Throughout my teaching career I’ve seen (and experienced personally) this phenomena. We tend to get caught up with the idea of being something, but don’t often consider the lifestyle or effort it takes to be that thing.
Every August we see over 100 new students in the Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science at our New Student Orientation. When I ask for a raise of hands for everyone that wants to be a pilot, as opposed to an aviation management, air traffic control or aerospace operations major, nearly 100-percent of the hands go up.
The reality however, is that by their junior year, nearly 1/3 to 1/2 of those same students will have made the decision to change to a non-flying major, or leave the program entirely, pursuing other degrees or just moving on without a degree.
Many are called, few are chosen
While many students liked the idea of being a pilot, many didn’t like the work that went along with it.
“The managing partner from a large and prestigious law firm once told me that there are intelligent and gifted law-school graduates who come to him every year and want to be lawyer. Then there are those modestly talented, hardworking law-school graduates who really want to practice law. “I first look for those in the latter category,” he told me, “then I sort through these few to find those who have it within them to win cases in favor of their clients – no matter what it takes or how long it takes. Then I hire ‘em.” Author Dick Couch, from the book Always Faithful, Always Forward: the forging of a Special Operations Marine.
The other day while watching the Broncos game, I heard one of the announcers talking about how much Peyton Manning loves practice. How much he loves being a student of the game, breaking it down, watching game film, being on the practice field and of course that all translates to success on the field (in many cases). While there are always those marquis players who love BEING a marquis player, behind the scenes they may shun practice rely more on natural ability (which only takes you so far), and disdain the work involved in being a marquis player. Give me the first guy every time.
I made this mistake in life as well. For my entire life I wanted to be a pilot. But I found I was more in love with the idea of being a pilot, than I did with the work involved – actually flying the plane and putting in the time to do it masterfully. Thankfully, there are people out there like Captain Chesley Sullenberger who loved flying, so much so that he had his glider rating – something that would come in handy over the Hudson river one day.
How do you know if you like the idea of the thing rather than the process of the thing?
Oprah Winfrey once said that what you do must be as natural to you as breathing. For me, that’s writing, golfing and teaching (somewhere in that order). I like flying, I like doing some other things, but I LOVE those three things. How do I know I love them – they pull me. I’m not pushed to them, I’m pulled to them. I’m compelled to do them. I MUST do them to be fulfilled and have that happy elated feeling about me.
What is it in your life that you are pulled towards? What is it in your life that you enjoy the process of? It’s okay to enjoy the status of it as well, but you’ll be much more effective, possibly even dominating at that job or career or role, and you’ll have far more happiness in life when you identify what it is that you love, versus what it is that you like being. Match those two and you’ll achieve levels of success and happiness beyond belief.
Although it flies in the face of conventional wisdom when colleges see people leaving a major or even a school to pursue other dreams, who would you rather have flying your plane when a flock of geese smack into it – the pilot who enjoys the status of being a pilot but doesn’t like the work, or the pilot who loves flying? Who would you rather have as your doctor, your lawyer, your plumber? The person who loves the title or the person who loves the job?