I have an acquaintance who is my age (almost 35) and has just recently finished medical school. He is currently in his residency program and will not finish until 2013 when he will be close to 36 years old.
Because he didn’t identify his talents early, he spent 8 years attaining an undergraduate college degree because he switched majors several times. After college he worked odd jobs, but then decided to go to medical school. He didn’t score high enough on the MCAT test to go to a medical school in the states, so he went to a medical school in the Caribbean. He came back to the states, but lost a few years taking the step 2 exam.
I applaud him for ultimately choosing a good career, but the opportunity cost is something that he will never recoup.
What I’m trying to illustrate with the story above is what happens when you are not focused and not future-looking at an early age. I often hear many stories of parents who tell their children that they can be anything that they want to be.
While I agree with this philosophy to a degree, many people end up unhappy because they cannot make ends meet while pursuing their dream of becoming a rock star. We then often wonder why people who are not good at math become accountants, people who are not exceptional at basketball pursue the NBA, and people who can’t sing audition for American Idol.
These children are the ones who spend more than 4 years to obtain a 4-year degree, supported by parents for years after college, jump from job to job, and seem to go through life aimlessly.
As humans, we are not good at assessing ourselves. If we were, then we would fail at nothing, but we fail…we all fail from time to time. The key is to not underestimate or overestimate our abilities and talents. I fail constantly and am not perfect, but I try not to think of myself more highly than I really am. I am an optimist, but realistic in my optimism.
So, how do we get better at assessing our talents?
- The first step is to get an objective view your yourself by seeking council from a family member, friend, or mentor. Ask them to be brutally honest about your key talents and your areas of improvement.
- Write down what your good at and what you need to improve. For the items that you’re good at, try to match them up with careers that will maximize your strengths. Share this list with a family member or friend for an objective review.
- Assess your personal situation. Are you willing to move to another city away from family? Are you willing to move to another country? Do you want to or plan to get married in the near future? Do you want to have kids? Yes, nothing in life is certain, but knowing what you want out of life will help you plan better for it.
- Create a mission statement. What do you want to accomplish in life personally, professionally, spiritually, etc? Create a road map on how you plan on getting there.
Life is too short to waste. I try to live each day like its my last and ask if the world is a better place at the end of the day because of my contribution. Of course its hard to say “yes” everyday, but it is a good barometer on how I’m achieving my long-term goals and helps me stay focused on this journey.