So what do you want to do for a living? This question is asked to most everyone as they grow up. The people that usually ask this question are people who believe that they have found their path, their purpose and somehow feel they know all the best methods to achieve success.
I am here to tell you that they don’t.
If these guidance experts are truly enlightened, they will be wise enough to realize that their advice should be more of a suggestion of sorts or a catalyst for action, not a platform to preach their personal gospel to their own personal success.
I have 18 years under my belt as a professional fly fishing guide. I make part of my living by teaching the skill of catching & releasing fish. The other parts consist of cooking things (as a professional chef), building things (as a General Contractor), designing things (Furniture, Flowers…), solving things (as a Consultant). The fact is, I have done everything that my student counselor never even suggested.
I would wager that there is not a single career guide book written that would suggest “You should pursue a career as a fly fishing guide” or “Your skill set suggests that you should be a jack of all trades”. There are many of us out there that was given career options that were more suited for the advisor than they were for people they were advising.
The truth is, I found myself as a guide by chance and bit of bad luck.
In my beginnings, I became a chef, working in amazing places and evolved into a top-shelf ‘private chef’ in Aspen, Colorado, with a cliental that could not be rivaled, all without formal culinary training. My food is really good but my personality is better. Making my way in that industry came through good relationships, honest interest and wanting to get really good at the craft. Secondly, I also liked the image of the chef, being in the social mix, being the guy that made a restaurants reputation. Another perk that was appealing is I tasted and ate what I made, and it was free. That was very important back in the day, because I was flat broke at that time in my life.
All was going as planned (if to say I had a plan), then I was struck with terrible news, I had heart issues. The chest X-ray from a routine check up discovered that I had a leaky bicuspid aortic heart valve. In short, being told that I had a big heart was no longer a compliment, it was now a real problem. Open-heart surgery was inevitable.
After meeting with specialist I was given three choices:
1) Have the valve replaced within a month,
2) Wait and have a heart replacement,
I was actually excited to hear this, I like those kind of choices. Clear cut and no room for indecision. I choose door #1.
I am not to going into what happened with lengthy details, sympathy stories or life changing religious experiences, I’ll leave those to a yet to be addressed medical blog. The long and short of it all is, I weathered the surgery and all is good. Except one thing, I was told by my Doctor after my recovery to change my lifestyle, to limit the stress in my life. Hmmm, as I hummed to myself, wondering what I’m going to do now. The fact is, anyone in the elevated, highly skilled culinary world knows, it is nothing but a high stress, high pressure occupation.
But changes had to be made. I had to find another career, so I reflected back to all the career aptitude test I have taken throughout my lifetime. The Myers-Briggs test, self-help books on changing careers, my high school aptitude tests, anything that could give me some sort of direction.
After reviewing my results, my best career fit was, according to the test; a hair stylist, an architect, a graphic designer and my favorite, an Assassin. Best part is, I have done something in all of these fields, accept the Assassin thing, unless you consider hunting turkeys a hit man job.
Here is the reason I am bringing all of this to the forefront of why I am concerned about advising someone about there future. I believe that the people who are quick to give career advice forget to look at the person as an individual and not just a common type of person that fits the career profile. A great counselor understands fundamentally that a person would rather find or discover their spot in life by accident, or take to the game of career “Twister” and choose a different spot of different colors on a daily basis, spin the wheel for a new color and see where they end up.
I grew up living in my dads work shop, tinkering with everything i could get my hands on. Woodworking, building bike, tearing apart motors (and rarely getting them back together again). I made plaster sculptures, knitting and countless Estes Rocket, model cars and planes. I did it all. When summer showed up, I went fishing with an Uncle maybe twice a month. Who would of known that I would be a professional fisherman as a living? I didn’t.
Recently, I looked in all the career guide books, no mention of Fly Fishing guide as an option, I knew I loved fishing, as a hobby, but a career? You hear the stories from Pitchmen and Bakers, “My Passion is buttercream” or “I live for making the perfect plumbing fixture”. I get that, but I would say most people can’t really pinpoint their passion. I never once uttered “my passion is fly fishing” or “my life’s works to create a perfect method to catch a fish”. It never passed my lips, until I took a close look at what really made me happy and why it did. That’s when I started to think about my “love” of fly fishing.
Having a passion for something is best, but the way I looked at it, fly fishing gives me great joy. I am content on the river. I also like teaching others and take joy in their successes. All of this was discovered because of circumstance and happenstance. I had a really bad thing happen to me that I thought would never happen, but it did, unexpectedly.
I live in an area that is known for its fishing, Basalt, Colorado. There are four major rivers within 60 miles of each other. The Frying Pan, The Roaring Fork, The Colorado and The Crystal. Every one of them, perfect fishing habitat and beautiful. I reflected back to what I knew was engrained in my psyche as a tinkering, fishing kid and looked for options that could possibly be new career. I asked friends about their favorite unexpected job they have had or ever had. I looked at my hobbies, I paid attention to what magazines I would grab from the book store. Then I looked out my back door, talked with my local fly shop, Taylor Creek Fly Shop and the rest is history. Thank you Tim Heng, a Fly fishing guru and the guy who gave me a chance.
I love helping people find a direction, not a path. (You might say that is my passion). You can never be sure of exactly, pin point accurately, what they are best suited for. Are they up for a climb or better fit for a stroll? If you feel the need to guide, advise, or try to help someone find their path, take a moment to ask the right questions and not dictate.
Instead of saying:
“I think you should be a doctor, it’s a good living and you can make some serious money.”
You should maybe ask: “Do you like helping people? How are you about solving problems? Why do you care?” and so on.
If a person seeking advice on how to become a structural engineer and wants to design bridges but lacks in basic math. You might say “well, you have to be good at math, I don’t think thats a good fit for you.”
A good counselor would not advise against it but would try to understand the reason why they would enjoy that career and look outside the box.
I believe that what you choose to do for a living can be dictated by situation, by your ecosystem, by happenstance, by luck but mostly by how wide you keep your eyes and mind open. I would never have thought that I would spend my days with a rod in my hand, a fly in my line and an office that is supplied be nature.
If you are ever asked to advise someone about career choices or what they should do for a living? Be sure to reflect back to your own life and see if the advice that was given to you fulfilled your expectations of what your life has become.