The craft of your career comes in picking the right hills. Hills just challenging enough that you can barely make it over. A series of hills becomes a mountain, and a series of mountains is a career.
seth godin. preach.
i’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, having spent the past 4+ months chatting with people working in digital media, branding, startups, and museums, and picking their brains on all the interesting projects they’re working on and how they got to where they are. (presumably this would help me make sense of my own path, so the theory went.) a handful of the folks i spoke with had gone the straight and narrow path; their resumes read just as they should, where they’ve worked their way up the ladder and become experts in their fields over time. but more often than not, the path has been a circuitous one. plenty of them have hopped around, from graphic design to exhibition management, from creative writing to running a design firm, from working at large corporations to starting their own company. ten years ago, none of them could have foreseen where they’d end up, but in retrospect, their paths make sense - the interest and initiative was always there, it just took a few of the right hills to lead them there.
i’ve never been one for a ten-year plan, and hearing other peoples’ career histories makes me think that’s not necessarily a bad thing. it doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious or motivated, it just means that instead of trudging up a hill just because it’s there, maybe you’ll pick that other hill, the one that has nothing to do with what you’ve been doing for the past five years (at least upon first glance) — the one that is going to be a hell of a ride. i find it fascinating to hear people’s career histories and hear them reflect on how they wound up where they are, and the funny part is, a lot of people don’t see the connections until afterwards, but they’re always there.
at least, that’s what i’m aiming for. give me a hill so steep i can’t see the top. in fact, maybe i’d rather not know what’s at the top. otherwise, a hill is just a hill. might as well enjoy the scenery on your way up.