I'm writing this letter to my wife, who has wrapped up 27 years as a teacher – first private and public schools, and then homeschooling our kids. She's now thinking about her next chapter. And these words are for her. But I'm guessing something in here might help you too.
You have no idea how valuable your skills are
When kids are young, they only know of two jobs – whatever their parents do. But over the first few years of their lives, they add a few more – police, fire fighter, doctor.
By the time they get to high school, they've discovered a few more – but it's still pitiful. And we know because when they have to pick a college major, they barely know what's out there.
Even as they graduate college, they have no idea of the massive number of jobs that are out there.
The issue is exposure.
People don't know what exists outside of what they've been exposed to. And as a result, most of us have no idea how valuable our skills our. We can't fathom that being friendly is a professional skill. Or that being likable is valuable.
We think of professional skills in a narrow set of activities like knowing how to code, how to teach, or how to cook. But that's not the reality of tons of roles out there. Knowing how to be engaging when you tell a story is incredibly valuable. Having empathy for people is a remarkable talent that many don't have.
Your own worst enemy here is your lack of exposure to how valuable you are.
The voices in your head aren't serving you
“But I don't know anything,” is what you're hearing in your head. Or maybe it's, “I'm likely too old to start a new career,” or even “I'm too old to learn anything new.”
Let me be super clear – these are all lies.
I know because I've heard them in my head, in the heads of my friends, and even folks on Twitter. We all hear those voices in our heads. You're not unique in this way.
But you are wrong. These aren't true statements at all.
You may be new at some things. But you've also been new tons of times before. Every time you've moved to a new community, you've learned the way things worked. Every time your kids had to change schools or curriculums, you learned the new way things worked.
All of us experience all sorts of changes. And each change requires that we learn some new things.
And just because we don't see it in the same light as work, doesn't mean the skill isn't something we've been developing our whole lives.
Just because you hear the voice doesn't mean you have to believe it. “Get out of my head. You're drunk.” Just say that the next time the voice in your head is your own worst enemy.
Your next chapter isn't the logical conclusion of your last
Here's what I know:
- Most of us have no clue what we'll do next.
- Most of us don't have everything set up for us.
- Most of us haven't given tons of time to think about what we might do when this run is over.
So welcome to being most of us.
Here's the other thing I know:
Your next chapter isn't the logical conclusion of your last. You think you have to do some sort of teaching because it's the only thing you have deep expertise in. But that's not true. You can leverage all the skills you used in previous jobs.
Skills are transferable. You can take them into any new role.
You don't just have to keep repeating what you've done before.
You are your own worst enemy
You know the story of the baby elephant. As a baby, the trainers tie a rope around its ankle and to a peg so that it can't get away. No matter how hard the baby elephant tries, it can't get the peg out of the ground.
But over time the elephant grows. Into an incredibly strong animal. But it remembers that it can't pull the peg out of the ground, so it's held in place not by the rope but by its own limiting belief.
This is why I'm telling you, you are your own worst enemy.
The one that is locking you up, and holding you back, is the person looking at themselves in the mirror. No tiny rope can hold you back. A simple tug will free you.
But you have to acknowledge what's holding you back. And it's not reality.
Engage, Dream & Enjoy
Here's what I want for you. I want you to have fun. I want you to talk with friends and discover what ideas you've never considered before. I want you to dream. And dream big.
Because you're amazing and incredible.
And most importantly, I want you to enjoy the process. You can do anything you want. And the moment you realize it, will be the moment you realize that this was always the case. There never was anything holding you back.