Okay, Career Girls, I have a confession. As much as I love hearing the stories of great business successes, like those of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, I’m concerned about people using these stories as a guide to their own life.
We all love these stories of seemingly instant or wild success, success that we can only dream of for ourselves. And we should hear these stories so we can stay inspired, so we can keep believing — but we shouldn’t compare ourselves to them or use them to support bad habits.
A post on the Brazen Careerist caught my eye today: “Is Gen Y Delusional About How to Have a Successful Career?” Writer Jessica Stillman gathered some interesting information and statistics on the issue. It seems that many young people don’t have a realistic picture of success. They think the path is straight and instant, instead of what it more often is: long and winding. And when reality hits, it might not be pretty:
Those unhealthy expectations become an issue when they lead young folks to make the wrong decisions about how and where to invest their energies and when they cause slowly climbing Gen Yers to despair because they’re not living up to some imagined standard of instant excellence.
I’ve heard a lot of people (mostly under the age of 35) reference stories from Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, and use them as an argument against the traditional path. For example, Zuckerberg didn’t finish college, so it’s okay if I didn’t or don’t. Or Steve Jobs had some untraditional, controversial leadership methods, so I can, too. I’ve listened to people in the process of reading Steve Jobs’s biography, and every day they proclaim another way they are exactly like Steve Jobs.
Yes, this can be a great motivator if you don’t fit the traditional look of a CEO or executive, but the fact of the matter is that these are stories of career legends. To borrow from a well-known dating book, He’s Just Not That Into You, these are the exceptions — not the rule.
You can’t follow the same steps as Zuckerberg, Jobs, or even Gates and expect you, too, will have the exact same success. Everyone has their own path to success, and if there was one clear one, we all would have found it. We would all be legends.
Part of the beauty of today’s world is that you can define your own career. Times are changing and you can make your own path — many have had to. But you need to own it. You need to own that that path is uniquely yours. When we compare ourselves to someone else, we’re limiting ourselves, and we’re possibly headed for some serious disappointment.
Think of what kind of legend you want to be. Work hard to achieve your goals, and don’t get discouraged when the path is winding. It doesn’t mean there isn’t something great waiting at the end. I’ve always believed that you can never go wrong if you’re always learning, working hard, and having fun while doing it.