"Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves. By potentialities I mean not just intellectual gifts but the full range of one's capacities for learning, sensing, wondering, understanding, loving and aspiring."
John Gardner

It frustrates me to hear my friends, clients or colleagues talk about their plans for their kids. Many of these people plan their children's lives FOR them – what schools they will attend, what their majors should be, what extracurricular activities they should choose, what sports to play. That implies that they, themselves, graduated from the "Life 101" course with high honors. The fact is that neither adults nor children need direction that specific. What they need is exposure to diverse cultures, to diverse disciplines, to critical thinking skills, to the vast options and opportunities that life offers. Maybe most of all, they need exposure to the notion that life has multiple "acts," and that choices made when a person is 18 don't lock him or her in forever!

I've coached executives who have been miserable in their work. Many of them view tomorrow as a linear extrapolation of yesterday. They lock their thinking into the notion that they will, or should, have one type of occupation forever, or that they'll remain with one company for as long as they and the company can stand each other. Being the blunt sort, I often get to the point rather quickly. "Why don't you leave?" I'll ask. They respond, "This is who I am," or "This is all I know how to do!" I ask them to begin thinking of themselves as "John/Jane Smith, Inc." I'll tell them that they are not a job title or occupation, but a conglomerate. After they look at me quizzically, I'll respond with something like this: "You are indeed a conglomerate. You're a conglomerate of your unique experiences; you're a conglomerate of bits of knowledge and of very specific skills; you're a conglomerate of likes, dislikes, and passions. You're a conglomerate of wants, needs, values, attributes of personality and elements of character. Most importantly, you're a conglomerate of wisdom!! That wisdom should enable you to periodically recalibrate your life and choose to spend your time doing something new and different. When you reach points in your life when your internal voice whispers that 'it's time,' you need to listen. A decision to change direction does not invalidate all that came before; it validates your wisdom and humanity!"

Here's an example of a guy who followed his own path:

Tom Freston grew up in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The son of a stay-at-home mom and a commuting, New York City businessman, he graduated from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont. After graduation, he didn't know what he wanted to do next. He went into the advertising business with a large firm and got his MBA at NYU's Stern School. At age 26, after a stint in advertising - working on Hasbro's GI Joe account at the height of the Vietnam war "was like something from a Joseph Heller novel," he says - Freston set off with $4,000, wandered around Europe and North Africa by himself for a year, ended up in Afghanistan, and "was mesmerized after just a couple of hours there." That was 1972, and Freston was drawn, like many other foreigners, to Afghanistan's remoteness, its openness, and to the opportunities presented by the dawn of the air-freight industry. He started a clothing export business, Hindu Kush, and ran it out of Kabul and Delhi until 1978, when the communist coup in Afghanistan crippled the operation. He came back to the States and was hired as the first head of marketing at MTV by its founder, Bob Pittman, at a time that there were few music videos, let alone a network dedicated to playing them.

Upon Pittman's departure, Freston became CEO of the network. He remained blissfully in that job for over a decade, a period during which the network expanded geometrically. When Viacom (MTV's parent) CEO Sumner Redstone decided to split the company into two, he gave the CBS segment to Les Moonves (still CBS's CEO) and asked Freston to lead the remainder of the company, which would retain the Viacom name. A product/customer/marketing guy by both background and disposition, he deliberated and reluctantly accepted the new role, which would demand that he spend a lot of time on the care and feeding of Wall Street.

"Not all those who wander are lost."
J. R. R. Tolkien

It took Redstone a couple of years to decide that he didn't like Freston in the job. One Sunday morning, he called him to his home and fired him.

Within 12 months after Freston's departure, Viacom's share price dropped by 50%. Dismayed over losing the job he didn't really want in the first place, Tom took his $80 million severance package and decided to roam the world for a while. He was (and still is) pursued by Oprah, who wanted him to run Harpo and then later, OWN – her network partnership with Discovery Communications. He signed on, but only as a consultant, now being leery of corporate life and wealthy enough to dismiss traditional opportunities. He accepted an offer from Bono to become Chairman of his non-profit, One Campaign. He's also become an advisor and investor in the male-centric media company Vice and a consultant and Board member of Moby Group, a TV company in Afghanistan.

You might say that Freston's wealth has given him the opportunity to dabble, and you'd be correct. Listening to him talk, however, reveals another interpretation. He has always endeavored first to lead an interesting life by exposing himself to a diversity of experiences and influences and to allow opportunities, wherever they exist, to intentionally collide with his capabilities and his passions without needing to know the outcome in advance.

The lesson for you: You are on this planet for a very short time. Of that time, you should spend as little as possible on either of these:

• A job that does not delight you, unless it's positioning you in short order for a job that WILL delight you.

• People who I've labeled naysayers, doomsdayers, dream-slayers, or game-players. For a variety of reasons I've detailed previously, those people burden you with guilt, fear, and self-doubt.

The clock is ticking!!

Copyright 2014 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com