Why it’s never too late to test a new career direction

A vision is not a destination. It’s a direction.

In 1972, Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney Animation Studios created a 3D computer animation of his own hand together with a colleague (you can watch it right here). It took him decades more before finally fulfilling his dream of creating a full-featured computer animated film. Many people would have quit and gone on to something else. For Catmull, he says “a vision is not a destination. It’s a direction.”

For many of us, discovering our own vision to serve as a direction for our lives will often prove difficult. For 20 years, I spent my career in the IT industry with companies like Nokia and Check Point. But last year, I made the decision to take the proverbial road less travelled, and become an entrepreneur.

The choice to start something new was intentional, even though things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Discovering purpose

Now, why did I make this choice, to leave a steady-income regional role in a global MNC for the uncertainty of a startup? One of my most memorable moments at work was at the beginning of my career, with Nokia New Zealand. This was a time when Nokia was growing phenomenally, and I remember thinking “I can move the world”.

For 20 years, I was tapped on the shoulder for new roles. I took on regional and global roles, managing, at one point, a team of 110 people. But somehow I felt I’d lost that connectedness to the impact I was making in the world. Innately, I was always looking to be useful, to do something greater than myself. I had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder.

My career has always been human-centric. Looking back, all the dots I’ve connected were linked to services. It reinforced this ideal of making work more personal, because we all have different needs in life. I was certainly blind to what I wanted.

About eight years ago, I had a friend, who was the head of a conglomerate in Europe, and he said to me: “You would be good in the HR consulting side.” I dismissed this idea. And here I am now, doing the very thing he suggested. Today, I am helping organisations build great teams for impact.

Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face, but you’re blind to it. Likewise, for a lot of people, finding their life’s purpose — their calling — isn’t easy. Hindsight just makes this seem easy.

According to research by Standford University’s Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, who teach a course on “Designing Your Life”: “…maybe only two or three out of ten people actually have a passion that they’ve identified, that they can work into. We believe that actually, passion turns out to be what you develop after you find the things that you enjoy doing.”

At 42, I made this mid-career change, and have found great energy in this direction that I’m taking, because it’s a direction that I’ve tested my whole life — a pattern of helping purpose-driven organisations create real impact in people’s lives.

And you know what? I look forward to discovering what’s round the corner.

Is there a direction you want to test?

Roger Grant helps organisations unlock ideas that facilitate innovation by helping people do great work. He believes good ideas can come from anywhere. Before Personna, Roger created innovative customer-centric technology services for 18 years, working for companies like Check Point Technologies, IBM and Nokia.

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