career

What's Your Kryptonite? The One Thing That Can Derail Your Dreams

Dreams and Regret

Today, I was watching my younger son play soccer and I overheard two parents talking about college majors. One mom said her brother-in-law went to an acclaimed arts school and graduated with a major in Photography. His dream job was to become a photo journalist at National Geographic, but for the last 20 years he’s been working as a paramedic. “He never enjoyed taking photos of people,” she said. “And besides, you don’t exactly find international photojournalism jobs in the want ads.”

Twenty years! There’s a big difference between being a paramedic and a guy who takes pictures.

And his sister was right. You don’t find that kind of job in the want ads. In fact, usually the kind of job we aspire to isn’t found in the want-ads at all. And I don’t think I’ve had a newspaper subscription in the last 20 years, so do the want-ads even exist anymore?

This guy is probably a good paramedic, and he probably says he loves his job. Everyday is different, after all, and saving lives can be very rewarding, I’m sure, but if his dream is hanging out in the African jungle only to find himself forever navigating the urban jungle, I can only imagine the kind of regret and disappointment he feels.

How Kryptonite Works

Even if you’re not a fan of Superman, you’ve probably heard of kryptonite. You know it’s the one thing that strips Superman of all his super powers. I don’t know if I’m remembering old episodes from the 1950s or if this is just how I imagine it in my mind, but in the presence of Kryptonite, I see Superman falling to his knees, unable to move, barely able to speak, certainly bereft of his superhuman strength and his ability to see through walls and that sort of thing.

Sometimes people will talk about kryptonite like it’s a real thing and not something made up in comic books. We all have our own version of kryptonite, the thing that keeps us grounded and unable to move forward. I think the biggest one is predictability.

Choosing safety and security over adventure.
Choosing what’s predictable and profitable over what’s preferable.
Choosing what’s right here, right now over what could be.

Predictability is safe. It’s nice to know where that next paycheck is coming from.

Before the Kryptonite

Do you remember what it was like to be in college? Maybe you were like me, a little naive and a little nervous about the future. Back then, did you wish for a predictable life or an adventurous one?

No one told me I’d probably have to be the one to create the kind of life I really wanted. My dream job was unlikely either to be handed to me on a silver platter or waiting for me to discover in the want ads. So I built a resume based on all the things I had already done rather than the things that were preparing me for all the things I wanted to do…someday.

When I’m in the zone, far away from my kryptonite, I feel a lot like Superman. I can see through walls—or at least I feel like I have a leg up on overcoming the challenges in front of me. I have the bandwidth to outrun the figurative speeding bullets charging toward me, and the strength to tackle just about anything.

Note: There will always be roadblocks on the road to success. Please don’t allow the comfort of predictability be the thing that keeps you from trying something new.

When we do things the same way, at the same time, every single day, our brain begins to work without us even thinking. We don’t have to adjust or adapt. We just have to be. Just like fictional kryptonite keeps Superman from being able to use his superhuman strength, so we too, are paralyzed. I have never felt weaker than when I am doing repetitive work I don’t really care about.

Back when I was in college and I had all those big dreams, I had no idea that I was responsible for creating the life I wanted. I thought everybody just got an entry level job after graduation and then twenty years later-voila—they were promoted to VP level positions.

Sometimes that’s how it works. But not always.

If some UN-predictable things hadn’t happened, like getting rejected from medical school—TWICE—or getting pregnant with my first daughter, maybe I’d still be climbing the corporate ladder. But because something unexpected happened, I shifted my thinking and leaned in. I discovered new interests, pursued new adventures, and started volunteering and leading things that put me on a new path and toward a new definition of success.

Since kryptonite causes pain and paralysis, overcoming it is anything but easy. In every instance I’ve ever had of overcoming my personal kryptonite, (the dreaded predictability), I can honestly say that our family has benefited. I’ve met people who literally changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve been inspired by stories of life change. I’ve created and built things I never could have even imagined if I had remained stuck doing the same thing day in and day out.

