How to Discover Your Ideal Career: Your Message and Your Medium

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Message in bottle on the sand

Last Saturday, I conducted a workshop on how to discover your right career to a group of 50 participants. During the workshop, I shared what it takes to discover a career that you want to do for the rest of your life.

The truth is, the channels we use to express ourselves are often temporary. These channels are the careers we take on, our jobs, our societal roles, and so on. The message we want to deliver to the world though, is permanent. So if we focus on what our message instead of our medium, it leaves us with endless outlets we can use to express our message. By message, I’m really referring to our life purpose; what we want to achieve and bring to this world through our existence here.

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For example, my life message is “To touch others’ lives, help them achieve their highest potential and live their best lives; To achieve my highest potential and live consciously and freely in truth, love and power“. Consequently, I use all kinds of mediums around me to express this message. I use my blog to write articles to grow and help others to live their best lives. I do 1-1 coaching to bring the best out of others. I do training and speaking to move others on a life of their highest meaning. These are the 3 mediums I’ve identified as most compatible with my message back before I first started pursuing my passion years ago.

At the same time, mediums aren’t permanent. At any point where a medium becomes incompatible with my message, I’ll shed it away. In the past year as I grew and developed myself in all 3 mediums, I found the greatest affinity with blogging. I love speaking and I experience tremendous joy knowing new people and connecting with them during my workshops, but speaking/training is not as effective a medium compared to blogging where I can reach out to a large amount of people at one time. Also with speaking, I’ve to be present in every training/speech, and a good amount of preparation time is required to develop content and material – it’s a direct trade of my time with money. I enjoy speaking and I plan to continue to speak, just not at such a high frequency as what I’m doing now.

For coaching, I enjoy 1-1 coaching – working with others on a 1-1 basis has given me many insights into their lives, and seeing them growing every step of the way is a very rewarding experience. It’s a great complement to what I do. I’ve gotten to know a lot of amazing, amazing people through my 1-1 coaching and I continue to remain in touch with many of my past clients. However, the 1-1 nature of coaching requires a high investment of time and effort, and isn’t effective because I can only be helping 1 person at any point in time. Again, I like 1-1 coaching and the experiences it has given me, just that I plan to decrease the time I set aside for it moving forward.

On the other hand, blogging is a great fit with my personal values. I have a big thing for flexibility and effectiveness, and blogging gives me exactly that. Flexibility because blogging doesn’t require me to be geographically situated in a place – I can blog anytime I want, anywhere I want. I can be blogging while I’m on a plane, in Hong Kong, in New York, in a cafe in Singapore – pretty much anywhere with an internet connection.

Blogging is also highly effective, in that it’s a one-to-many medium. It allows me to reach out to many people with just one channel. It also enables me to reach out to the world out there and connect with pretty much anyone with an internet connection. It’s a boundless medium. Not only that, the articles I write will remain here forever for everyone to read. Anyone can read the articles while I’m sleeping, traveling, eating, or away from the computer, and they can benefit from them just fine. My physical presence is not required for others to gain value from my past writings. All it requires is for me to invest X hours or X days in the writing of the article, and everyone, both current and future readers, can benefit from it after I publish it online.

Hence moving forward, I’m scaling down the time I spend on training and 1-1 coaching, and dedicating that time for blogging. I’m only taking on trainings that are a fit with my personal and professional goals (in the past I used to take on career training, which isn’t in line with the core of my work which is personal development). With 1-1 coaching, I’ve revised it to a 1-1 consultation format where I share all my advice/expertise to the client in a 1-session consultation, and have taken away 4-session / 8-session packages which are more exploratory in nature and require a higher investment in time and effort.

For those who aren’t able to afford 1-1 consultations, there’s always all these free article and resources available at the blog. A lot of the things I share here for free are gold and easily cost tons of money in any self-help course / book. There’s also the life changing 30DLBL group-coaching course, which is hugely underpriced for it offers.

Given my preference for effectiveness, I’m also going to explore other mediums, probably scale-based that lets me reach out to tons of people out there through a channel – potentially audio and video. I’m going to continue blogging and building different projects through the blog. September 2010’s 30DLBL marked my first foray into online group coaching, and it was a huge success. Dec ’10 30DLBL (and the recent 21DHL) continued to do extremely well, so I’m going to continue with online group coaching as a platform to reach out to others. The next 30DLBL will be 1 Apr – if you’ve already gotten a copy of the book you’ll be duly notified come mid-March of the upcoming challenge.

Be loyal to your message, not the medium

If you notice what’s happening here, I’m really the most loyal to my message, and not my mediums (with the exception of perhaps blogging, because it’s the backbone of what I do and the versatility of the medium matches my needs very well).

