Last week, I published a question (see post here) from a 23-year old reader (whom I called “Gentle Reader” at first, and who has since shared that his name is Jon) who was trying to decide whether to give up his (loathed) financial services job to spend the summer playing professional baseball in Germany.
Although I figured a few people would weigh in with advice, I was unprepared for the response. Over 60 comments came in, which is no small beans for this blog. The advice was about 59.5 for going to Germany, and .5 for being careful about the decision.
Tom Volkar of Delightful Work thought I should not have shared my opinion in the post, because I could have skewed the results. I can see his point, but know my readers well enough to trust that they will not agree with me if they think I am wrong.
There was some great advice like:
And from my favorite Ninja Baker Kathlyn:
Go, but realize that your parents are most likely concerned about your
well-being and you should be too. Not only is your job at risk right
now (no matter what you do because all our jobs are at risk), but
you’re not going to have any kind of financial stability unless you
make it happen for it yourself. I don’t either and I’m much older than
you. So go, definitely go. But plan. Make this not just a “heart” thing
but a “head” thing too. Make this part of your plan for your life, not
just a detour. If you want to write, this is the perfect opportunity
for you to write about an amazing life experience AND see if you have
the discipline to write about it every day while you’re doing it. If
you’re going to go into an occupation like writing, you’re going to
need the discipline (and it’s HARD). This is a chance for you to
experience, plan, and make an unpopular decision that you know is right
for you – because as many have already said, your parents probably
aren’t going to back you up on this one no matter what argument you
give them. I have a good friend who decided to go into a very
competitive creative field who’s parents didn’t support her and now,
guess who’s most impressed with her kick-ass work? Dad. Most parents
are like that – they think they’re protecting you. Go, definitely go,
just be smart about it and realize that this will be work, just like
your job now is work – it’s all work and it’s all hard. But some work
is more rewarding than other work and when you find your thing, you
gotta grab it! Good luck!
And one of the few more cautious voices, Art:
See the comments to get the full picture — basically, a whole crew of people cheering for Jon to follow his heart’s desire.
I got quite a few personal emails, one which I forwarded to Jon from a
recruiter in Washington, D.C. She was extremely supportive of his
decision, and even offered to help him get a job when he returned. As
fate would have it, Jon currently lives in D.C. Coincidence?
Jon responded to all the advice this way:
First of all, thanks to everyone for all the support. Like some
people noted, I already knew what choice I should make before I reached
out to Pam. Posting this on “Escape From Cubical Nation” made it a
pretty unfair debate anyway. If I really wanted to see the other side
of this argument I could post the same thing on a forbes.com message
board, but there’s no need for that. I was really just looking to hear
some support backed by reason and experience. When I brought this up to
my friends, all of whom close to my age, most initially thought I was
crazy (which is partly true) but after thinking about it for a second
or two most agreed this was the opportunity of a lifetime. So much so
that of about the 20 or so people I asked, 100% were completely behind
the idea, and the few that made a effort to point out some negatives
did so with a hint of jealousy. The problem I’ve had internally was
when I asked my parents, who have always been my voice of reason, they
weren’t too keen on the idea. They didn’t completely reject it, but
gave more of the “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” routine… which
everyone knows is the hardest to cope with. This was why I was looking
for some advice from people like yourselves, who could share their
actual experiences rather than just my friend’s ramblings (ex. “Dude I
heard, the bars in Germany are sick.”)
I have never been one to seek people’s approval on the choices I
make, but this one seemed different. Within my immediate circle of
friends, I have always been one of the most responsible when it came to
major decisions and life events, and felt I was always one step ahead
of the curve. I got into a good college, concentrated on keeping my
grades up, switched majors to make sure I could get a high paying job,
then landed a good job before I even graduated. Most of my peers are
just now starting to get to where I am at with their careers. In one
light, it felt like I might be throwing it all away by leaving now… but
then again, in another, brighter light, everything everyone has been
saying here holds true, and I realize that this is a once in a lifetime
opportunity that I would be stupid to pass up. My main arguments, most
of which seem to have been covered in people’s posts were that:
– I didn’t take any sort of “find yourself” trip after school, even
though I originally planed to, due to the job I had sign on for.
– I put a lot of time and effort into finding this opportunity, and
after a few years of pondering, I still want to go. (I’ve wanted to do
this since I decided not to play baseball in college in order to go to
a better school)
– I already don’t like this job and need a reason to leave.
– I’ve always loved baseball, and this could be my last chance to play at this high a level.
All of my friends hate the fact that they’re working already, and I
seem to be the only one doing something about it. Once again, I
appreciate all of support and the context everyone has put behind their
posts, it really helped me to solidify my choice.
I registered a blog today http://fratology.wordpress.com/ and will start
updating it asap. The name fratology stems from a website url I
registered to start up a frat guy humor e-magazine – which, now that I
think of it, this is actually the first action I’ve taken on the idea.
Check back often for any updates if you’re interested in my story. As
of now, I’m waiting to hear back from the team to find out the exact
financial package they can offer me, which should come later this week.
