I grew up in an Asian household where career choices were limited. You were either going to be a doctor, lawyer, or a businessman. I happened to go down the business path into the world of finance.
I chose investment banking as my first career because my father told me to do. He told me that i-bankers make a lot of money and that men have one purpose on this earth: to make money.
I’m a people pleaser so I did whatever my dad wanted me to do. The money was good. But the hours sucked. And I didn’t feel fulfilled. I didn’t feel satisfied. I felt like God had way more for me than crunching numbers in an excel spreadsheet.
Now that I’ve become a father and have children of my own, I think a lot about how I want to teach my children on how to choose their careers. I want them to feel like they are living the most meaningful life they can possibly live. I want them to feel that God is pleased with their work because it impacting so many lives.
Here’s ten things my father never taught me about choosing a career that I want my children to know so they can live the biggest and most fulfilling life.
BE vs DO
When we think about choosing a career, most of our decisions are driven by what kind of lifestyle we want. By lifestyle, we tend to first think of things we’d like to have. For example, a lot of boys grow up wanting to drive a nice car like a BMW. I remember a lot of my friends dreamed about driving an M3 one day. A silly example for girls would be having lots and lots of shoes!
Then we start asking ourselves, “What career would allow me to get that?”
If we’re honest, we’ve probably made career choices based on a little bit of interest but mostly the lifestyle that the career can produce. (And to be fair, our generation has been pounded non-stop with marketing and advertising since we were little kids watching Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.)
At the end of the day, my father never taught me that who I choose to BE is way more important than what I choose to DO. Who am I being? Am I responsible? Am I loving? Am I inspiring? Am I honest? Am I humble? Am I honorable? This is the foundational question that needs to be addressed before we talk about what we want to do. Who do you want to be?
More Than One Career
The days of just one career for the rest of your life is rare and few. That’s why calling is so important. That’s why the question of who you choose to be over what you do is so important.
We live in the age of disruption where companies rise and fall. Industries rise and fall. Retail stores and restaurants are here today and gone tomorrow. It’s okay to have more than just one career in your life. Quite honestly, you will probably have a few or even several. Don’t let fear of changing an industry stop you for fulfilling your calling and who you desire to be. Changing your career is okay. Think about your “why.”
Most of us have been taught, “You either choose security or your passion. You can’t do both.” I consider myself an artist but I was always told that “artists starve.”
Is it possible to be a chef and not be poor? Yes.
Is it possible to be a musician and provide for your family? Absolutely.
Is it possible to be successful, live abundantly, AND do what you love?
Yes. It’s both and. In fact, people are doing it right now. Why can’t you? It is 100% possible to do what you love and live well. It’s about being creative.
Confidence over Credentials
Education is a big deal in my culture. I have a piece of paper from both UCLA and Stanford. In my experience, they don’t mean anything.
I know tons of people that have flashy degrees but can’t make a good decision, let alone a decision at all. I know people with lots of fancy credentials but won’t take initiative unless they are given permission or told exactly what to do.
Most of us aren’t stuck because we don’t have credentials and credibility. We are stuck because we can’t decide. There are too many choices. There are too many options. We live in a world full of options. The skill of decision making has nothing to do with your credentials. It has everything to do with your confidence. Build your confidence, then you will build your decisiveness.
We’re afraid to make a mistake when it comes to our career. It’s not about making a right decision. It’s about making that decision right!
I grew up with only a few career options: Doctor, Lawyer, Businessman. I only had a few options for college: Yale, UC Berkeley, or UCLA. I only had two car options: Honda or Toyota.
When it comes to choosing a career, I’ve been taught that there are only a few right answers. But we can get so caught up in the few options that we lose sight of the other 99 possibilities out there. What matters is your vision and who you desire to be. What are you committed to create?
If your vision is to create a better world for orphan children, there are 100 possibilities to do that. You can start a non-profit. You can become a philanthropist. You can start a business that gives back to the cause. You can raise awareness through your blog or social media platform. There are 100 possibilities. All that matter is if you have a clear vision.
Success Starts with Relationships
Life is a relationship game. We are relational beings. We are social beings. It’s all about relationships. If you ask people why they stay or why they leave their organization, their number one answer will be: the people.
I wish my father had taught me that everywhere I go, every company I join, that I need to focus primarily on building relationships. It is the relationships that matter most. The impact that you have on your customers, clients, coworkers, and bosses affect the way they treat others. Companies are built on people. People are the most important asset to a business. We tend to forget that.
I want to teach my children that real success is creating love filled relationships with every human being they encounter, especially in the workplace.
Legacy is Greater Than Currency
My favorite entrepreneur is Gary Vaynerchuck, CEO of Vaynermedia. One of my favorite quotes from him is, “Legacy is Greater Than Currency.” Like I shared, my father taught me that the purpose of being a man was to make money, that’s it. My father never instilled in me that wealth is only means for impact, to produce good in the world.
When you choose a career, make sure you ask yourself the legacy vs currency question. Am I choose this job for currency or will it fulfill my legacy?
When I coach and train, a powerful exercise I have my clients do is to write their own eulogy. Personally, I wrote my own eulogy from the perspective of my son. I imagined all the things that my son will acknowledge and recognize me for.
“He was the best husband in the world. He showed me and many others what it looks like to be madly in love with your wife.”
“He was an amazing father. He taught me how to love people for who they are and how to inspire people to fight for their loved ones and heal relationships.”
These were some examples. Who do you imagine to give your eulogy? What do you want them to say about your life and your legacy on this earth? Take 30 minutes and start writing.
Integrity vs Title
Climbing the corporate ladder often appealing because you get more titles. Some of us will go from assistant to a coordinator, coordinator to manager, manager to director, and then director to partner.
I was always taught that you can’t have influence and lead until you are given a title. What my father never taught me was that power has nothing to do with title or position. It has everything to do with your integrity and character. How do you show up in every meeting? Do you actively contribute? Do you share your opinions? Do you voice your concerns and take a stand when things are not going the right way?
I have always been taught that I need to be handed position. Instead, I want to teach my children that they can be powerful no matter what their title is.
EQ over IQ
This is probably the thing I was taught the least. I was told, “Knowledge is Power.” The more you know, the more successful you will become.
In the last few decades, studies like Harvard Business Review, has shown that the number one factor in the top 10% of earners in the world is their emotional intelligence. If you’re unfamiliar with emotional intelligence, please read Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence.
In a world where a computer can crunch numbers faster than I can. In a world where technology is making the world more efficient yet cutting the need for more human workers. The world needs people who are heart-centered and can connect with other human beings.
We need more human beings that have common sense and sensitive to the daily changing climate. We need humans in the world that have the ability to read political and social environments. We need more human beings that understand what others want and need and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
You Were Made to Change the World
Lastly, I was taught to stay in my lane. I was taught to be like someone else and follow their career path. What I want to pass on to my children more than anything is that they were made to make a difference in the world. They were made to literally change the world.
When I held both my son and daughter as babies for the first time, I experienced something so powerful. I experienced that they had the incredible power to give and receive love. No one had to teach them to give and receive love. And I think we can all agree that what this world needs, is more love. What this world needs is more compassion.
What my father never taught me was that my career choice is a powerful tool to take a stand in this world. Your career choice is a stand for justice (law), order (public service), safety (law enforcement), efficiency (engineering), beauty (art). Your career choice can be your powerful message to the world. I wish my father taught me that but now I have a chance to teach this to my own children.
Go, now and choose wisely.