I love reading books, not just one book, but multiples all at once. Some are new, some are books I read every few years. One book has been a constant for the past 3 years, and one classic has become a yearly tradition. And as a career coach, I read lots of books on changing careers, psychology, spirituality, and entrepreneurship. If you worked with me, heck, even if you just met me at a party, I probably recommended a book!
So why this post?
As much as I love reading and learning, knowledge and information are never enough to make a significant life transition happen. I know way too many people who can recite the perfect strategy to get a great career, have read every book on changing careers, and even sometimes spent tens of thousands of dollars on online courses or degrees, and still cannot change career and find a fulfilling occupation.
Here’s what reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a video, or taking a class cannot teach you about changing careers, and what you can do about it:
Any psychotherapist, coach, or marketer can tell you that human beings are terrible at knowing themselves. Our mind is incredibly good at covering up what it sees as threatening. This is what Carl Jung was referring to when he wrote: “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Our unconscious runs the show much more than we would like to believe. So when you take a ton of tests about your aptitudes, and read books on changing careers that are designed to help you break through your limitations, but still feel stuck, it is because you are not aware of a specific pattern, thought or belief running in the background. The only way to get to those, especially if you’ve never experienced uncovering unconscious beliefs before, is to work with a professional. Depending on the issue, you might benefit from working with a coach, therapist, or another type of healer (e.g. an energy healer, or someone who works with the body).
The first time I experienced this uncovering, both within myself and witnessing a very skilled coach making someone else aware of their unconscious patterns, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe no one had taught me this in school! Now, because I had some practice and breakthroughs, I can uncover some of my own issues myself; but even I need the help of a coach and other practitioners if I feel stuck, it is simply not possible for individuals to figure it all out by ourselves.
Gaining Real Experience
You can read 100 blog posts on how failure is good, but until you actually take a step, and then another, and then another, and experience what it is like to fail yourself, you do not know what it is like. Many of us read stories of those who successfully failed secretly hoping that when our failure comes it won’t be that bad, and we’ll get to reap all the rewards. Unfortunately this type of transformation cannot be bypassed by reading about it. It is exactly because of the suffering and fear one goes through, even sometimes hitting rock bottom, or feeling completely hopeless, that we can learn what we need to learn in our lives. No amount of reading will help you skip the process. This is sort of like traveling, or food poisoning: as much as you might read about it, you have no idea what it’s really like until you go through it yourself.
Keeping Your Heart Open
I work primarily with career changers who have had their share of ups and downs in life. Look, there is no way you get to be an adult without your suffering and for some that can be a gigantic share. No matter how many uplifting and spiritual books you read, nothing will prepare you for the work you need to do when you get hit with loss and suffering. The only way to learn to keep your heart open in the face of the bad as well as the good that life throws your way is to practice. I have always found great comfort and helpful exercises in books, but the real difference has come from actual practice: first deciding that, no matter what, I would keep my heart open, and then doing the hard work, little by little, to make it happen. Meditation is great for this, as well as cultivating faith, and increasing self awareness.
Charting Your Own Path
People want cookie cutter solutions. I just need to spend 5 minutes on Facebook before I get bombarded by ads offering the one secret to becoming a millionaire without working too hard, or how to fill all my workshops without a mailing list, and on and on and on. Look, by all means it is good to learn strategies that worked for others. But as someone who has worked in 3 different careers, and has grown or started a number of businesses, here’s the only secret you need: it will never work for you exactly like it worked for the other guy. In fact, it might not work for you at all! There is no safe road, no risk-free way to get what you want, no certainty of success, no avoiding the risk of failure. At some point you have to head out into the forest, and when you are faced with the dragon, you will have to give it your 100% – no book will have ever prepared you enough not to be scared or end up with a couple of scars. Be brave! Find meaning in the journey, as the destination is what you make of it.