I’m glad there has been interest in my case, since I had previously
thought about making a blog to document this trip. I also thought to
possibly getting some sort of media attention to create a story out of
it to jump start a writing or journalism career, but I’ve scoured the
internet for ways to submit article ideas to newspapers or magazines
and had no luck. If anyone knows of ways to do this, my spam buster
email address is firstname.lastname@example.org any help is greatly appreciated.
Anyway, thanks again and be sure to check out the blog.
But my favorite reply came from Jon’s mom Valerie, who must have heard about the discussion from Jon:
“I am overwhelmed by the response and support Jon has received in his quest for adventure.
As a parent, of course, I only want him to be happy. If his life is complete — my life is more complete. I want him to be financially secure, have a good career, and ultimately be successful. That is my job as his life coach. Jon was always a good, conscientious student. He cared about his grades – I didn’t have to care for him.
My parents were immigrants but they achieved more financial stability than my american friends. They worked harder. I am programmed to work hard and earn what you make. I was upset to read that Jon only put in 20% effort at his job. That’s not like him. I don’t want him to carry that to his next job. I ultimately feel responsible because I was the one who talked him into taking this job. But I thought I was doing the right thing. He had the chance to interview for a Hedge fund that would have given him more job stability and financial success. Even with that I couldn’t see him taking the job because l. it was 2 miles from home 2. he would work nights and possibly weekends to start 3. he would still live at home. I didn’t see that as a life for him while he was young- contrary to what my sister thought. I know they think I made a mistake to tell him to take THE ADVENTURE. So I carry the mother’s guilt that my decision didn’t work out……………..
All the posts were positive to go which I do understand but I did appreciate those that brought out the reality of the present financial crises. I told Jon if it was any other time I would be thrilled that he had the opportunity – knowing that finding another job would not be a problem. That is not the case now. Every morning my husband gives me the unemployment count and that doesn’t help. Of course my husband is self employed and has been since he was 21 years old. He’s lived on his own since he was 17 so he is also so proud of Jon’s accomplishments and his success. He wants Jon to have job stability. My husband still does not know that Jon is considering this offer — I told him he has to call his father himself when he makes the choice. I know he will be worried about his future when he returns from Germany.
I am proud that he is not making this decision irrationally. That he has taken the time and effort to get opinions. If he wants to go I will support his decision but I will also have to add that he should complete his present job at 110%. To leave the job and wow them. Give it the same energy he would a job he wants. He has to be realistic about his return. There is no guarantee he will find his dream job right away. He has to understand that he will have to get experience and put in 110% – sometimes even 100 is not enough to stand out and be noticed. Whatever the job is – he should bring forth creative ideas for change — Am I wrong? Can any job became a challenge? That’s another topic.
Sorry for the length of this reply. But I know he will make the right choice. I know he will make it work just by the way he approached his decision.
Just like one person said there might be days in Germany that are not the greatest. Sitting on the bench…losing a game because of an error..culture difference..money..etc. But I always say when you are on vacation you say you are having a good time. When you’re home a week you remember it as a great time. When you talk about it a year later it was the greatest vacation you ever had. I’m sure that will be his experience. It gets better as you get older.
Thank you for taking the time and interest in his quest. He’s a very responsible son and I’m sure he will make the right decision and it will work……I also have sleepness night worrying about him…… “
I do not believe that you just do what you love and the money will follow. There is a lot involved in making the money follow, like having a great business model and robust marketing activities and hard work and patience and luck and supportive friends and mentors.
I am much more convinced of the fact that if you practice doing what you love, you are much more likely to discover what to do that you love, or at least like, which also pays the bills. For years, I have had this gut feeling, which is why I encourage people who feel unsure of what to do in their career to wander around museums or spend time watching movies they like.
When I saw this TED talk by Bill Strickland, the awe-inspiring man who started the gorgeous and inspiring Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, and authored Make the Impossible Possible, it all made sense. His path to greatness and contribution started by picking up a hunk of clay. It was the fire of creativity, ignited in the kiln, that inspired him to find his life’s work. It wasn’t a straight line from “I love making pottery” to “I want to become a potter.” See his complete talk here: (link to website here)
I think the wonderful, smart, dear sweet young men of the Pursue the Passion project have another wildly important lesson for young Jon: don’t just explore something that excites you, share what you have learned from others so they can benefit from your learning. This simple tactic led a group of 4 guys to criss-cross the country interviewing passionate people, and ultimately led to sponsorship by Jobing.com, and eventually fruitful and viable work.
Jon shared that he has started a blog which I will encourage him to keep up if and when he heads to Germany. I can’t wait to hear what happens next.
Thank you Valerie, for being brave enough to post very honest comments about your apprehensions about your son’s career choices. As a Mom, I totally and completely understand your desire to play a supportive and active role in your son’s life, as well as guide him toward good decisions. Parenting is never easy, and it never ends. My Mom tells me she still stays up some nights worrying about me and my siblings, and we are now in our 40s and 50s. That is what you call love. 🙂