What do you want to do when you grow up? That was the question that sparked the passions of a younger you, and probably lead to where you are now. But as dreams, needs, and markets change, the chances are higher that you won’t be chasing the same dream ten years from now.
With 21% of millennials saying they’ve switched jobs in the last year, we should consider changing the question from “what do you want to do when you grow up,” to “what do you want to do next?”
The concept of a “five-year run” is real.
My answer to what I wanted to do when I grew up evolved many times throughout my childhood, from comic book artist to soldier, but often centered, at least tangentially, around the martial arts. Trying to live out this dream, I started in the Instructor Development Program in a Jeet Kune Do academy when I was 19. At that time, the UFC was becoming more popular, and everyone coming into the school sought MMA lessons — not even knowing what that entailed.
Adapting to my situation, I added grappling to my repertoire, even though I disagreed with the emphasis the sport placed on lying on the ground with a single opponent.
I needed to be flexible to keep an income.
Once I got on with grappling and Judo, self-protection became the big thing, which led to me supplementing Krav Maga and SPEAR System into my syllabus. After that, traditional martial arts made a comeback.
There was a time when seminars were the preferred method for people to learn the martial arts — much like how distance learning and YouTube is taking a large share of the fitness industry these days — and I wasn’t equipped to tackle that. It was time for me to make a switch to another passion.
I chose to try my hand at being a comic book artist and started going back to school. I suck at art, though, and had to abandon that altogether. But I was pretty good at storytelling, and started on my writing career.
I’ve been writing for 11 years, and while I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, or ever — I’ll always include writing in some professional manner — I do see a point where I might end it for another endeavor.
Be ready to adapt
Many writers want to write for the rest of their lives. But look at how that industry has changed.
For decades, traditional publishing was the only way to make a living. Maybe you published novels, instruction manuals, or found traction in the old pulp magazines, but you were always dependent on a gatekeeper allowing you to work.
A little more than a decade ago, access to ebooks gave authors the ability to give gatekeepers the proverbial finger and make a living without needing permission to do so.
Today, we’re seeing the beginnings of a shift toward content creation over self-publishing — or at least alongside it.
Some writers have adapted, like Anne Rice ditching her agent and publisher to go all-in on self-publishing, and they’ll have to adapt again. Even if you remain in the same industry, like Mrs. Rice or me in the martial arts, you’ll have to adapt to changes in the market. Adapt or die.
Don’t throw all your eggs in the same skills basket
Imagine if I never tried to mess with creating comic books when I was younger. If I only took inspiration from them and exclusively practiced martial arts. When the industry became untenable for me to remain active in it, I would have had a more challenging time making a switch.
Those changes are hard enough without learning a new skill, which I initially tried to do. Instead, be versatile. Seek all of your passions at the same time. Something looks like it might be a solid market, study it in your off-time a bit and see if it’s for you — maybe not now, but as you and that market evolve.
Always be learning.
Don’t think that the world will sit still for your current skillset. There used to be lamplighters who would go around town lighting street lamps. As the world changes, so do our jobs.
Find the intersection of two passions
Being multi-passionate is the best way to be not only adaptable but unique. If the market changes, you can lean on your second passion, even if just for a while. And if you combine both passions into one, you could potentially create an entirely new niche that you are the first to provide products or services for.
Being able to switch between passions, or change them to meet new market needs, allows you to adapt to a changing world.
Make changes slowly
With the increasing likelihood that we’ll all switch our careers at some point, possibly more than once, strive to make those changes slowly. Starting in something new takes time to gain traction, which can go hand in hand with income.
The last thing you want is to change careers drastically and lose your house. Start implementing your new direction in the margins of your life. Slowly, the change will be apparent, and you’ll almost feel forced to make the change. It’s the Law of Attraction: the more you put thought and action into the universe, the more the universe acts on your behalf. Or, as Paulo Coelho puts it:
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. — Paulo Coelho
Know that as you begin learning and working on a new skill, on a new project, or in a different industry, you will have to choose which direction to take for your full-time gig. It’s happened to me many times.
Find your identity outside of your career
You see this with creatives a lot. Artists, writers, videographers, even martial artists — they typically identify themselves with their art. Sometimes, this creates anxiety and depression, as they aren’t as good at their thing as they thought they would be, which means they aren’t good at being people.
But you are not your art. That is a good thing because it means that people who may not like you can still respect your art — we’re forgetting this as a society, but the work is not the creator and vice versa. Separating your identity from your work also allows you to make career changes more easily.
Find your identity in the off-hours, when you go hiking, or fishing, or sailing. Find it in the sort of books you read and the friends you keep; find it in the design of your garden or the color scheme of your living room; just don’t find it at work.
Work to live, don’t live to work.
“In times of change, the learner shall inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” — Zig Ziglar
Change is inevitable. Be ready for it.