Set goals first, then follow your dreams

I’m no different to the thousands of Greeks who left their home country in recent years. Unemployed, I made the obvious choice to get a job anywhere I could. There was no heroism in this. In a way, I was following my dream to live abroad. But I had made the mistake to not set goals first, so I spent many years wandering around.

Complaining is pointless

I’m saying this because I used to be one of those who complain. My reason was that, as a Jack of all trades and master of none, I couldn’t get a well-paid job that I would enjoy. Well, I couldn’t even get a well-paid job that I wouldn’t enjoy. I was somewhat surprised by that. Whether it has anything to do with my Greek upbringing or me being a millennial, I always thought that since I have a master’s degree, I should have a decent job. I had earned that privilege, right? Well, no. No one owes us anything.

NO ONE OWES US ANYTHING. I learned this the hard way, by struggling to afford an enjoyable life in London on a low-level NHS salary.

Identify the root problem

My biggest problem was that I had changed careers a few times. No one was ready to trust a 32-year-old guy who didn’t seem to know what he was doing, although I was very good at whatever I had chosen to do; and I’m not saying this in an arrogant way. When you don’t have a safety net, and you need food on the table and a roof above your head, you realize you have to work hard. You have no other choice, so this is all I did.

Over the period of three years, I had sent over 200 job applications, I had attended 15–20 interviews, but I kept failing. The more I failed, the more depressed I became. All my friends were progressing with their careers, and I was stuck. Well, maybe the UK is not for me, I thought after the Brexit vote. My real problem was that I had not set up goals. I hoped I would land a great job in London out of the blue.

I gave it some thought, and realized I had to open my wings. I started applying abroad, ready to relocate once more away from home, my second home now.

Get ready for the challenge

After a few months, I got a new job with Amazon. They were the only people who could appreciate my inquisitive nature. After all, Learn and Be Curious is one of Amazon’s leadership principles. I had to leave London, and although I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. I wasn’t 26 years old any more. But I felt I had to do it. So I did it.

In less than four months in Amazon, I have grown more than I had grown in the last 6 years. I love my job, I love that I learn something new every day, I love that people treat me as a highly competent professional, even when I am skeptical about my own abilities. And this is because I had set up goals: 1) exceed the expectations of my hiring manager, and 2) enjoy the process by taking it all in. 

Be ready to fail

Another leadership principle in Amazon is Bias for Action. If you’re hesitating about doing something, do it anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Even if you fail, you can try again, differently. Without knowing, I abode by these principles all my life. When I wanted to change my career path, I did it anyway. I never stopped to consider whether I was taking the right decision. You can never know what the best decision is. You follow a path, and you go wherever it takes you. And then you either stay on it or follow a new one.

The decision I took at eighteen to study Psychology had a great impact on my life. Until a year ago, I thought it had defined me, as if it was a curse I couldn’t get rid of. In hindsight now, I know it helped me get where I am now. I could be in a totally different place, but I’m here, many random decisions later, one of them being to study Psychology. It’s as simple as that.

Forced positivity sucks

I am no believer in clichés like “follow your dreams”, “you can succeed in whatever you want” etc. Wanting something doesn’t mean you are entitled to it. Have you ever seen any talent shows? When you want something, you can set goals, work hard and be patient; be nice to people; stop complaining about things you can’t change; remember that no one owes you anything. You need to fight for what you want, but also be ready to live without it, even when you think you deserve it. Life is not fair. But you can be.

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