“You can be anything you want in life.”
That is a lie told by well-meaning parents who want their kids to dream big and achieve greatness. The reality is there are limits and restrictions on your potential. One of these limitations is your natural skills and talents. There are some skills—perhaps reading or math or caring for others or an ability to focus quietly—that come easy to you. Maybe you have chosen to work on refining these natural gifts into perfected talents, or maybe you are like most of us and fallen a little short in this effort. Regardless, these seeds must be watered and nourished if they are to grow. Get to work perfecting your natural gifts.
That’s your natural gifts. But there are other skills that are not as natural for you. These areas can limit your options in choosing a career, and they can be your downfall in the job search. For example, the brilliant yet introverted mathematician who cannot deal with people makes a lousy teacher, if he does not deal with his shortcoming. Similarly, the extroverted people-person who lacks the discipline to master mathematics also becomes a lousy teacher, if he does not try to control skills that do not come naturally. Recognize that you are set free by your natural skills, but limited by those that are not as developed in you.
But raw skill is not the only variable affecting your ability to choose your profession. You are also either empowered or restricted by your finances, your network of support from family and friends, and the unique opportunities that come your way every day. You cannot simple “will” your way into a job by raw desire. And no matter how hard you work at achieving career goals, some will simply stay beyond your grasp.
When I was in school at Western Kentucky University I worked hard to be the Geologist Senior of the Year. I was a lab assistant, I volunteered to help teachers outside of class, I tutored people who were struggling in geology, and I studied nightly into the wee hours. I got the highest grades in the class on nearly all my tests … and I came in second. Similarly, every day thousands of talented, brilliantly gifted kids work tirelessly to become the next music superstar … but only one person can hold this spot. You must live YOUR life, recognizing that you will not have the opportunities provided to others.
You cannot be anything you want to in life…but the reality is even better. You have been placed on earth for a unique purpose… with unique skills…at a unique place…at a unique time. You cannot be anything, but you can be one thing better than anyone else. Better than anyone! That’s because you have a truly unique skill set and completely unique opportunities that no one else will have. Just like you may not be able to be the next President of the United States, the next president cannot be you … even if he or she tried.
The opportunities come your way every day, but they are usually subtle and you have to look carefully for them. They reside in the manager you walk by every day, but never talk to. The back-to-school scholarship you never looked for on the web. The online degree taught by the university half-way around the world. The article in the newspaper about a community problem. Or the difficulties that a friend or co-worker is facing.
Look for YOUR opportunities. YOU can serve YOUR purpose like no one else because of the unique combinations of abilities you have, the unique lessons your life experiences have taught you, and the unique opportunities that will be presented to you and no one else. Successful people focus on the short-term opportunities around them, rather than the vague dreams that can never be realized.