Real world day one starts like any other day of the past four, five or even six years; however, life PG (Post Graduation) is a startling reality with so many choices one can be easily overwhelmed and seek solace by entering graduate school.
Of course, some know their life course, graduate from college, backpack through Europe and return to start their job at a Fortune 500 company, or as a Big 5 consultant or head to medical, law, dental or another professional school. The following is not intended for those who have life figured out; this is written for the others, especially those seeking to escape anything resembling Office Space.
I marvel at business undergraduates with their neat life plan: graduation, two years as a consultant, MBA, put in time, CEO. My question is always: what’s a consultant? They usually never know; it’s just a job that looks good on biz school applications.
From what my friends tell me, majoring in business is a waste of time. So, young, impressionable college students, find something that interests you. Kevin Carroll calls it following your Red Rubber Ball. My mom always called this “passion.” She said it was important. Apparently she was not lying: according to researchers at Florida State University, when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love – because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good.
So, follow your bliss. Henry David Thoreau said that the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation. Don’t be one of the masses. Don’t take a meaningless job because it looks good on an application. Take a job because it makes you want to go to bed early because you look forward to the next day.
So, starting today, as you find the resolve to live the life you have always dreamt (Thoreau is pretty inspirational), remember one thing: from this day forward, you are now You, Inc. Substitute your name for “You” and it makes more sense. Because, no matter your passion, everything returns to business.
I hate business. I nearly flunked Accounting my freshman year and Economics 1B was only slightly better. Before struggling through these classes I entertained the idea of majoring in business. With few other interests, business made sense. Except, graduating made more sense, and even though my first English professor warned that I could not write well-enough to be an English major, I was never in danger of flunking the class.
Having a talent is a gift. It is also insurance; if you are truly talented, you will never go hungry because there is always demand for talent. Fresh-faced prospective consultants are a dime a dozen and few possess any unique skill to guarantee employment; however, if you have a gift for drawing, designing, writing, etc., you’ll never go hungry.
However, there is a great discrepancy between “never going hungry” and living the life of your dreams. The starving artist may be an iconic character, but in reality, Matt LeBlanc’s character does not live in a three-bedroom condo in a Los Angeles suburb; he shares a bedroom with another aspiring actor in a filthy one bedroom apartment in a gritty neighborhood on the other side of Hollywood and works as a bartender, waiter, tour guide or dog walker. The difference between starving artist and success is the difference between you now and You, Inc.
I have published four books. Even with small sales from niche market, my experience illustrates my point. When I wrote my first three books, I accepted the contract a publisher offered in good faith and was excited to see my name on the front of a real book cover. I achieved my goal. I published a book.
After three books and four years of almost non-existent income from the books, I decided to maximize my talent in book four. The writing required no extra time or effort and the quality was essentially the same. However, after unsuccessfully pursuing bigger publishers, I self-published the book. And, it was a great business decicion as I retain the rights and take home 700% more money from each sale than from my first three books. With little marketing and no advertising, I have generated more profit from my one self-published book in four months than four years of book sales with a publisher.
The icons of your chosen passion-profession possess the means to be business illiterate; Ben Stiller, Wes Anderson, Linkin Park, Tony Hawk, etc. can hire a business manager and a lawyer to manage their assets and negotiate contracts. However, when first starting out, you must manage these issues yourself.
To maximize your passion-profession, you have to have some savvy. While immersing yourself in your true love, use the resources at your university to further your education. If you have the talent and the business savvy, you can maximize your potential and profit. And, while pursuing your passion proves you are not entirely about money, you might as well be well-paid or your work as opposed to a starving artist. Understanding contracts, basic acounting and marketing can aid your career, as the most well-known, well-paid artists are rarely the most talented; they are the best positioned, the best marketed, the most resourceful, the most connected and the most timely who also possess the requisite talent.