advice

The 90s song that caused me to shut my career coaching business just as it was blossoming...almost

A client last week re-minded me of a song that I played incessantly in my youth. As soon as I came off the call I opened Spotify and MY HEART SANK.  I felt that my business would be doomed to fail if every 40-55 year old in my network heard this song.  I considered shutting up shop that day even though my career transformation business was growing beyond my expectations. 

I'd have zero clients if this song were to be re-released.

“No song can be that powerful” I hear you cry. 

Well, this one could have been…if human beings were capable of taking advice, that is.  Luckily (at least from a business perspective) I don’t believe we humans are actually capable of taking advice.

So...the song is called Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann. You know the one.  It starts “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97, wear sunscreen!” and Baz proceeds in a monotone voice to prescribe the most succinct and mind-blowing advice ever aimed specifically at young adults. 

Like most young adults in the 1990s (and probably today as well), my parents doled out advice to me on a daily basis but it totally washed over me.   “In one ear and out the other” was a commonly heard refrain pointed in my direction in my home. 

Yet, when I was bombing about the back roads of Co. Antrim in my parent’s light blue Citroen BX and this song came on the radio, I almost slumped into an open-eared trance.  I couldn’t get enough of this advice.  It made so much sense and was delivered in a cool, Californian, non-preachy way, supported by a funky beat.  I fully believed that this advice was going to change my life.

Check out just a couple of inarguable pieces of advice from the lyrics (full lyrics in the link below)

  • Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders...but trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself, and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked....

  • You’re not as fat as you imagine…

  • Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly…

  • Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble-gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday…”

Incase you’re interested, here are the full lyrics.

Absolutely brilliant life advice - wouldn't you agree? 

Needless to say, it didn’t change my life.

Even though I really loved ALL of the advice and even though I listened with open-ears, my psychological make-up would not allow me to take in ANY advice wholeheartedly.  

My psychological make-up, as far as advice is concerned, is identical to yours. It’s the same psychological make-up as your children’s and the same as your parent’s. We are all the same in this aspect of life. We all find it nearly impossible to implement someone else’s advice into our own lives.

On the flip-side, it appears that most people really enjoy GIVING ADVICE, even if it is not requested.  Let’s face it, giving advice to others makes us feel helpful, knowledgeable and go on, be honest, often a little better about ourselves.  That’s just the problem.  Advice-giving is all about the advice-giver, not the advice-receiver.  And NOT giving advice is really, really difficult.

Don’t believe me?

dog glasses

TRY THIS and see how difficult it is for you:

1.    When your partner/colleague/child comes to discuss a problem with you this week ZIP YOUR LIP. 

2.     Listen with both ears and brain – this bit sounds easy.  BUT you are NOT going to offer ANY advice AT ALL.

3.    Instead, feel free to ask questions, make understanding noises, move parts of your face (eyebrows work nicely) at appropriate moments to encourage them to keep speaking. When your partner/colleague/child have COMPLETELY FINISHED TALKING, continue to empathise with their tricky situation and wish them well in finding the (be as specific as you can here) strength/confidence/creativity/etc (delete as appropriate) to be able to figure out the next moves to progress that situation along.

4.    STOP.  Assess how hard that was for you.

HINT: You will know if you have been unsuccessful in avoiding advice-giving if you hear the words “Yes, but…” as a response to anything you say.

BEWARE: This has been known to have a very obvious transformational effect on children. Watch their body language change (if you can be very specific) after step 3.

A friend accused me of being too simplistic in recommending this technique.  All I'll say is...try it. 

It is a simple technique and if all it does is highlight how different it feels for you NOT giving advice, it will have made an impact.  Let me know what happens.

In my experience, it's also nearly impossible to take someone else’s career advice and point it at your own career.  

If you'd like to transform your career you will need to find a way to step far enough out of your current situation to view both it and you objectively so that you can CREATE YOUR OWN CAREER ADVICE. 

Most people struggle seeing their own life from a different perspective. Sometimes a coach helps.

In my work, I don’t offer advice (although I am a human with failings and sometimes I catch myself mid-advice-offering.).  

What I do offer are structured, tried and tested techniques combined with psychological insights which take the guess-work out of making a career change.   Check out “The Big Re-think” package on my website (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work) for more information on my style of advice-free coaching. 

While you’re there, why not sign up to my weekly newsletter for tips, resources, articles and real life stories of transformations?  

(ps that last bit was a suggestion, not a piece of advice!)

 

4 common (and awful) pieces of mid-career-rut advice and what to do instead.

What happens when you grumble about your job at home or to colleagues? 

Historically, I got so sick of hearing unprompted career advice that was irrelevant or so annoying that it made me want to punch someone in the face (oh dear, there's that fiery Celtic temperament again!) that I just shut up. 

Mid-life career lows are not uncommon.  We’ve all had days where we’d prefer to be somewhere else, anywhere else!  But a mid-career rut is a whole different thing that invades areas of life outside work including relationships with partners and children.  

Here are a few of the most common pieces of advice on offer out there and (for what it's worth) my opinion on their value:

 

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 1. “Stick it out, don’t risk losing it all, it’s bound to get better”:  I don’t know where to start with this one.  We are not just talking about having a bad day at work. We are not just taking about occasional Sunday night blues.

When I use the term career rut, I am referring to persistent, long-lasting, recurring “don’t know how long I can keep going through the motions” feelings that have also started to impact your life outside work. 

Family members are noticing you just not being your usual self. You’ve stopped talking about work at home as you consider it too dull.  Or alternatively you can’t appear to find anything positive to say about work or the people at work.  

You are likely to be spending a great deal of time doing on-line research on new jobs but somehow they don’t look at all different to your current job.  Same job, different faces is definitely not your aim. 

2.   “Better the devil you know”: This security-centred advice is offered by fearful people who are unlikely to have understood your situation fully nor have taken the time to attempt to.  They might perceive you as somehow fortunate or lucky and are surprised that you are not happy with your lot.  

Perhaps they come from a background where a stable job was a goal in life.  Perhaps they are your partner and are worried about your joint/family future.  Perhaps they are simply the type of individual who views change as risky and would rather not let that devil into their house.  

And perhaps they simply have lower expectations on life fulfilment than you.

3.   “Forget about it, come and have a drink”:  Otherwise called “Purple Elephant syndrome”. Temporarily forgetting something that is playing on your mind is extremely valuable…in the short-term. 

Sooner or later, it comes back to haunt you.  A few months or even a year of career rut avoidance offers you the time to mull over options close to home, in your current company and to consider options advertised in the open market.    

Perhaps you have even moved companies during that time but after the initial optimism you realise that the old feelings have returned? The dissatisfaction, the lack of challenge, the boredom and the sameness of it all. 

Changing company changed neither your career nor your future.  

4.   “Just resign and take some time to figure it out”:  If you have an endless pot of gold, no responsibilities and are optimistic that you can work it out by yourself, proceed at speed to your personal yacht.   

If not, don’t consider this piece of advice for more than a dreamy few hours. 

Don’t resign without a plan.  Resign with a GREAT plan. 

Understand in great detail what you have to offer the world.  Analyse how you could offer those skills to the world and what it might give you in return. 

Investigate avenues to transform your career without rocking the rest of your world (unless that is also your aim, of course!) and plan the perfect time to make it happen...and then resign!

I specialise in helping midlifers design more satisfaction into their careers and stop wasting their valuable time. To learn more about beginning your own career overhaul go to www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.