I come out of a generation of people who were told our entire lives to go to college so that we could get a degree and a high-paying job. We were told that so much, in fact, that it became an expectation– a contract if you will– on both sides. Our parents expected us to go to college and we expected to have that nice, cushy job in the end. Unfortunately I started to come of age during the recession, which meant more people were in school than expected, and lots of new graduates were fighting over jobs more than before. In fact, in many fields there is an over-saturation of educated people looking for the same job. Because of this, my peers began to enter the job market looking for entry level positions.
The limits of your environment
The fact of the matter is most of the people coming into the job market with 4-year degrees don’t have any experience in their field and aren’t qualified for a high paying position. My generation, being surrounded by people who aren’t getting higher wages or field-related positions, began to adopt the ideology that we’re not worth the pay. Since our work experience is limited, and the job value of those around us is nominal, we believe that we aren’t allowed to surpass those limitations.
Surrounding myself with people who broke past my limits.
It’s funny how the human brain puts up barriers for itself to conform to what it believes to be possible. When I moved to San Francisco for school, instead of making student friends, my first friends were professionals. Spending time with them allowed me to see their perspectives and attitude toward work and goal achievement compared to that of my student peers. What I noticed was that if they were confident in their abilities with a task, they expected more reciprocation as a result, and when others were involved, they received more compensation.
I applied that concept to my work and eventually had a great job as a Social Intelligence trainer at a start-up a year-and-a-half before leaving school, with plenty of room for growth. Meanwhile my friends were working minimum wage jobs. Many of them still are and still are. This made me think of other limitations we set ourselves. In sports, for example, the 4-minute mile was perceived to be the human limit for running a mile until Roger Bannister completed the mile in 3:59.4 in 1954. Once he broke through that ceiling, another person ran the four-minute mile less than a year afterward, and many have done so since then, to a point where now a 4-minute mile is the standard for top athletes to run.
Breaking through perceptions and creating new realities.
This has happened with many disciplines from sport to business, and the reason is: it was possible all along. The reason why so many people slingshot past the 4-minute mile in the past 65 years is because Roger Bannister broke the perceived reality of the running world. Bannister didn’t have a better technique– in fact it was pretty undisciplined compared to that of runners from today. Nor did he have some great new Nikes tested and designed for maximum performance. He had a mindset allowing him to believe it was possible to do the impossible. Once he did it, though, it became clear to the rest of the world that it had been possible all along, so they began to put in the effort and strive for it.
Enter an environment of broken limits. Be surrounded by those who are better than you.
The solution to breaking your limitations and achieving what you feel is impossible is: surround yourself with people who do what you can’t. You’ll learn a few things about how they engage their tasks and goals, and teach you what it is like to be on their level. Mentors are an important way for us to learn new skills and shift our mindset from “I can’t” to “I will.”
I know now that in order to have what others have, I must do what they do. And in order to know what they do, I must spend time with them to see what they do and know what is possible. In order to create success in my own life, I will constantly seek out mentors who have achieved what I want to achieve.