You Can’t Do Anything You Want

Chris Guillebeau's Surprising Career Advice

Originally in Forbes“A lot of career advice begins right back at age six,” writes author Chris Guillebeau in his newest book, Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do. But in case you’re expecting some fluffy self-help propaganda that over-inflates your ego in an attempt to win your purchase of the book, Guillebeau hits you with a helpful dose of reality early and often:

Born For This“‘You can do anything you want,’ adults usually promise, without any explanation or assurance of how ‘anything’ is possible. Nice as it might sound to our young ears, this advice is absurd,” says Guillebeau.

Please don’t get the wrong impression. Guillebeau isn’t a bully or a browbeater. I actually find him surprisingly soft-spoken for someone who has built an enormous online following, written four bestselling books and created one of the hottest-ticket annual conferences in the World Domination Summit. He just refuses to buy into the implicit (and often explicit) promise of the many “success cult” leaders who sell books, courses and videos offering you a slice of their success if you’ll only follow their footsteps (across a pile of burning coals).

And why doesn’t following successful people necessarily make you successful? For at least two reasons:

1) You’re not them.

2) They’re not you.

How, then, does Guillebeau fill 300 pages with advice on finding your dream job, if not by telling you how he did it and imploring you to do the same?

Career Advice…From the “Most Interesting Man in the World”

After a couple weeks of discussion around the undeniably heavy topic of life insurance, I thought it was important to lighten things up a bit. I love finding tidbits about our financial lives in generally non-financial books, music, movies… and even television commercials.

Have you seen the commercials for the Mexican beer, Dos Equis, in which a nameless, well dressed, bearded man only described as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” shares supposed wisdom that is quite intentionally humorous—even hysterical at times? Here are some of the lines used to describe this gentleman:

  • “Police often question him, just because they find him interesting.”
  • “He speaks fluent French, in Russian.”
  • “He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.”
  • And one of my personal favorites: “He lives vicariously through himself.”

He’s even taken a moment out of his busy schedule to give us some career advice in which he posits, “Find out what it is in life that you don’t do well… and then don’t do that thing.” Now this is supposed to be funny—and when he says it, it is—but as I thought further, I realized that so few people seem to have taken his advice. Especially the way that many people gripe about their job, I can’t help but think they ARE doing something that they don’t do well, because generally, we enjoy doing things that we do well.

I’m entirely sure that the most interesting man in the world is not making an attempt at profundity here, but I’d like to twist his humorous comment into an affirmative one that I do believe would serve you well as foundational career advice no matter how old you are or the status of your employment. That is, “Find out what it is in life that you DO well… and then DO that thing.”

The foundation of every solid financial plan is the cash flow mechanism; the driving force behind every cash flow mechanism is most often a job or jobs; if that job is primarily made up of duties for which we are well equipped, excellence is almost invariably the outcome; when we do a job with excellence, we tend to advance thereby increasing the household cash flow… which tends to improve our overall financial health.

But our career is really less about money and more about life. Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours working, and if we do so with the primary if not sole purpose of bringing home a paycheck to THEN enjoy life, the mathematical truth is that we’ll spend the minority of our lives actually… living. I’m not affirming workaholism; nor am I suggesting you “live to work.” I also understand that the realities of our current economy make it even more difficult to drop the job you hate cold turkey to pursue your passion. But I am inviting you to join the minority of workers who have infused their occupation with their life purpose and incorporated their job into their life.

Watch the short embedded video—laugh—and then consider what a first step in this regard might be for you. As my co-author, Jim Stovall, signs off, “Today’s the Day!”