I was recently speaking to a young person (~Age 20 or 21) and he was telling me about his aspirations. He wanted to go work at a startup, see what it is like to found a company, and eventually go launch his own firm. He wanted to go and create value in the world — to be his own boss, to satisfy customers, and to leave an impact on the world around him.
Even more, he hated school (but loved learning). He knew he didn’t have to be there to do what he wanted to do. He knew he could learn the things he wanted better and in less time at a lower cost outside the classroom.
So, of course, I asked him, “what’s keeping you from doing that right now?”
“Well, you see, I want to be an officer in this club on campus.”
“Can’t you be involved in the things the club does without being an officer on campus?”
“Yeah, but then I couldn’t add it to my resume. I feel like that would be a good thing to have on there, just in case.”
Two Futures: Indefinite and Definite
He was letting his resume (or, more specifically, the idea of “falling back on your resume”) hold him back. He was in an indefinite mindset — working to indefinitely increase his chances so that indefinite people might give him indefinite opportunities in an indefinite future. Despite having a decent idea of where he wanted to be in the future, he had no definite plan for getting there. His resume was the tool for navigating that indefinite future.
The resume is the embodiment of this indefinite mindset.
It’s a generic list of things to pad our chances of landing a job in the future. In order to maximize the number of impressive things on this list, we may pass up great opportunities to get us where we want to go sooner. We choose the “okay” over the “great.” We choose the “not-quite” over the “there.” We fall into a mindset where we work towards things getting better, but we have no idea how or where they will get better.
Burn your resume. Stop hedging your bets. Get out of the mindset that keeps you from taking the big risks to get where you want to go.
Burn that indefinite mindset.
Instead, cultivate a definite mindset.
Figure out what you want from yourself, your career, and your life. Build a series of plans to get there.
This takes time. You may have no idea where you want to be in 5 years right now. You may have no idea where you want to be in 1 year right now. But you can start figuring that out.
How to Cultivate a Definite Mindset
There are two ways we can figure out what we want from our futures.
The first is to figure out what we are good at and enjoy and to whittle down the combinations from there. This is very hard. There are lots of things that can be done with any one skill set, and there are new things popping up all the time. You may not know what you are good at yet, too. You may not know what you really enjoy. To figure out what you are good at, what you enjoy, and what option(s) you have to make a future out of the first two variables takes an immense amount of work.
The second way is to figure out what you don’t enjoy and what you are not good at and removing these things from your life. As you do this, you begin to notice your quality of life increasing. For example, I hate paperwork. I hate filing it, I hate organizing it, I hate the minutiae that has to go into properly dealing with it. I remove as much paperwork from my life as possible. This means I could never be a bureaucrat, a social worker, an accountant, or any number of careers that rely heavily on paperwork. By removing doing paperwork from my life as much as possible, I have more time to focus on the things I enjoy and more mental energy to focus on figuring out what other activities I do not enjoy.
Once you figure out what you are not good at and you do not enjoy, begin to devote yourself to the first way. You’ve removed a lot of the white noise that will make figuring what you enjoy and what you are good at possible.
Now that you’ve figured out what you are good at, focus on that relentlessly. Become an expert at that. Be around people who challenge you. Take risks that have a high payoff of helping you better yourself at what you enjoy and are good at. By focusing on these areas, you’ll be forced to develop a definite mindset. You cannot become better at a given skill or engage more deeply with a given interest without devoting yourself to a plan of action.
This is what we do at Praxis. We build definite plans with participants. Participants no longer work towards an indefinite future. They work towards the future they want. You won’t “fall back” on some indefinite future. You’re building a definite path that you can take forward. This is how you build your future.
Extrapolate this out onto your life. Be active. Be definite. Be better.