Archive: No Simple Answers – January 13, 2006

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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If you haven’t figured it out already, or are still wishing it were true, let me be the first to tell you, there are no simple answers, especially when it comes to your high-tech career. Life would be a great deal easier if there were simple answers to all the issues we face, but good times come and go and we can only acknowledge the cycle and make the best decisions possible at the time. Recriminations over lost opportunities will do you no good. You must make your decisions and live with the consequences.

A bit harsh? Perhaps, but this realization also offers a sense of freedom. We are free of all the decisions we have made in the past. We need not concern ourselves with these decisions, only the decisions yet to come.

I started thinking about decisions a few days ago when I was answering a flurry of questions that came in from Career-Op readers. Each career offers its unique questions and problems, but I try to provide whatever guidance and advice I can offer. Still, I understand that I cannot make decisions for other high-tech careerists. I only have a limited understanding of all the conflicting issues in their lives and careers. I often counsel people to search for a new job, but often, due to family commitments, lack of training or geographical location, they face considerable adversity. On the surface, “get a new job” is a simple answer, but it is fraught with conflicts and issues.

We can quickly become discouraged when we realize that a simple answer like this is far more complex than we first thought. By our very nature, we want simple answers, simple solutions to our problems. I am unsure why our psyches set us up for such failures, but it seems universally true. Lacking simple answers, we often retreat from the large decisions in our lives. We stay in a job we hate. We don’t investigate that new career that interests us. We find the path too difficult and simply stop trying to find any answers at all. This is the trap that simple answers bring.

Instead of becoming trapped when you can’t find the simple answers, you need to take it as a sign that this is path worth following. Nothing important happens in your career or your life without conflict. Even a stroke of luck, like winning the lottery, brings a host of issues with it. Adversity is the signpost of new growth and new opportunities. Don’t ignore it.

Once you recognize this adversity, your goal is not to find a new job or tolerate your old job. You new goal is to find a way over, under or around, the adversity you are facing. Even if a new job doesn’t present itself, you will learn new skills, meet new people, explore new worlds. Sometimes we can forget that even in the midst of a fight we are still growing, still learning. While the result might not be exactly what you are seeking, you will have grown in many ways.

So, maybe there is a simple answer after all. Maybe the answer is to keep seeking and keep striving for the job and career you want, regardless of the adversity you face. You might take baby steps for months or years, but eventually you will find a chink in the wall, a hole in the fence of adversity and you will find a way through. Your goal may be fleeting and just outside your grasp, but you are still growing every day.

The only true failure in a high-tech career is to stop trying. Of course, accepting your fate, giving up, swallowing your pride are simple answers in themselves. It can be very simple to give up. It can be all too easy sometimes. Still, I believe that no one should ever feel they need to give up. Every one of you has the intelligence and skills to move steadily upwards into better jobs and careers. The only person who can trap you in a bad job, a stalled career or a diminished life is you. As individuals, we have so much power over our lives— even the power to limit our own opportunities and success. We might find it easy to blame others for our fate, but others only have a fraction of the power that we have over ourselves.

Simple answers? Maybe they do exist, but like cheap toys, they don’t really satisfy you. They only limit you and prevent you from accomplishing great things in your career and your life.

Question of the Week: What simple answers have you accepted that are limiting your career?

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