“How” is the only sure path to “can’t”

I talk to a lot of people who are very, very sure of what they can't do in their careers.

They can't be writers.  They can't be artists.  They can't be travel agents.  They have a giant list of can'ts.  It's often larger than their cans.

When I talk to such people, I also learned very quickly that the majority of them really have little or no awareness of the career they've given up on.  They hear something, read something, or make an assumption, and then kill off their career plans right there.

The only way for you to decide you can't do something is to know how it's actually done.

If you haven't actually researched and read up on how to be a published author, then why are you giving up?  If you've just assumed you'll never be a professional artist, why do that until you've found out more about how people do it – and what people have done it?  If you think you'll never work in video games, have you actually asked your LinkedIn connections about their careers?

Until you can map out a basic path to a career – and then point out the parts you can't do (or in many cases won't do), then you really can't say for sure that you can't do it.  If you're going to give up, give up in an informed manner.

A few sources of information:

  • www.linkedin.com – There are groups you can join to learn more about nearly everything.
  • Online professional sites.  Sites like www.poewar.com speak to freelance writers, www.toolkit.com helps you get a real grasp on running your own business, etc.  The internet is loaded with actual useful stuff.
  • Books.  Though you may have to wade through some BS, I've found that for any professional or career choice there's usually at LEAST a handful of good books if you do your research.  Sit down and do some reading.
  • Other people.  Have you gone and asked anyone in the profession you're giving up on how they got there?

One fear you may have is researching a career and "wasting" that time discovering you really can't do something or don't want to.  A few points to keep in mind if this happens:

  • At least you're confident you know what you can't or won't do.  You'll have some peace of mind.
  • If a situation makes your career choice possible in the future, then you'll be able to recognize the change.
  • If a situation changes that DOES make your career possible, you have that research to call on.
  • You may learn a lot of other useful information even if you decide not to pursue the career in question.
  • You may get alternate career ideas doing that research.
  • You learn things you can share with others – maybe you'll never be a famous writer, but you can help others achieve that goal – and enjoy your surprise career as an editor, agent, whatever.

Don't give up until you know for sure you really want to – if you're going to give up, know why.

The process of knowing may change your mind about giving up . . .

– Steven Savage