By Paul Thomas
In his revolutionary book Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age*, Tom Peters explains the importance of the question “What is (v-e-r-y) special about you?”
Asking this question of yourself, and grappling with a brutally honest answer, is arguably the most important FirstStep in choosing a career path that will sustain both your wallet and your happiness throughout the forty to fifty years you’ll spend (hopefully) contributing to the economy.
In our parents’ generation, the key question was different. There was a range of “sure-fire” recipes for success: Simply complete the correct degree at the right university; work hard; arrive on time; dress smartly; etc. If you followed these steps you could revel in a guaranteed pay-cheque each month and many years of looking forward to retirement.
In our generation the pathways to success are more numerous, individualised and varied. There are many people who have degrees and are prepared to work hard, but cannot find a “job”. The reasons for this are layered and often politicised but, once we strip away the emotionality, it probably boils down to the fact that these graduates were not exceptional within their chosen field.
Fortunately, there are now opportunities that were way beyond the wildest imaginations of the previous generation - opportunities to study and work in an area you love, and make a successful career out of the thing that makes you special. If you follow somebody else’s pre-defined recipe for success, but forget to find your passion (the domain where you’re most likely to stand out from the masses) you may end up an unemployment statistic. In present-day South Africa, an exceptional artist finds work more easily and makes more money than a mediocre lawyer.
Interrogate the advice you’re given. Is your roadmap to success the same one your grandparents used? Has the terrain changed since then?
Question your choices….constantly!
*READ IT* Peters, T. (2003). Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. Dorling Kindersley: London