Should you devote yourself 100% to your dream career, or prepare alternatives?

purdeydawg1398 asks: I am choosing my options for my GCSE’s and I am 100% set on what I will be doing for my career, but I am worried that if something happens and I can’t do the job I want to do then I might regret it later. What should I do?

Hi purdeydawg1398 –


Wow, I’m very impressed with you!  Most secondary school students don’t have as clear a sense of what they want for their career, and hope to find that out in college or university.  So you’re already ahead of the game – well-done!


You’re also asking a very mature question, in terms of what will happen to you if you don’t get to do the career you most want.  I totally understand what you mean when you say that you fear you’ll “regret it later,” but I think, for now, you need to choose between two paths.


The first path involves total commitment.  You have decided you want to be… oh let’s say you want to be an opera singer!  (If I were a human, I’d love to do that!)  So you go to a performing arts academy and study voice and acting and all those languages and dance and swordfighting and stagefighting and playfighting and (Doesn’t it sound like a total blast!), and you get as good as you can get, and then you go out and audition for opera companies all over the world and…


And maybe no one hires you.  Or you get hired but it’s clear you’ll always be in the chorus.  Your dream of being the next Jose Carreras just doesn’t come true at all.  It’s enormously disappointing, it breaks your heart, and you have to decide whether you stick with music and become a teacher who tries to train the next Domingo, or just sing at weddings and such… or to give up on singing completely, and find another career.


(Or of course, you completely succeed, you do great at the auditions, and you spend the next fifty years or more traveling the world receiving wealth, adulation, and standing ovations on a nightly basis!)


Then there’s path Two.  In that one you spend half your time studying toward your opera career, and the other half studying computer programming.  You’re still hoping for the singing to be your game, but if it doesn’t come through, you’re pretty guaranteed to get a good high-tech job.  And that’s okay, but I do wonder if, in splitting your time that way, you aren’t setting yourself up to fail as a singer, just a bit.  Another singing student might work just that much harder, might want it that much more than you do, because you’re spending half your effort learning computer languages.  It certainly would make it easier on you if the singing didn’t work out, but it’s also taking away some of the commitment of your choice.


I’ll be honest with you, Herbert13, I can’t tell you which of these roads to take.  Both have strengths and both have weaknesses.  Certainly, if you have anyone in your life who is supporting you financially at all, that should figure into your decision (or, conversely, if you have debts or people you’re supporting).


Then there’s also a third road.  And the only strong advice I’m going to give you is to not take it.  That third road is to give up before you try.  To go to computer programming school and never study voice or swordfighting.  To say “the odds of succeeding in opera are too slim; I’m just going to take the sure thing.”


You see, as a very observant dog, I’ve seen a lot of people who succeeded at what they originally wanted to do, and they’re happy.  And I’ve seen people who didn’t make it in their first choice, and found great joy and meaning in different careers, and they’re happy too.  But the ones who didn’t dare try at all, the ones who gave up without even giving it a go… THOSE are the ones who I see living in Regret.


So be smart, be careful, be ambitious, take risks, have fun, dare humiliation, and follow your dream however is truest to you.  But don’t throw it away.  Because it’s that wish that defines who you are.


Just like I’m defined by the fact that, when I’m done writing you, I’m going to run outside and try, yet again, to jump high enough to catch a squirrel in a tree.  Will I get him?  Probably not.  But I’ll sure be the me I like being as I try!


Good Luck!  Especially on those exams!!!






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