You can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you set your heart to.” We’ve heard it echoed through the halls of our schools as we grew up and our parents told us those words from the start, but most people never take those words to heart. Subliminal discouragement to live your dreams is bountiful in the world today, especially after the collapse of the economy. Society has created a mental checklist of things we need to live the “good life.”
Get good grades in high school.
Get accepted into a great college.
Complete your college education.
Have a great resume.
Be hired by a great company.
Buy a house.
And as we grow up, we begin to learn that “whatever you set your heart to” begins to have strings attached or there are definite social implications. It becomes clearer that you can, in fact, do whatever you set your heart to, as long as you set your heart to the “normal” life expectation of today. Otherwise people look at you differently, question you constantly or cast you as a “different” person.
At 18 years old, and after countless hours of thinking about life and the seemingly long checklist of things I must accomplish in life – I began seriously questioning it. Weren’t we meant to create our own life rather than live the life that everyone else has already lived to some extent? I was at a crossroads in my life: starting a business and heading to college. One was a very untraditional and risky path, the other was traditional and secure. Growing up in a generation that is afraid of commitment and feels the needs to be in two places at once or doing multiple things at once (as evidenced by our texting habits), I decided to do both – attend college and run a business.
At first, I thought I could handle it. “I can have it all and do whatever I set my heart to” was my mentality. But after awhile, it became a huge struggle. One or both often suffered. In the process of balancing both, I had neglected many of the relationships with my friends and family that made me truly happy in order to keep barely treading water with school and work. My heart was no longer set on education in the way I had been receiving it in the classroom; instead it became more set on learning through doing – at this point in the form of building a business.
And when I noticed college was forcing me to give up the life I truly wanted to live, I became extremely frustrated with school, it’s cookie cutter requirements and its hindrance of my learning (the learning I actually wanted to do rather than the school requirements). So I struggled with the thought of dropping out. And when I finally announced that I wouldn’t be returning to school, many of my peers thought I was insane and shot back questions about how I would live the rest of my life if the business failed. I was constantly reminded that I wasn’t going to graduate college like everyone else from our high school class, I probably would miss out on meeting a significant other and would set myself back a couple of years.
But some applauded me. Some of those older than me even told me they were proud that I had the guts to do what they didn’t do when they had the chance – to take a different path that followed their passion even if it was a path full of uncertainty. I’m defying the checklist by creating my own educational path, forgetting the notion that you need an impressive resume to do something awesome and building a great company rather than joining one.
As I continue on my journey, I’ll be posting my insights and thoughts on defying the norm in business and education. My writings will give a realistic but also, hopefully inspiring, approach to taking the leap to live the life you want to live to prove that the quote we heard as little kids, is infact true.