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  • Sue Schleifer

Possibilities and Paths


My husband stood up from the dining room table after breakfast and said he was headed to his office to write an exam. I said, “Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to take tests anymore?” He then proceeded to tell me a story I had never heard.

He was in the midst of taking a Physics test and lost confidence in his answer. He madly erased it, but then didn’t have time to write a new solution. His instructor was able to see the semi-erased answer and gave him full credit because he had answered the problem correctly. He was a freshman at MIT and must have been in a period of doubting himself and his abilities.

Now he is a full professor of Music on the cusp of retirement. I’m guessing that as a freshman he never could have imagined where he is today.

At Thanksgiving dinner this year, I sat next to an articulate high school junior. I asked him if he had an idea of what he wanted to study in college. He said that he didn’t. That he hadn’t experienced enough to know yet. What he did know with some vehemence is that he wanted to choose something to study and work at that he would enjoy. He wants a job that he will like doing for a long time. He cited his parents who are both music teachers, one in a university and another in a public elementary school, as examples of adults who enjoy their work.

I wonder what this young man will end up deciding to study. I imagine that he will try a few different subjects before deciding on a major. I hope his college will allow him to be curious and not get tracked into a direction before he’s had time to explore. I hope that if he does go down one path and is not happy, he will do more research and then head in a different direction.

I have traveled many paths in my life and feel richer for that. Each job, those that I liked and those that I didn’t, have all enriched me in some way. I’ve rarely felt stuck for very long, always willing to move on when the time seemed right. Some might say I didn’t stay with some of my past jobs long enough.

I have been a coach now for 16 years, the longest that I have pursued any position. My work as a coach builds on everything I have done in the past, and I plan to keep pursuing this career. When I was a junior in high school, my profession didn’t even exist, except for athletic coaches. I’m happy I have stayed open to new possibilities and paths throughout my career.


Lagniappe

Bill Burnett: 5 steps to designing the life you want - This Ted talk is based on a career/life planning book that I highly recommend and use in my coaching


The Case Against Loving Your Job - This Ezra Klein podcast presents some provocative ideas about work