There are two caveats when it comes to going beyond rules in your work and building an interesting life that suits you:
- Failure is under-reported. A success is a great story and will be covered in the news, shared in books and speeches far and wide. A failure won’t get any coverage at all, unless you’re talking to your best friend (or your counselor). Learning almost exclusively about success makes you biased towards trying, putting the availability heuristic into play – which gives you an inflated expectation of success.
- Here’s the flipside, though: Few try. Despite the availability heuristic, almost nobody actually stops doing what she’s expected to do and starts doing what she wants to do instead. Almost nobody even considers going beyond rules; even less pull through with it.
One more thing: While the availability heuristic does indeed matter, it entails another dimension: It is biased towards the superstars.
It’s extremely memorable to see how Paul Potts goes from mobile phone salesman to opera singer after a remarkable presentation on a horrible TV show, cashing in several million bucks. But you seldom see people who took a leap of faith years ago and are “merely” doing fine. They may not be rich, beautiful and famous. But they are making a living. They love their life. They have found meaning in it, and they live up to it.1
If this kind of people are introverts, they might never tell anyone outside their immediate families. They might just not think of it as a big deal. If you live in a little town or operate within a smaller peer group, chances are you’ll never hear about any of them – even though there are, indeed, millions!
So how about your specific area, your very own dream? Your plan to revolutionize the modern art scene with putty and polaroids? Won’t that be impossible?
Think about this: Even if you’d have to be “one in a million” to make it, that would still mean that there is a place for more than 7.000 people in this world doing that exact thing.
Few actually try to do it. How about you?
- To prove my point, who does know what Paul Potts is doing right now? That TV show happened about six years ago. I hope he’s still happy! [↩]