Find Your Instrument and Pursue Your Dream

I believe everybody has their own instrument, but maybe they just never took the time to find it.

As I looked up from the TV, I saw a 9-year-old piano prodigy who has two Ted talks under his belt. He is known as The Little Piano Man. This young man is wise beyond his years. He started playing the piano at 3 years of age, and carried the interview I watched better than adults.

What struck me was that at such a young age, he has interpreted what and how to approach life. He has a passion for the piano and uses it as a metaphor for life.

We all have hopes and dreams. Some of us sit on the sidelines and hope our dreams will happen. A small minority of us gets up every morning, straps on our gear and gets into the game. On some of those days, you win; just as easily, some days you are defeated. The key however is to continue the process. There is a saying, “Fall seven but get up eight.”

What is your instrument?

In speaking with people about careers, it is just amazing how many are on treadmill and going through nowhere. They marvel at what others are doing. They dream of what they want but, for the most part, make no serious effort toward realizing it. They are waiting for the right moment.

My advice: There will never be an opportune time to do it. Once you have figured out your dream, then every day keep some aspect of it in sight.

Just do it

I have a lawyer friend who boasts about how good his barbeque is. His ultimate dream is to own a restaurant or a food truck. However, he uses every excuse in the book to procrastinate. He is experimenting with a new rub. He is having a tasting. He is working on his sauce. He is trying a new wood. The list goes on, but never a step in the direction of getting on with it. I love Nike’s slogan which sums up all: “Just Do It!”

Last conversation we had he was in the process of trying a new seasoning. I basically shut down the conversation.

Careers are tricky

We all start out with destination in mind. What do you want to be when you grow up? We were asked that as kids. You ask any young person and they will come back with an answer. But over a period of time they either solidify what they want, or find themselves every Monday morning staring at some other destination.

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In mentoring young people, I am amazed at how many young people come out of college and just proceed along this imagining route, hoping that it comes into focus. What happens though, is eventually they will wake up one day in a stupor. Hating their job and their life.

To see this young piano man and realize that at nine he has figured out his instrument — his pursuit of it — is mind boggling. More power to him.

The old paradigm is over

The old “staying onboard till the gold watch” is, for the most part, nonexistent. Those I knew who took advantage of this were miserable, just hanging on till the end. All their excitement about finding out who they are and pursing that dream had vanished somewhere along the line.

They never found their instrument, and after a while just gave up. They settled for what they had and kept their head down. My hope is that everyone would spend as much time as possible trying to find their own formula, their own instrument. A lot of dysfunction in the workplace, I have always maintained, is due to people being miserable in their circumstances and their job. If they could have just found the secret ingredient, their entire existence would have been 180 degrees different.

So this Brandon the pianist has a message for all of us. We all have instruments, but the mystery of life is to not only identify ours, but master playing it.

If a 9-year-old can figure it out, surely we can .

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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