Did you go home for Thanksgiving? If you did, maybe you did some contemplating about how you got where you are and where you are going. Should you go back to school? Ask for a raise? Tell the boss to take a hike? Write a business plan? Sit tight?
You should, as Dr. Laura would say, “do the right thing.” But its not always so easy to know what that is. And even if you do know, it may be much harder to actually do it.
Take the case of a college student who knew he would be better off building PCs to order, instead of staying in school. This is, of course, the story of Michael Dell. Young Michaels choice did not go down well in the Dell household. Thats what Alex Dell, Michaels father, told me at a recent Dell company reception. Mr. Dell, an orthodontist, was quite exercised when his son came home from school and said he wanted to quit school to dedicate all his time to the “business” he had been running from his dorm room.
The elder Dell thought the business plan of competing against IBM in the PC space was a bit, shall we say, unwise. Now, of course, the younger Dell has made Dad extravagantly proud and, through stock in the company, wealthy. Dad is glad he was wrong.
Several years ago, I asked Bill Gates what he would do if his daughter came home from Harvard with one semester to go and said she wanted to quit school to start a software company. He appreciated the irony of the question—he, of course, had done just that—and said hed want her to make sure that the school would take her back to complete her degree later.
Making the right career decision is like this, except you can seldom go back later. For every Bill Gates and Michael Dell who drop out of college to strike it rich, there are thousands more who drop out to their lasting detriment. Others may stay in school too long, missing what the real world has to offer.
So why were Gates and Dell right? Maybe they werent any more right than anyone else, but they had the commitment to see their decisions through. Maybe that commitment came from what they knew they had given up.
No job, however “attractive,” will be as beneficial to you as one to which you can make a wholehearted commitment. The secret is in finding where your true talents, motivations and loyalties reside. Only you can do that.