How to Find the Right Career? Nothing is Impossible; Deciding is Difficult

When I help clients decide how to find the right career, I share with them a story a colleague once told me. I think it’s a valuable point to keep in mind as you move toward more fulfillment in your life.

“In April, I was in India on business. During a day off, we were strolling through an old town in the south when a little old lady with long gray hair approached us and just struck up a conversation. We first noticed her English—it was at a level far superior to ours though she told us she had never been to the west. She told us she was an advocate (lawyer) who can handle all kinds of cases but prefers criminal law. Her exact words were, “All kinds of criminal law, any kind of criminal law; I adore criminal law.” She was a fascinating person to talk to and seemed to know quite a bit about a variety of topics. We were quite happy she decided to walk with us and converse with us.

I complimented her on her English and was astounded to learn that she reads and writes all 14 of the main Indian languages (most of which use completely different alphabets from each other). She also knew two other languages besides English for a total of 17 languages! One of those languages was Sanscrit. Sanscrit is the “Latin of the East”—no one speaks it and it is primarily a historic language. She explained that she learned Sanscrit solely so she could read and “get the juice out of” the Ramayana. This astounded me. She could easily have gotten a translation of the Ramayana into any of the other languages she knew but she made the choice to learn a new and difficult language just to read the original text. Before I realized it, I had said what was on my mind: “That’s unbelievable!”

She turned, looked at me curiously, and replied quite matter-of-factly, “Oh didn’t you know? Nothing is impossible… but, deciding is difficult.” I felt this statement was perfect for many of my clients who were wondering how to find the right career.

This rendered me speechless for quite some time. Didn’t I know that? Why didn’t I know that? Because I’ve been “not deciding” for as long as I can remember because it’s hard. In those few moments, that woman had reminded me of a deep and basic truth so short and poignant that it almost is unreal. But I know that I will never forget it. And, hopefully, my clients won’t either.