity and the faces with frowns on the brows of loved ones begin to take their toll, and you have to drag yourself out of bed every single day if for no other reason, it seems, than to acknowledge your feeble existence and your dwindling bank account. It can last for weeks, months, even years, and all the while you will be expected to renew your vigor and commitment to each new "opportunity."

Discouraged yet? I don't blame you. The reason some people, many people, choose to put themselves through such a painful process is because they know they will come out on top in the end and have the dream job they have always wanted. Struggling through this phase takes a mountain of courage because it is a right of passage. This process is what separates the committed from the uncommitted. It is, in essence, the American dream, because, and I truly believe this, anyone in this country can do it.

However, what concerns me about this struggle is this: Somewhere along the way, money has a tendency to become the focus. In this case, too many of us give up the fight and settle. We settle because we have bills to pay. Our priorities change, life gets in the way, or we've been beaten down so much it seems impossible to reach our dreams any longer, so we better get over it sooner than later. Right? Wrong.

There is a double standard in this country that says, "do what you love", and at the same time "make money and support yourself." The problem, of course, is building a bridge between these two because all too often doing the things you truly enjoy produces very little income. The challenge we each face isn't any more complicated than that - solve the puzzle by connecting what you have a true, unmitigated passion for to a way in which you can make a living. Sometimes we're told we need more education, or some certification, or to know somebody. I disagree.

These are all gatekeepers - the certificate, the deep pockets, the elbow rubbing. The gatekeepers do not want you to get through unless you act like them, think like them, attend their alma mater, play their game. If you want to change the game, make it so that you stand a chance, start thinking differently. Ignore the status quo set up by the crusty, ancient, broken, and supposed industry leaders, because you know what? You can do better.

In the backwoods, the woodsman has a choice. The woodsman learns from someone he or she respects, then cuts his or her own path. The woodsman practices transparency; honesty with himself - he is well prepared to admit his shortcomings before his accomplishments. The woodsman admits his fears, and by doing so constantly works at overcoming them. The woodsman will not settle for anything less than the best and is willing to take risks to get there. The woodsman does not fear getting lost in the woods, he simply builds a cabin.

This is a unique time in the history of the world, in the economy of the world. Never before have we been so lost in the woods, never before has there been a better time to cut a path and build your own cabin. Be a woodsman, take a hatchet to the gates in front of you.

“He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn't work. It wasn't just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that--it didn't work.”
- Gary Paulsen, Hatchet
See you out there,
A woodsman in training

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