Happy New Year! I hope the new year brings happiness and joy to you and your family.
Every new year is the beginning of new dreams, goals, and aspirations. To some, it is an opportunity to begin a new pursuit. For a few years now, I have struggled with the question of how to pick a career and what is worth pursuing. Having pursued several disconnected career choices, I always wondered if I could amount to anything worthwhile. Thanks to some excellent books, I always found somebody to look up to and push forward. While unsure how to make the appropriate career choice, I share three stories that tell you whichever path you choose; you can succeed if you are willing to keep trying.
Story 1: The Michael Crichton Way: You know what you want to do!
Two weeks after enrolling in Harvard Medical School, Michael Crichton hated it.
According to the New York Times, he goes to the Dean after four years of Med school. He asks, "Why should I spend the last half of my last year at medical school learning to read electrocardiograms when I never intend to practice? Why shouldn't I spend the spring term around the hospital and write a book about it?"
The Dean paternalistically warned Crichton that writing a book was more challenging an endeavor. At which point, Crichton assured the Dean that he had some experience: he had written five potboilers all along medical school to help with expenses.
Michael Crichton always knew he wanted to be a writer. He studied literature during his undergraduate days to that end. Even with a professor's criticism of his literary style, he changed his major to biological anthropology but kept pursuing his dream of writing.
He created Jurrasic Park & Westworld, authored more than 30 novels, sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, and finally wrote and directed at least ten movies.
Story 2: The Billy Beane Way: You don't know what you want. You figure it out!
Billy Beane had a more challenging choice because he needed to figure out what he wanted.
He had a full scholarship to Stanford and was also drafted for professional baseball. He had to make a choice that would automatically exclude the other.
Billy Beane says the money offered significantly influenced his decision, and he took up baseball. Enamored by his raw talent and charm, scouts and coaches win him over with money and the glitz of professional baseball.
They take him to see the New York Mets clubhouse, show him a Mets uniform with his name on the back waiting for him, and a receiving party of players.
Billy bites the bullet and chooses baseball over college. It turns out that wasn't his best decision. He had a mediocre career playing professional baseball.
Five years later, after an unsuccessful career as a professional baseball player, Billy chooses to become an advanced scout for Oakland Athletics. Change in ownership of the team and payroll slashes leave him with a team whose players' salaries are among the lowest in major leagues.
As the GM of the Oakland Athletics, Billy, with the help of Pual DePodesta, uses sabermetric principles to field a winning team despite a meager payroll.
Oakland Athletics reached playoffs four years in a row and became the first team in 100+ years to win 20 games back-to-back. His strategic approach to finding undervalued players revolutionized how professional baseball was managed for the better.
Billy Beane decided early in his life to pursue a career he was unsure of. He had an unsuccessful stint and then decided to pursue something he liked. He found success in his latter career, but his initial choice cost him several years.
Story 3: The Michael Oher Way: Somebody figures it out for you!
The story of Michael Oher is the most bizarre in many ways. Forget a career; he didn't even have hopes to lead a decent life until the Touhys came around. He had no interest in pursuing anything worthwhile.
When Tom Lemming (the guy who identified most professional football players during their high school) interviewed him, he didn't know or seem to care who he was. He had no particular interest in anything, including football.
Initially, he played basketball in all the wrong positions and pissed off the coaches, threw discus and won it crudely, and never understood his role on the football ground initially.
But the one-on-one drills and a few good plays put him on the map through Tom Lemming's recommendation in his newsletter. Everybody believed he would be the most outstanding left tackle ever, even before he amounted to much.
He grew accustomed to the idea that he was a football star and then went on to become one. He turned around his academic career from a 0.76 GPA to a 2.52 GPA with the support of Touhys (who adopted him legally).
He was eligible for a division I football scholarship and went to the University of Mississippi. After earning the All-American honors unanimously, Michael Oher was picked in the first round by the Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft. His life and career are the subjects of another Michael Lewis book called The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
What's your story?
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