Stop Trying to Be a Squirrel If You’re a Duck
Frequently, in working on career direction with someone, I realize that person is trying to be in sales when he is skilled in accounting, or trying to excel in teaching when she is more gifted in playing music. Why is it that we try to make ourselves something we are not designed for? Part of the pressure is that we rank the value of certain jobs or abilities. Would you rather be an average doctor or an excellent carpenter? Would you rather be a mediocre teacher or an outstanding landscaper? I believe we need to carefully identify the special gifts each of us has and then be excellent in the use of those gifts.
Let me use a story to illustrate the pressure many of you feel to perform in ways you may not be equipped for. It begins in school.
Once upon a time, all the animals in a special advanced animal kingdom became very excited about the new school that was being formed for all the animal children. Modern administrators organized the school and adopted a curriculum of activities consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying.
All the animal parents flocked to the school, eager to enroll their children in this new progressive school. After all, they wanted the very best for their offspring. Mr. and Mrs. Duck enrolled their son, Donald Duck, and expected great things from him because he was an excellent swimmer. In fact, he was better than the instructor. However, Donald had been in school only one week when the administrators discovered that he was quite poor in running, jumping and climbing trees. So they made him stay after school and practice those skills. Finally, Donald’s webbed feet became so badly worn from climbing trees that he then was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in this school, so no one worried about this except Donald Duck who really loved swimming.
Now, Ronnie Rabbit was at the top of the class in running but ended up having a nervous breakdown because of having to do so much makeup work in swimming. And Sammy Squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed cramps from overexertion and got a “C” in climbing and a “D” in running.
Ernie Eagle was a problem child and was frequently disciplined. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the trees, but he didn’t follow the procedures for climbing and insisted on getting to the top of the tree using his own method. He was not a good team player and often went off on his own. His teachers couldn’t understand his desire to see new things and reprimanded him for daydreaming in the classroom. Ultimately he was put on Ritalin to try to make him a better student.
At the end of the year, Freddie the Goldfish could swim exceedingly well and could also run, climb and fly—a little. Freddie had the highest overall score and was voted valedictorian of the class.
The neighborhood dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and fetching to the curriculum. They had noticed the emotional strain on the other students and were considering starting a school of their own.
The fulfilling path is usually one to be discovered right under a person’s nose. Normally there have been recurring themes in one’s life – moments of recognizing being “connected” or “in the zone.” In the great old movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddle was told by his sister to forget his passion for running and to return to the worthy family missionary ministry. There is a line from that movie that still gives me goose bumps when I hear it where Eric says: “God made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure.” Don’t think this is a time to ignore your true passions even if the normal applications don’t seem to produce the income results. A little time spent looking at yourself will provide a big payback in terms of selecting and structuring an opportunity around your unique strengths.