Of the many pillars of wisdom that hold up my position as career coach to the stars, perhaps the most important is this: the only way to figure out what you really want to do with your life is to experiment. This idea is discussed at length in Herminia Ibarra's book, "Working Identity," which is the title I most frequently recommend to clients.
The thing about experiments is that you can never really predict how they are going to come out, and that's a good thing! When you create experiments--whether they be an informational interview, a class in vegan dessert-making, or a trip down the Amazon--you combine intention with an openness to serendipity. So often you'll get great insights, although on completely different topics than the experiment was intended to address.
Here's an example from my own fascinating life.
A few weeks ago, I signed up for a novel-writing class run by a woman named Elizabeth Merrick. I signed up for this because for some time I've carried around ideas for a soon-to-be-bestselling novel called "Manhattan Husbands," but wanted some structure to, you know, actually write it.
Each of us (me and nine women) was paired with a partner. My partner turned out to be a woman who had introduced herelf as a shoe expert and poet on the first day of class. "A shoe expert?" I exclaimed to myself. "Oy!"
I met my shoe expert partner, Meghan Cleary, in her office, a funky surprisingly nice place in the Village at the end of one exhausting day to discussed our writing assignment for the week. Meghan was quite fascinated by business and wanted to know about my marketing, media plan, rates. Somewhat shyly, I shared with her my new, improved rate structure--not wanting to overwhelm her with my gargantuan business savvy.
She reflected silently for a moment. "You should add another thousand dollars to your day rate, at least. And you definitely need more press coverage and media attention. You can make way more than you're making." Etc. etc.
It turns out that Megan (www.missmeghan.com) really IS a shoe expert, and a famous one, and one who charges and gets beaucoup bucks for her work. She's written a book, marketed it, has been all over the shoe-related and general press, and fields calls every day from leading department stores and manufacturers wanting a piece of her! Before launching this business, she'd done a couple of start-ups and worked for years in marketing for places like Deutsche Bank. And she gave me a lot of trenchant, very useful marketing, branding and general business advice.
So, to sum up:
Experiment: take fiction writing class to see if my book idea has legs
Result (so far): got great ideas about how to make more more MORE money in my coaching business, and also achieve fame.
Lesson: don't overthink your experiments! Just do them, and see what happens.