As the child of an immigrant, I always got the same advice from my parents when it came to education. Their advice was something along the lines of:
“My daughter, education is the most important thing so that you will end up working in a big company someday. You don’t want to end up like your mother”
From a young age, my mother constantly reminded me of the million reasons why I had to focus on furthering my education. She thought that if she didn’t, I would never be able to have the opportunities she had. This, in essence, was true, but it wasn’t all.
Through this, I was conditioned to believe that success in life was directly correlated with academic success.
Their definition of success was aligned with the social construction of success. Growing up, becoming a doctor or a lawyer were, in their eyes, the only options to become successful. Although either can lead to great careers, this left me no room for alternative career options. This left me with no room for passion or purpose. This left me to settle for what already existed, to settle for what the world wanted me to be, and not was I was truly born to do.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the average person changes their career 3 to 7 times throughout their lifetime. This means that any career we are pressured into doing right out of college, or any career we think may be the right one for us is going to change throughout our lifetime.
Things change, interests change, and ideal jobs change. This is a known fact, but yet we are still pressured into the same old career paths.
Thus, when I think back on that little girl, being told to pursue stability over passion is not the advice we should be giving our children if we want them to succeed.
Look at the great minds of our time, the most influential people you look up to and admire. How many of them are driven by stability or certainty? Zero. Those who truly transcend in their profession, those who truly reach a level of excellence, and reach a platform that inspires the rest of the world, those people chose passion.
Passion is the most important driver of success, not stability.
Success is not given, any career choice will present its challenges, but passion is the one thing that will keep us going when things get hard. It is what separates the great from the average. Being told to pursue a career in which you have no passion, merely in hopes of attaining stability is setting one’s self up for failure from day one. Take risks, embrace passion, that is how you transcend.
This safe way of thinking was not only drilled into my head by my parents – higher education institutions perpetuate this risk-averse philosophy. Children are constantly being trained to follow instructions, to be efficient cogs in the corporative machine. We are being taught the skills needed to move up corporate ladders, not the skills to innovate. This country was built on challenging the status quo, and so should we.
To exploit the opportunities that will come, we will have to change this paradigm.
Our parents have to support us for being different and not pressure us into being just another sheep in the herd. We have to grow the courage to ask why, to embrace change, to take risks over stability, and persevere. We have to understand the vast array of options we actually have, and that those options are limitless. We have to build a society where everyone’s uniqueness is embraced and rewarded to the level of Mark Zuckerberg’s or Bill Gates’s, where new ideas have the room to flourish, and courage is rewarded.
Most importantly, we have to learn to ask “Why?”.
It’s when we question our environment, the way things are, that we are truly able to see new opportunities. My parents always wanted me to have a safe career instead of going out and creating something on my own. They came from a country of great uncertainty. Yet they seem to have forgotten the core value that brought them here, they took an immense risk to seek improvement. They dared to ask “why?”, and challenged their current situation in light of seeking a better future for us, their children.
Somewhere along the way they developed an “It’s always better to be safe than sorry” mentality, they forgot the one core value which inspired me. They forgot to teach me to never settle, and to pursue what I believed in, regardless of the cost. That, I believe is the fundamental driver of success.