It is graduation time and many commencement speeches and greeting cards talk about following your dreams. Transitions are always a good time to be thinking about “what am I going to be when I grow up?” All changes in life lead to thinking about where one is going.
It is always good to “follow your heart,” and chase after your dreams. But, in the real world, it is often useful to have a back-up plan, a Plan B, so you can lead a responsible and fulfilling life if the dream doesn’t work out.
During my formative years I never really thought about how I would pay the bills. I was just leading my life and figured these things would work out over time. I didn’t get much input on this kind of thing either. Unlike some of my friends whose families were guiding them through education and career choices, our family really didn’t talk about this. When I lost my father as a freshman in college, it meant I really had no career guidance.
During my college years and after graduation I tried to make a living doing freelance photography and went through a venture in the music business. I drove a taxi to have some regular income too. It took me years to get to my Plan B.
Follow Your Dream?
When a young person looks at the business landscape today, it is clear certain professions pay the big bucks. Broadcast and social media is filled with stories of the 1% who own multiple homes, private jets, high end cars, and travel to glamourous spots throughout the world.
Of course, certain career dreams are all about hard work – doctor, lawyer, architect, engineer to name a few. Today, my wife and I met two Veterinary Technicians who clearly loved their work. Their obvious passion made me feel they were doing their dream jobs.
But what about those careers that are a big gamble and may not work out? These may include professional sports, acting, music, dance, or pursuing the visual arts.
Professional sports are the most limiting. The top sports figures started young and were much better than their peers from their earliest competitive play. As one went up the ladder to play in school, each step up, say from high school to college, is very difficult.
Many high school athletes do not make the varsity in college and even more college athletes do not go on the pros. A friend’s son was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball organization and played several years in the minors. He never made it to the majors and is now back home trying to work out a new direction.
So, it will be pretty obvious if your dream of playing professional sports can become reality. But what about the more artistic pursuits? These are more open areas where hard work and persistence may work out. How can you follow this kind of dream?
If you want to act or do photography or play music, the first thing you have to do is work on these things. Being involved in school productions, playing and practicing your instrument, playing music with friends, maybe being in a band. And this is on top of doing all the necessary things to do your schoolwork and take care of other responsibilities. This is where Plan B comes in.
I am lucky to know several young people who are exceptional in many ways. One is a dancer, another a comedian, and another a musician. All these young people have one thing in common. Each has a Plan B.
This means, while they are pursuing their passion and dreams, they are simultaneously making sure their Plan B will enable them to be responsible in their lives if their ideal aspiration doesn’t work out. One of these has already earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering, while another is pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering. You get the idea; they will be able to land excellent jobs in their Plan B area.
This is not to say one should not go after a starter position that may lead to bigger things. For example, there are so many media outlets today there is demand for on-camera people in a wide variety of roles. Or, one can do their own videos, podcasting, or blogging to get their name out there. However, most of these pursuits do not pay the big (if any) bucks.
Sure, pursue your dream! But always have a path that leads to a satisfying and responsible life. Plan B may just be the answer.