Sat | Apr 4, 2020

Glenford Smith | Look within for career direction

Published:Sunday | February 16, 2020 | 12:24 AM


The Sunday Gleaner of 9 February 2020 carried the story of Letay Williams entitled “Welcome to Traytown: Literature leads to screenwriting". If you haven’t read it, go do so. Whatever point you are in your career, it bears reading. Take some time and reflect on it after reading.

Letay tells the story of a secret love affair with literature and writing. She was discouraged from doing what she loved by her parents and, as a result, turned her back on it. She said: “I followed my parents’ advice to go on the hunt for a job that guaranteed financial stability.”

It was while she was busy in that career detour when she “selfishly” made that life-altering decision to live her own life. “Two years in I decided my heart was no longer in it,” she recalled.

I bring Letay Williams’ most inspiring real life story to you as a model who exemplifies someone we can choose to emulate. She is a rare bird who decides to dare to go with her heart. I will not spoil your experience by giving away what is in the article.

Let me now recapitulate a couple of lessons Letay has reminded us of. The first one has to do with our parents and/or caregivers, that is, our guardians. Our guardians tend to love us and want the best for us at all times. They want to see us succeed and be happy. They’ve sacrificed for us and ensured that we got an education.


Accusations of selfishness

But our parents cannot live our lives for us. And neither should we allow them to live theirs through us to the detriment of our dreams.

Sure, if they are paying and that's the cost to pay for tuition fee, then there's nothing wrong with doing what they want. Anything to get a high school and a tertiary education.

But too many students are doing only what their parents demand. They never stop to pay attention to the urge within to express themselves. They never go within for career direction.

They let others intimidate them with accusations of being selfish. But consider: aren’t they the selfish ones for insisting that you do what they want? What about what you want? Don’t give in to the charge that you are being selfish. It's usually false.

Bob Marley and the Wailers were waxing eloquent when they were inspired to ask in their title track of the Time Magazine’s album of century, Exodus: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living?” Make choices that answer with a resounding 'yes'.

Leo Tolstoy wrote a famous book called The Death of Ivan Ilyich in which he commented that as Ivan lay on his deathbed with the question going over and over in his mind: “What if my whole life has been wrong?” Ask the question of yourself now.

Don’t be among those of whom Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation; they go to their graves, with their music still in them.”

Letay Williams reminds us that a world of struggle and difficulty awaits us – yes – but the possibilities and adventure are exciting. “My experience … opened my eyes to a world of possibilities I scarcely knew existed and has changed my mindset, which in turn changed the way I look at life and the way I view the world of work," she said.


Glenford Smith is president of CareerBiz Coach and author of From Problems to Power and Profile of Excellence.