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What’s Your Nxt Episode?
Non linear career from Silicon Valley to the Great Depression era
An ad pops on YouTube: “Let me tell you a secret path to a successful career that nobody knows about.”
Like every love, immigration, or parenting story... not every career path is the same.
I myself have had a great challenge with defining my own career. I started as a graphic designer and an art teacher, turned into a filmmaker, worked with ad agencies, ran a startup, left my country, and started from scratch in Los Angeles as a film editor. Again, after 4 years, I started a media company. Crazy!
For a long time, I was looking for a definition for my ADHD type of attitude in hopping from one path to another. I knew the name of my disease was called NLC (non linear career), and it was becoming more and more acceptable. But even this didn’t help me to stop asking: “What the hell are you doing with your life?”
It was almost after my 30th that I learned a very practical solution: finding myself through the stories of others.
Let me tell you 2 different stories that would scare any traditional career advisor. I believe these stories juxtapose modern and traditional career paths. Allow them to help you reflect on your own.
A new world kinda story
The first one is a brief bio from the blog of Jay Riverlong. He is an ambitious 30-year-old digital nomad, and his bio shows how a new age career path changes:
I was born in Vancouver in 1991, and grew up between Tokyo and Sydney. Though I loved reading and learning, I didn't care much for school. I spent my early years heavily gaming, probably among the first few to make a living playing video games. As I hit my late teens, my gaming turned into a career as a professional poker player. During that time, I traveled extensively throughout South America and Europe; I was an early digital nomad. Three years in, the ethics of gambling became troubling to me, so I quit. I then went to college at Princeton, and after that, did one final lap of school at Cambridge in economics. After I finally determined that academia wasn't for me, I moved to Silicon Valley in late 2015, where I've been active as an entrepreneur and investor.
An old-world example
Let's look at the story of a photography icon, Robert Frank: He is known for portraying America in its darkest times: The Great Depression. Many people do not know that his noir career began from color.
Here's his career layout:
He started fashion photography for Harper's Bazaar. Frank was in the business for eight years.
He realized that fashion photography only allowed him to show a minimal form of emotion. He left the magazine.
He started traveling around the country with only a 35 mm camera and a vision.
He published his masterpiece book, The Americans in 1959.
He turned into a filmmaker and made a couple of shorts and documentaries. However, he didn't achieve that much in filmmaking.
He returned to photography again in the 1970s and started publishing more books.
What is your next episode?
To an outsider, a non-lucrative career might seem like a series of meaningless zig-zags. All that matters is the straightforward sense it gives you.
So next time when you hear these series of critiques:
you need to focus on one thing.
Pick a medium and be a master on it
Have a particular style
Insist on that style for a long time
Just consider that this advice isn't concrete for all creatives, and it is always up for adaptation. Remember that people designed mazes to be fun.
Stay sane through all your crazy journeys,
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