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Career counseling inside out

There is no reason to be ashamed of one's mistakes, which are actually valuable learning. Last week's preparation of my keynote on sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship gave me the opportunity to summarize parts of my own history that others can hopefully learn from.

Career counseling inside out

Last week I agreed to make a motivational presentation for a number of 10th grade students from Frøstruphave Efterskole, who, in connection with a teaching course under the title Sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship, had chosen to visit Hvide Sande. The students started the day at omhu: where Katrine and Daniel upcycle plastic waste collected on the beach, and after visiting me continue to the local shipyard, that develops special vessels, and components and sub-deliveries for the wind turbine industry.

On the other hand . . . Isn't an expert precisely a person who has lived through virtually all mistakes within a given field and learned things the hard way?

Hvide Sande—(and this applies in principle to the town as well as the shipyard)—is not a bad place to go if you need to be challenged a bit on the above agenda;  sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship. In short, the city is so relatively young and created so much in pioneering spirit and defiance that we have never really had the privilege (and the bad habit) of being able to rest on our laurels.

Many of us out here have had to learn things hands-on.

In preparing my keynote, I worked with a mantra of not packing in any of the unpleasantness.

I wasted the first several years of my own adulthood avoiding uncomfortable situations, reciting to myself over and over again that my big, well-deserved breakthrough was surely waiting just around the corner. This, despite the fact that at that time I had never actually delivered an honest day's work.

After a few hard years on the floor in the restaurant business, around the turn of the millennium it began to dawn on me that what ultimately defines us as people are our actions—not so ever many nice ideas, visions and words.

From here it slowly progressed, but only when I started training for my first (Beach)marathon in 2011, I learned how much it means to work persistently on a daily basis and how far small tiny daily steps can really move one over time.

I am by no means calling myself an expert.

On the other hand . . . Isn't an expert precisely a person who has lived through virtually all mistakes within a given field and learned things the hard way?

Talking career advice, I would argue that as a young person in today's Denmark you have far more to gain from hearing a series of unpleasant but true points from a drop-out like myself, than yet another career counselor's predictable sermon about the importance of formal education.

Our modern financialized money economy does not support sustainable behavior, so far most seem to agree. We cannot continue in the same way and expect a different outcome. With the global, climate and environmental challenges we face, we have to (dare) think outside the box.

2 questions arise:

  • Doesn't sustainability require us to get back in sync with nature and the cycle of life?
  • Is it possible to spend your working days in a metropolitan environment far from wild nature and at the same time be the one who delivers brand new, genuine green and sustainable solutions?

Personally, I have no doubt that the challenges of the future require clever hands, and a hands-on approach to the given problems and challenges. This also means that the way forward is not necessarily the traditional one: one education, one career. We always learn something new and different by going to different camps and it can often be far more developmental piecing together your own course and your own combined disciplines than following the beaten path, taking a classic institutional education.

Cross-pollination, contrary to common disciplinary thinking.

I don't think that employers of the future will attach a particularly great importance to the formal CV, but believe that the portfolio concept, as we know it from the art world, is super interesting: It is far less important where and for whom you have worked than what you have spent your time on; what exactly you have learned and created.

In other words: Follow your gut feeling and spend your time where your interest and energy are strongest. Creativity is the superpower of the future.

In that context the single most important thing is to overcome your own fear of failure.

We see all kinds of perfect glossy pictures of super successful people on all surfaces, 24/7, and can quickly feel behind on points. For God's sake, don't buy into that (alluring, but endlessly destructive, demotivating) narrative. Far more important than doing it perfectly, is doing . . . . . . something.

Why not simply make the attempt and pursue the dream?

Why not start your own business, or for that matter just nebengeschäft?

You don't need a chrome-plated business plan, just the desire to make a difference. And yes. It's fine to start small if you're just getting started. Do it alone, or—even better—with a number of complementary friends. But do it.

Create a fertile environment around the things you want to do and commit to a minimum of 10 minutes every single day. Lots of good ideas have ended up dying a quiet death at home in the desk drawer, because those who have gone with them in the back of their minds have been waiting for a day when they could clear the calendar and have the time and energy to devote themselves 100%. You can always find 10 minutes and you don't need more than that to get started. Daily momentum is the overriding, most important goal.

In summary, my best career advice is: Create the framework that makes it easy and obvious to pursue the things you want to do on a daily basis.

It has been my own approach since I sold the wakeboard cable back in the spring of 2020 and I warmly recommended it. You will be amazed at how much change that type of simple behavior design can create—and not least how quickly.