Have you ever been told you will amount to nothing? Have you ever been told your best plans will fail? Have you ever been told to pursue things that matter in the world? Fret not, my friend, for your life is yours and yours alone. Do your best and ignore the naysayers.
Recently, a loved one told me how a young man was chided by a very senior executive with a curt remark equivalent to the effect of “young man, get lost.” The motivated young man was momentarily taken aback, but he bounced right back and said that he was not demoralized, but recognized that he is merely young and he will get somewhere some day.
Coincidentally, I told my family that I have been told more or less the same thing. I was a young man then, just fresh out of the army, and jobless. I applied for hundreds of jobs, whether they were advertised or not. In many of the interviews, I called up the companies “cold” and managed by persuasion and persistence, to get at least an interview.
I took my paltry portfolio and went for this particular interview. This senior executive told me roughly the same things, “Young man, you’ve got nothing there. Your portfolio is nothing.” Being mildly autistic (on hindsight), I was not perturbed, but thanked her nonetheless. This similar experience confronted me time and again, including interviews with many other senior executives of this large organization.
About 8 years later, I was a fast rising executive with extensive and proven field experience in digital publishing, creative direction, business development, and training. I was in international marketing at that time. I was invited for an interview with another arm of that large organization I once relentlessly pursued when I came out of the army. I went in, but their offer did not meet my expectations. I declined.
Respectfully, the tide has turned, and I have managed to struggle against many prejudices and odds, to emerge as much of an achiever as I defined it. Rather than simply listen to naysayers tell me how lousy I am or how lackluster my skills are, I relentlessly and aggressively pursue my areas of interest, to hone my skills, to deepen my industry knowledge, and to study hard for them, traditionally or non-traditionally.
At the end, I am accountable and responsible for my own journey, not anyone else. Mere talk by bystanders is not going to add, or subtract, from what I need to or feel compelled to achieve. And the world cannot define what it, through the majority, pushes whatever agenda of its own on me. My life is very much my own, and my journey has to be walked by myself.
For you, or I, we all feel inspired by some things in life. We all feel a strong leaning to do something, and in many instances along the journey, we decide that we need to do something for others, for the world. Do not be dissuaded by many arrogant, dispassionate or disillusioned people that serving others rather than pursuing material goals is a bad thing.
If you feel compelled to pursue social or community service, do it. If you feel inspired somehow to pursue a higher calling, do it. If you feel passionate about the arts, hone your skills, allow your talents to flourish. If you feel the urge that you must break out of the corporate mould to take on the lonely and risky path of entrepreneurship, go for it.
We live our lives to the fullest, and simply sitting back as a bystander will not turn whatever dream we have, small or big, into any fragment of reality. The pursuit of any dream will never be a walk in the park, know it. It will be hard, we will falter and fall, we will bruise and get hurt, but never be discouraged, and especially never be discouraged by others who are mere spectators. Take every step in our relentless pursuit of living life to its fullest meaning, as a lesson in humility, as a lesson in strengthening, as a lesson of refinement. Life is a crucible that refines us and we muster all we are and all we have to be refined into gems.
We have all heard of the familiar proverb, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” I try my best not to judge another person’s journey as each of us have challenges.
I have walked my life journey with near death at birth, conquering many physical and health challenges, and life’s many puzzles, and am still walking. If someone, old or young, has not walked in my shoes for even a mile, then he or she, has no reason to criticize my journey. I am perfectly at peace at the paths I have walked, and the choices I have taken in my learning, careers, and business. They may seem simple to many, but I am content.
At every pause point you can find today, or any day, ask yourself, “am I content that I have done my best in pursuing my life’s goals, my learning and my work?”
Dr Seamus Phan is the Head of Content and CTO at McGallen & Bolden. He is an expert in branding, marketing, communication, leadership training, crisis management, and entrepreneurship. This article may appear concurrently on his blog. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2018 Seamus Phan et al. All rights reserved.