Follow the Fall Line in Charting Your Career Path

We all know people who make career decisions based on what they perceive it takes to get ahead. This conventional wisdom says they should approach their career paths in terms such as supply and demand of jobs, career compensation levels or opportunities for advancement.

What could possibly go wrong with handicapping your future based on this economic model of career planning? Nothing--assuming you are willing to accept that this model leaves you wide open to fickle winds of change that are beyond your control.

Most of us don’t like feeling as though we are on the receiving end of a bad circumstance. When this occurs, it is easy to feel victimized or cheated out of your dreams because of decisions made by pesky “controllers” such as bosses, economic downturns, technological advances, market trends or demographic shifts.

Given the unpredictable nature of change, it may be time to consider a less rational and more intuitive model for charting your career.

Successful Navigation Techniques
A basic principle of downhill skiing is the value of navigating the invisible line that aligns the force of gravity with the terrain. This is called the fall line. If you traverse it in a zig-zag manner you can achieve a controlled descent to the safety of the valley below.

The concept of gaining measured control is echoed in other analogies including: cutting along the grain, going with the flow of the water’s current, or sailing downwind. Although diverse in nature, these refrains share a common thread. Each suggests the benefit of cooperating with the way the world functions on any given day. This strategy allows for less battle fatigue, more measured control and improved outcomes.

The reverse of this wisdom is also common in our language. When aspirations seem too daunting we may use metaphors such as swimming upstream or fighting against the wind.

Childlike Wisdom
As children, we see the world naturally, unbiased and unfettered by a desire to handicap the future. We proudly share our ambitions of becoming someone who is a hero to us; whether that person is an athlete, astronaut, plumber, doctor, firefighter or teacher. In return, we are often told about the impracticality of our dreams. Over time, our natural inclinations and passions can become defined by a confined and virtual reality that was created by people deemed more practical and rational than us. The usual market-based career model skews us to ignore our natural gifts or confine them to a hobby rather than to release them in a vocation. Veering away from our gifts leaves us open to the winds of change; whereas following them helps a satisfying career take root and flourish.

Our Gifts are Natural Gains
When you next are asked to advise people on their career choices—whatever their age or past discouragements—encourage them to develop their God-given talents and pursue life with a spirited passion. You will be ensuring that all of us encounter more people who have followed their own fall lines, negotiating their way down their personal slope showing smiles of satisfaction and mastery.

"The path of progress has never taken a straight line." Kelly Miller

Image courtesy of "franky242"