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My loyalty to my message, and not my medium, opens me to tons of different ways of expressing my message. I don’t vigilantly stick to certain mediums just because I’ve been using them. I’m constantly looking at my message and asking myself: “What is the medium that can allow me to best achieve my life purpose? What is the medium that will enable me to reach out to the largest amount of people possible, and give them the best value they can ever get in their entire life?

In doing so, it constantly gives me new ideas on how I can do my job better. It’s from asking these questions that gave me the idea of blogging/writing to reach out to others at the beginning; it’s from asking these questions that gave me the idea of using tv/video as a potential medium to reach out to others. And I’ll continue to explore many other mediums in the future.

Unfortunately, many of us are loyal to the medium but not the message. We look at our current jobs/roles, and we get rigidly stuck to that. We wonder how to progress beyond this current medium, and we can’t find any way forward. That’s because your medium has already expired in its ability to express your message. Mediums expire, messages don’t. If you keep thinking within the scope of an expired medium, you’re not get any feasible solution. It’s like you’re trying to get to a location with an outdated map. You’re not going to get to where you want to go, since the map is already defunct! Whatever path it can present to you is not going to correspond to your reality.

Your message and medium are separate

Your message is your message, and your current medium is a medium. Both are entirely separate things. Don’t confuse the two of them as one thing.

One simple analogy is this: Imagine a glass of water. Is the water the same thing as the glass? No it’s not. How can they be the same? Obviously the water is water; the glass is a glass. The relationship between the water and the glass is that the glass is a temporary means to hold the water. Likewise, your current career/job is just a temporary means to express your message to the world. Rather than be overly concerned about the status of your current career and how to make it work out, your key question should be whether this career is letting you express your life message in the best manner possible. Mediums come and go; messages don’t. It’s possible for one to start off with a seemingly suitable medium at the beginning, only to outgrow it later on.

If your current medium is indeed a poor fit for you, it will leave you feeling unfulfilled. See yourself as a fountain that’s overflowing with water. That’s your message yearning to spread itself to others. If at any point you don’t have the right channels/outlets in place to deliver your message to the world, you’ll feel unfulfilled, like something is missing and you don’t quite know what.

This was how I felt back when I was in my ex-company doing brand management. Things just didn’t feel right, even though theoretically I was in a company whose motto was to improve lives of others. Undoubtedly the overall presence of the company has improved the lives of many and will continue to do so (given it’s a consumer goods company selling daily necessities), but I just didn’t see these as means I want to use to express my message to the world. I’m most passionate about helping others grow by directly working on the core that was/is life and living consciously, not via a proxy. This was why I eventually quit to pursue my passion as you see today, via the mediums which I had the most passion for (blogging, speaking and 1-1 coaching as I mentioned above, and now blogging and other scale-based mediums).

Finding a medium that fits your message

To identify a medium(s) that fit your message, I’ve come up with 6 simple steps for you to follow-through. These are the exact same steps I did before I pursued my passion, and it was following these steps that eventually helped me to carve out that I’m living now. Today, I truly feel fulfilled and happier than I ever can be. The thing is, you can do that too by following these 6 steps.

1) Define your message first

To live a truly fulfilling life of your creation, you need to start thinking about what is the message you want to bring to this world first – whether it’s to grow and be at your highest potential, to express your full creative talents, to create and nurture, to help others grow, etc -, then the mediums you want to use to express that. Having a clear message defined will definitely help you to get clarity on what to do next.

I’ve already written in detail about discovering one’s message, which you can read here: How to Discover Your Real Purpose in Life.

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2) Evaluate if your current medium is a fit for your message

What is the career/job/role you’re in right now? This is the medium you are currently using to express yourself to the world. Here’s a simple checklist to see if this medium is a right fit for you:

  1. Does this medium allow you to express your message/passion/interests?
  2. Does this medium match your personality? E.g., if you enjoy working with people, is this medium letting you work with people?
  3. Do you look forward to doing this every day?
  4. Do you see yourself doing this every day for the rest of your life?
  5. Can you think of other things you’d rather do than this?

If you answered Yes to Q1-4 and No to Q5, then you’re on the right track. If you answered No to Q1-4 and Yes to Q5, then perhaps it’s time to rethink about this medium. It’s probably not a good fit for what you want to deliver to this world. And if it isn’t, there’s nothing to fret about. Maybe you’re a customer service officer but you have a passion for design. Maybe you’re an accountant but you have a passion for cooking. Maybe you’re an engineer but you have a passion for photography. It’s perfectly normal – we outgrow our mediums all the time. What may seem like a perfect outlet in the past, may well expire after a while.

Remember that you’re not alone – I experienced the same too. My ex-company was a great outlet for me to grow when I first joined, but it stopped being a fit for what I want to accomplish in this world after 2 years on the job. Even with training and 1-1 coaching, I decided they’re not what I want to do on a large scale after 1.5 years of doing them. Rather than continue on in this poor fitted medium, it’s about finding new mediums, new outlets that let you best express your message in this world.

