Once upon a time, your career aspirations were the stuff of rose-colored fantasies. You wanted to be an astronaut, or a spy, or a fashion designer, or a model, or a princess, or…
But somewhere along the way, the voice of reason – via your mom or your aunt or the sweet old lady who lived down the street – presented its case, effectively bursting your cute, little, unrealistic bubble.
“That’s real nice, baby,” it cooed. “But in case that doesn’t work out, you really need to have a Plan B.”
Conventional wisdom says that, regardless of intended destination, we should proceed cautiously – with a pre-planned detour that will rescue us from imminent disaster should the road ahead become too treacherous.
But there’s a very real, life-altering problem with back-up plans: Their mere existence begs for acknowledgement and, ultimately, implementation. Eventually, that Plan B hijacks the whole operation and gives your real dream – your passion and purpose – the boot.
At the time, forgoing your plan to open an all-organic coffee shop with your best friend in favor of signing on as a pastry chef at your would-be competition (a logical Plan B) seemed liked the wise and mature choice. After all, you’re grown and you have grownup bills. But soon, the what-ifs started nagging; now you’re questioning whether you made the right decision after all.
And you should be.
Anyone who has ever achieved anything of value has overcome more obstacles than they ever could have envisioned at the outset of their journey. While navigating their respective paths to becoming a successful entrepreneur, C-level executive, published author, etc., these courageous individuals likely faced challenges that seemed initially insurmountable. But the lack of a viable exit strategy initiated a renewed sense of creativity and determination that propelled them forward.
In his early years of writing and directing plays in Atlanta, Tyler Perry put on shows before a handful of people for six years before selling out the venue in 1998 and launching what has become an iconic multimedia career. Though the first theater full of empty seats was discouraging, Perry’s decision to brush himself off and give it another go was likely understandable and even laudable to those around him.
But what about the fourth, fifth, and sixth disappointments? What about the fact that Perry ended up living out of his car for a few months because all of his income was tied into his productions? Was he crazy? Should he have quit?
And what about Matthew Knowles’ well-documented focus in developing then-fledgling R&B group Destiny’s Child, the vehicle that would ultimately transport daughter Beyonce into the upper eschelons of super-stardom. Should he have kept his six-figure gig at IBM, instead of quitting to manage the group full-time? Should he have continued to funnel time and resources into the budding artists, even when it meant losing his family’s home and nearly his marriage?
Today we can see clearly the fruits of Perry’s and Knowles’ single-minded labor. But while praising the victories, we fail to consider their previous battles and use them as training material for the trials we are certain to face in our own lives. Instead, when roadblocks appear on the horizon, we surmise that the challenge is too great, the cost too high, the sacrifice too large to endure.
And we move on to Plan B.
So what about you? Are you fulfilling your life’s purpose and passion?
Andrea Williams is a journalist and writer based in Nashville, TN. For more, follow her @AndreaWillWrite.