What’s that saying?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
— not Albert Einstein (although no one really knows who said this)

Don’t let predictability get you. Yes, it’s safe. Yes, it’s easy. But I can think of at least ten ways the paramedic could have begun his journey toward photo journalism. And while I want to be one of those positive people who says “It’s never too late,” the reality is for every year you put off a dream the road back to you becomes littered with hazards. Predictability becomes the easy, default moda operandi. Families, obligations, commitments, and stuff make going off-road difficult, if not impossible. When you’re young, you have less to lose and so it’s easy to take risks. Plus, your relative inexperience with predictability keeps you from becoming too comfortable.

Questions to Ponder:

What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
What do you love about what you do?
How can you make this year better than last year?
What’s next for you? And what’s keeping you from making one honest-to-goodness change right now?

Ready to take it to the next level?

5 Ways to Grow Your Resume as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I wish I had a dollar for all the times someone has asked me, “Are you just a mom?”

When my kids were little, I got this question all the time. I didn’t know how to respond. What did that even mean?

Am I just a mom?

I wanted to say, “ Are you just an accountant? Just a teacher? Just a dentist?”

I’ve been a mom for almost 20 years, and in all that time I can honestly say that I was never (not once) just a mom.

Sometimes I’ll hear moms say they’re dishwashers and chauffeurs and tutors and short order cooks.

All true.

But they are also managers, CEOs, advisors, and attorneys.

Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.
— Becoming, Michelle Obama

You are not just a mom, although the long days spent wiping snotty noses and changing dirty diapers can trick you into thinking it’s work that will never end.

You don’t have to wish those days away. In the midst of all that has to be done, there are things you can do to bump up the wow factor on your resume.

1) Volunteer. No good work is ever wasted. I spent a decade volunteering at a local hospice, even though I had no desire ever to become a health practitioner myself. Those years taught me how to live well, how to be with people in the midst of their pain, and how to navigate hard conversations—skills I value to this day.

2) Contract a few hours a week. Find extra hours in your day to do something you love—and get paid for it. When I had extra time, I reached out to a mentor of mine to see if there was anything I could do to help her with her own work. Because she was a writer, I was able to assist with research, eventually gaining enough experience to write special features and small articles for our community magazine.

3) Lead something in your community. My husband and I have always attended church. It’s part of our weekly routine, and for a season I coordinated something called Sisters of Support. Basically, the SOS was a network of volunteers commissioned to bring meals to families experiencing hardship in our community. I coordinated the volunteers and supplemented what was needed on a weekly basis by making an extra chicken pot pie or batch of brownies here and there. I was already cooking for my own family, so making extra was no big deal. I led a team of almost 80 volunteers, and I was able to do it all from the comfort of my own kitchen workspace.

4) Find a place to network. I would have gone crazy if I had stayed home all the time. Being a mom is hard work. When my kids were little, I joined my local sorority alumnae group. Each month’s meeting promised the opportunity to meet someone interesting or learn something new. Eventually, I was elected President, and so in addition to the new friendships, I gained valuable leadership experience. Sisterhood doesn’t have to end just because college does!

5) Cultivate hobbies. The worst thing you can do is to spend so much time caring for your kids that you lose yourself. If there’s something you love to do, keep doing it. Just being a mom allowed me the freedom to experiment in the kitchen (I even learned how to use a sous vide), go on long walks (sometimes with a kid—or four—in tow), read books (you can learn a lot from reading children’s books, and I’ve led lots of kid lit book clubs), and practice writing (look, I’m still doing it! :))

Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re just a mom. There’s something to learn in every season. And even if you don’t incorporate any of the suggestions listed above into your daily routine, I guarantee you’re gaining valuable experience leading people, managing teams, organizing your household, strategizing for the future, and TCB’ing all that other stuff employers think is important.

You’re a rock star! Keep going!

Ready to take it to the next level?