Although I like to refer to it as my Twenty Question List, the list of questions I asked the rich and poor in my study actually numbered 144. A few of those questions focused on parenting, mentoring, relationships, dreams and goals. Many of the responses to these question had nothing to do with the actual question and took me down unintended paths. The millionaires, in particular, expounded on the importance of why they were pursuing their passion, what they hoped to ultimately achieve in life, the significant of their lives, etc. I felt the millionaires were taking me completely off track. Except they weren’t. What they were all ultimately trying to articulate was the legacy they wanted to leave behind. Their why for doing what they were doing.
I love doing speaking engagements, especially at high schools and colleges. One of the many questions I ask the students is: What legacy do you want to leave behind? For the most part I get blank stares. But then I always rephrase the question to: What do you want your obituary to say? That’s when the fun begins. One by one, slowly at first, the students begin to share their dreams, goals, passions and what they perceive as the mark they would like to leave on this world. I am always floored by some of the responses. After many speaking engagements it became crystal clear to me that these students all have big dreams. They want to leave their mark on the world. They all want to be remarkable.
But somewhere along the line these dreams gets buried. A handful do go on to pursue their dreams, their goals and their passions, but the vast majority don’t. Why? What happens to these dreamers that stops them in their tracks?
Parents happened. Parents, and to some extent teachers, inadvertently throw water on the dreams of kids and students. They re-program them into believing it is more important to get a good job that will provide them with some measure of job security. There’s less risk in pursuing a career path that offers adequate pay and job security. Dreams come with risks.
I chose a different tack with my kids, thanks to my research. I learned from those 177 self-made millionaires that the only true job security is pursuing something you are passionate about. So, I told my kids to pursue their passions and not to follow the herd. I told them there is no such thing as job security in today’s environment. I told them that the 177 self-made millionaires in my study did not have to worry about security because they created their own job security. Lastly, I told them that to live the life of your dreams requires that you pursue your dreams, your goals and your passions. You must find something you love and pursue it.
It looks like my advice is paying off. Two of my kids are now working adults. They are pursuing their passions and beginning to reap the rewards. They have more value to their employers because they put in more time. They put in more time because they love what they are doing. This makes them among the top performers in their company. Just like those 177 self-made millionaires in my study, they are creating their own security by becoming so good at what they do they rise to the top of their company.
Parents and teachers who inspire kids to pursue their dreams, their goals and their passions, set kids up to live a life with meaning. We need more dreamers. We need to encourage kids to move beyond finding a secure job and, instead, seek to create a legacy that gives their life meaning. The only job security is found in doing what you love to do. When you do what you love you to do, you devote more time to it and become more expert at it. Companies and clients don’t fire the best. They hire the best. Therein lies security. There’s no security in mediocrity.