How to Customize Your Life and Not Settle

  “You wouldn’t believe the jobs I can’t even get. I go for jobs and people just look at me like, ‘Why haven’t you done something by now?’ I wish someone had told me to think about my resume a long time ago.” ~31 year old female client of Dr. Meg Jay

“You can’t pull some great career out of a hat in your thirties. You’ve got to start in your twenties.” ~ 41 year old male client of Dr. Meg Jay, advice he wants his son to know when he is twenty.

Ian (the same client Dr. Meg Jay spoke of on the topic of a search for glory) was having trouble committing to a job for a couple reasons, not wanting to limit himself and not settling being the main reasons. Ian was led to believe he could do anything, so naturally Ian wanted something unique. He did not want to settle for the normal 9 – 5 desk job.

I have to admit, I was like Ian. I did not want to be limited or restricted to a desk either. It is part of the reason why I ended up as a film major.

I think it is common for twentysomethings to think this way, especially Millennials. We’re dreamers. We dream big and want to take part in something bigger. We want to be different by making a difference. Working a 9 – 5 desk job hardly feels like a way to fulfill that dream.

When talking to Ian about his hesitation to settle for the norm, Dr. Meg Jay had the following response…

“I’m not talking about settling. I’m talking about starting. Twentysomethings who don’t get started wind up with blank resumes and out-of-touch lives only to settle far more down the road. What’s so original about that?”

What’s so original about that? Nothing.

Still, it can be hard for twentysomethings to understand and accept this concept. In Ian’s case, Dr. Meg Jay found a way to get through to him by applying Ian’s passion of customizing his bike, to his life.

Ian’s main mode of transportation was his bike. He was not a dirt bike racer nor was he a mountain biker. He liked the customized bike because it was a way to convey himself to the world. He explained how he started with a generic bike and overtime he made the upgrades he wanted. After a while he got the result he wanted but he still has to put in some extra work to maintain the upkeep of a customized bike. To Ian the bike said that he was “a product of different parts, someone who cannot be defined by a label.”

Dr. Meg Jay took this opportunity to explain that…

“Ian’s life could be personalized and changeable, but it was going to take some time and effort – and he would probably need to start with some common parts. Having an uncommon life wasn’t going to come from resisting these choices, it was going to come from making these choices. Same as the bike.”

This resonated with Ian. He could picture starting somewhere and then being able to add parts to his career to get him to the uncommon life he wanted.

This is where the difference is. Ian was not settling; he was starting. We all need to start somewhere. Then we find the chances to customize our own unique life.

The best place to start is somewhere you have talents and an interest. In my next post we will talk about how to get started.

This starting process was true for me too. I got started by jumping on an internship at Sesame Workshop. Now I have a job as a Production Assistant. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the most basic entry level position in film and video. Nothing special about it at all and thousands of people do it. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful, I’m just saying that the position is not unique. It is the normal way to get started in the business. I now have the opportunity to learn new skills and experiences, the parts to my customized career. Maybe in the next year or so I can use those parts to make a bigger update with a change in position. Whatever happens, I cannot and could not make these changes without first starting as a Production Assistant  And I never would have been a Production Assistant if I didn’t start with an internship.

Hear what Ian had to say after he took a position in Washington D.C. as a digital designer…

“Above all else in my life, I feared being ordinary. Now I guess you could say I had a revelation of the day-to-day. I finally got it there’s a reason everybody in the world lives this way – or at least starts out this was – because this is how it’s done.”

This is how it’s done. Don’t settle, customize.


*All quotes from this post and this post series come from The Defining Decade and should be accredited to Dr. Meg Jay.*


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14 thoughts on “How to Customize Your Life and Not Settle

  1. You never fail to make me think Katie. I suppose this is what I have been doing all along, even though I didn’t know it. Many of my fellow students had certain expectations of salary or other things when considering their first “real” job. I ended up taking on of the first jobs offered to me because I just wanted to get in and get some experience. It has worked at well for me and I think I am well on my way to “customizing” my career down the road. Thanks!

    • That’s great! I’m sure there are also a lot of people who kind of just naturally fall into this pattern because they were lucky enough to have someone tell them or they just thought that was the way to do it from seeing people before. I think I just fell into it honestly. I just kind of assumed you go to college, you go on internship, you apply for an entry position somewhere and then the rest would go from there. Either way, glad you’re doing well and you liked the post. 🙂 Always a pleasure, Nick.

  2. Hmm, definitely know the feelings on this one. I graduated from college and went right into what I thought was a Most Unglamorous Job. But my path within it hasn’t been ordinary and it’s been one customized part after another. I need to send this to my sis. She’s right at the point in her life where this message would resonate. Great insight!

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    • Go for it! If you do, lets link our posts. I love having related articles that can bring readers to different blogs. It helps create a supportive online community. Which I also love!

  4. Pingback: Starting vs settling « sweetlyindecisive

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  6. Nice post Katie. This feeling isn’t new to Millennials, but has persisted among the young throughout the last several generations (since the 60’s). I think the assumption that desk jobs are “settling” is born of misunderstanding what happens in those jobs and the way our economy works. TV Studios cannot create programming without accountants, HR people, IT, lawyers, marketing people and others. We need to do a better job of letting people know what jobs exist now and are likely to exist in the future (my company is pushing universities to create “data scientist” majors, since it will be a huge need now and in the future). In most industries, the most intellectually challenging positions are traditional desk jobs. This is a great article directly on the point you raise.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting on my post, Steve! I think you’re right. The source of the problem comes from the youth being misinformed. I say the youth because it starts from a young age. Children are influenced and then when applying for college they have created their own assumptions about what their future could be like and what they think they want. Too many decisions are being made on assumptions.

      I love the “data scientist” idea for a new major, or creating whole new majors. Creating new majors based off of what type of jobs are most needed and what qualifications you need now. I feel like students are making up for job qualifications they don’t have by creating a minor. I like minors, but if a job like accounting now requires you to also know coding and programming why not add these classes to the major instead of adding an IT minor?

      These are just some thoughts I have. Students, high school and college, should do their research on what jobs and qualifications are in high demand, then make a decision.

      I’m definitely going to look at article in more detail later and share with my followers on twitter and facebook as well!

      Thanks again, Steve!

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