Bad Advice

I very narrowly avoided suggesting on his blog that the blogger re-evaluate his desire to be fully self-employed, given all the struggling he was doing with motivation, tasks he really didn’t want to do, and lack of enjoyment. And then I read another blogger tell 18 year olds to take the path less traveled rather than university.

Anyone need me to spell out what I think of this advice?

The “be your own boss” movement is way past the balance point, just like “everyone should be a cog in a machine” used to be.

I know a few people who are happiest fully self-employed. I know a few who are happiest as cogs. Most people who are satisfied with their careers are in the middle. They have an important role within a larger team. They have freedom and trust to do their own job as they like, as long as the work gets done. They are consulted by those whose work affects them (and they consult their coworkers).

One size does not fit all, and watching people who might very well be happiest as part of a team, where people work with their strengths, frustrates me. By insisting they have to do all parts of the project themselves, they spend too much time learning skills they’ll never be good at, not enjoy, and rarely use, and they don’t get to focus on the skills that have potential. They’re letting doors close. They’re not locked, true, but the longer you are away from a door, the stickier it gets.

Taking the road more traveled and doing the degree or apprenticeship does not mean you have to be a boring cog. Far from it!

The second article lists fifteen or so things you should do while on the path less traveled. Guess what? Most of my friends who took the path more traveled did all but meditating and blogging. They got meditation’s benefits from other activities, and spend time doing rather than blogging.

I’m not devaluing his list of things to do. Someone who had done most of the things on that list would be an employer’s dream, if only they had a practical skill that the team needed, and could easily prove it. With today’s economy, those extra experiences are the difference between a great candidate and yet another graduate.

However, it’s comparatively easy to travel and learn and teach and even sell things at any time in your life, including school. It’s very difficult to set aside four years for study at any time other than the traditional time.

So, to the first blogger, I say, “Are you really sure you’re cut out for the independent life? Is this really easier for you than a job with more traditional features, at least for the bulk of your working time?” To the second, I say, “Please stop devaluing the traditional path.”

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