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One of the greatest disadvantages of reading the Sunday edition of The New York Times over a quarter of a century or more, is that one “gets ideas” they have no right entertaining to begin with. And then those ideas hang around and live quietly in the recesses of one’s brain. I found myself recently referring to two separate articles I had read at different stages years ago. And while I could remember the bulk of the content, which had to do with how these individuals created their own paths, I could not remember the details – the names or the locations – details I really wish I could recall now. For example, there was an article about a woman who had created a very artsy, well-loved vintage consignment store that would literally take you years to comb through. And then the article about the man who had created an empire out of architectural salvage and historic preservation relics. Sure, try finding them now.
So it was again, that after re-reading the career choices of those in both the Obituaries and the Wedding Columns this past weekend, that I continued to try to answer in my own mind, the big questions. What is next for me? How am I going to get there? What do I really want to do? What am I truly passionate about? What even matters? I am on a search you see, a mission of sorts, and I just know the answers are out there. The death notices proved very interesting insight. They included a 33-year-old classical pianist; a 101 year old leader of the Women’s Army Corps; a 95-year-old Jewish dancer; and an 83-year-old biographer of world leaders [p.s. if you write, you can do almost anything in this world you want]. Well okay, I mean they had a lifetime of creating paths out of twists and turns with an identifiable meaning [except the pianist maybe, simply by virtue of her early commitment].
Now, if like me, you’re nearing 50, unemployed and sitting at home waiting for the school year to begin so you can farm the kids out and REALLY charge ahead with the job search, here is something you absolutely, positively should not do and that is to read the Weddings/Celebrations/Society pages. I mean, just do yourself a favor and burn them immediately. For example, here we have a 27-year-old groom set to join PricewaterhouseCoopers as a senior associate in the advisory practice. He’s marrying a 28 year high school counselor with a Masters from Columbia. Or take Hannah, 26, who not only is a teacher and a premed student, but the daughter of a deputy comptroller of the City of New York and a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Guess who she’s marrying? A 28 year old groom who is an associate specializing in securities litigation at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. Ok, you get my point. They. All. Have. It. Together. Not only do they have it allllllll together, so do their parents, friends, associates, and neighbors, obviously.
Here’s what you should do instead [it's so easy to give advice]. Grab a copy of Finding the Open Road which is a guide to self-construction rather than mass production. Written and compiled by Mike Marriner, Brian McAllister and Nathan Gebhard, it is the theory and principle behind the hit TV show and grassroots movement Roadtrip Nation. Basically, three college level students decide to defy convention and set about a journey of ad hoc career choice interviews with phenomenal people like Mark Burnett, Creator and Producer of Eco-Challenge, Survivor, and The Apprentice.
The “kids” ask these esteemed “success” professionals how they found their paths. How they landed where they are. Whether it was what they originally thought they’d do, and what advice they have for career seekers. Here’s the interesting thing. Not one of the individuals profiled ever had a “set plan” or even met the expectations of family and friends. What they do always share is an inherent and core belief in themselves, their abilities, and the pursuit of what they love along with the willingness to sacrifice to get it. And when you read about how they started in point A and ended up in the limelight of point Z, well…..it makes those wedding pages just a little easier to take, right? For inspirational guidance and wisdom for anyone trying to find their own authentic path, Finding the Open Road is a great starter map and you never have to leave home! If only life were that way, too!