Beware of Falling For Mystique

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Josh Kaufman posted a great piece last week about the dangers of falling in love with the idea of a job or other pursuit, while ignoring the day-to-day rigors of reality. Sure, we all would like to believe that the lives of Fortune 50 CEOs and world famous authors are nothing but huge paychecks, really great lunches, and houses on multiple continents. The truth is that success isn’t easy, and it isn’t free.

Want to be a Broadway star? Fine – as long as you’re willing to starve and face the reality that you may never acheive fame. Want to quit your job and start your own business? Also a valid choice – just make sure you know that you’re in for sleepless nights and ulcers over how you’re going to make the mortgage payment.

Most things simply aren’t as glamorous from the inside looking out. It’s easy to fantacize, but much harder to commit to the years of work it takes to create the kind of success story that makes it look easy.

I was lucky to observe the dangers of mystique early on. Fresh out of school with an accounting degree I scored a consulting job with a big firm. On the surface it looked a lot sexier that the audit jobs my friends were taking. Lucky for me I knew what I was getting into – long hours with boxes full of documents that I would painstakingly index, summarize, and analyze so that a partner could say something smart in expert testimony. It wasn’t glamorous. I knew this because I’d spent a summer internship doing exactly that kind of work. 

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I can’t tell you how many new staff were not so fortunate. They quickly became disillusioned when they realized that they would not have their own underlings to do the ‘grunt work’. 

If you don’t have access to an internship, there are other ways to find out what you’re getting into. Josh Kaufman suggests simply asking:

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to counteract the rose-colored glasses of mystique: have a real human conversation with someone who’s actually done what you’re attracted to. Here’s what to ask:

“I really respect what you’re doing, but I imagine it has high points and low points. Could you share them with me? Knowing what you know now, is doing this worth it?”

What could be simpler?

Check out the full post at Personal MBA.

Image Credit: rogerimp, Flickr

  • I’ve often wondered how many of the people who want to be famous movie stars would be able to survive the long hours and near 24/7 lack of privacy.

  • Considering I like to erase at least 90% of the photographs taken of me, I think I would be awful at having my wrinkles and flab on display at the check out stands.