If you want to make the Olympic soccer team, join a symphony orchestra or get into medical school, the path is well lit. It’s not easy, but the goals are clear and the boundaries are obvious.
Day by day, achievement by achievement, it’s a linear race. You know the rules, you can see the competitive landscape and you can train. It’s rare that the rules change along the way.
This is irresistible for some people, and if it ends, or they don’t make it, they’re often lost in the wilderness.
That’s because real life doesn’t have clear goals and obvious boundaries.
Real life is not organized around an 800 on the SATs, or a FGA average that’s the highest in the league.
Instead, real life has changing rules, hidden rules, rules that aren’t fair. Real life often doesn’t reveal itself to us all at once, the way the rules of baseball are clearly written down.
And so, the first challenge of real life is: find some goals. And the second: figure out some boundaries.
It doesn’t pay to get stressed out that these goals and these boundaries aren’t the same as everyone else’s. It doesn’t pay to mourn the loss of the rigid structures that worked in the world you used to be in.
You’re in real life now.
Then you can get back to work.
*Originally published on sethgodin.typepad.com.
Seth Godin has written eighteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything.
Image courtesy of David Werbrouck.