3) Brainstorm on all the mediums you can use

The next step then is to identify all the possible mediums you can use to express your message. Think about your message. How do you want to deliver your message to the rest of the world? Come up with a full list of all the possible mediums you can use to express your message. Here’s a short list of possible mediums you can start off with:

  • Acting
  • Blogging
  • Coaching
  • Composing
  • Consulting
  • Counseling
  • Dancing
  • Designing
  • Directing
  • Drawing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Events
  • Filming
  • Hosting
  • Investing
  • Managing
  • Mentoring
  • Photography
  • Podcasting
  • Producing
  • Singing
  • Speaking
  • Supervising
  • Teaching
  • Training
  • Video casting
  • Writing
  • YouTubing (Vlogging, Video How-To’s)
  • Others (What other mediums are you interested to explore?)

Note that for all the “mediums” I’ve written above, I’ve conveyed them as the method of expression, such as writing, teaching, etc vs. specific jobs like teacher or teacher. That’s because there are many specific mediums that can be derived from a particular method – for example, with writing, you can be a journalist, a travel writer, a book author, a ghost writer, a copywriter, an editor, and so on. Rather than narrow yourself to that level, first define your preferred methods of expression. You can then zoom down to the specific channels later on. Specific channels are also dependent on other factors like technology. Some mediums that exist in the past may not exist today; mediums that exist today may not exist in the future.

Since we’re talking about mediums that let you express your message to the world, each mode of expression involves an action where you provide something to others, be it content, ideas, – something that adds value to people’s lives. Something like “sleeping” or “resting” isn’t valid as it doesn’t add any value to others nor does it help you to convey your message.

The list above is by no means exhaustive. Beyond referring to the list, think about people out there in the world whom you look up to; who are living the life that you want to lead. What are they doing? How are they expressing their message? Are they running businesses? What businesses are they running? Are they releasing books? Creating albums? Producing videos? Write them all down. With so many people in this world, chances are there’s at least someone out there who is already doing what you want to do and found a way to do that. Just by looking out there, you can get tons of ideas on what you can do too.

4) Pick the medium(s) that best fit you and your message

Now, pick the medium(s) that best fit how you and your message. Consider your personality and your values. What is your personality like? What do you value? Do you like to work with people up-close and personal? Do you prefer sitting behind a computer? Do you like to be on the go? Do you prefer to be at the same spot? Do you like stable, fixed working hours? Do you prefer to work as and when you want to? Answering these questions will help you select the appropriate mediums.

Since I love flexibility, a no-frills approach and effectiveness, blogging is clearly a winner for me. However someone who doesn’t like technology or the computer might not like that. He/she might find other mediums like 1-1 coaching and teaching more suitable.

5) Paint your ideal scenario

Think about the ideal scenario where you express your message to the fullest. Use the mediums you highlighted in #4 as reference points. This is the scenario where you can truly look at and say to yourself “This is the best life I can ever live“. What would you be doing in this scenario? How would you be expressing your message – What channels would you be using? How successful would you be? For example, if you want to be a writer, how many books would you have published? How many copies would you have sold? How much money would you be earning every month? How proficient would you be in your work?

In the Passion or Money article, I shared an exercise on designing your ideal life via our 4 key needs – Mind, Body, Heart and Soul. I highly recommend you check that out to design your ideal life in this step.

6) Create your action plan and get started

With your ideal scenario painted, now create your action plan and get started. Break down your end goal into mini-goals and identify your key action steps so you can get started. I’ve written extensively on the entire goal achievement / action plan process in ESPER: Successful Goal Achievement and Day 6 of 30DLBL.

Now, put all your energy toward bringing your plan to life. Focus on achieving your first milestone, then get started on the next. If you’ve selected more than 1 medium in Step 4, build yourself in your top medium of choice. When you establish yourself in 1 medium, you’re not just building your expertise in that medium – you’re also developing expertise in yourself as the conveyor of the message. This makes it easy for you to take on other mediums with ease subsequently.

Moving Forward

I’ve included as much as I can on this topic without over-stretching the post (it’s already at 3,200 words!), so hopefully this will help you to get started.

The last note I want to leave with you is to focus on fully aligning yourself with your message at every moment as you act on your plan. Just like water, your message is omnipresent, boundless and limitless, and can be expressed even within your current outlets. See the world as having endless number of pockets and channels where your message can fill out, and ask yourself how you can live true to your message starting right now. This is how you live a truly empowered life because you are not deferring it to an arbitrary point in the future.

Good luck and I know you have it in you to achieve everything you want to do, and more. 😀

Image: Message in bottle

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