“You Can Fail at What You Don’t Want”: Profound Leadership Advice from Jim Carrey
How do you “become successful”? Even though you’ve grown your business into a small, relatively thriving enterprise, you’ve hit a plateau, or you’ve started to worry about tanking sales numbers and cash flow issues. “Becoming successful” or “reaching for your dreams” sounds nice, but you’re dealing with real world problems. Down in the thickets of your business, you may believe that you don’t have time to envision grander things.
In the pursuit of an ideal life, some individuals play it safe to their own detriment. In a commencement speech to graduates at the Maharishi University of Management, comedian and actor Jim Carrey drew on his own life experiences to explain the perils of this approach to life.
Carrey cited his father as an example of what can happen when people abandon their dreams in favor of a more secure life. Rather than nurturing his talent for comedy and pursuing a career in that field, he took a job offering a steady paycheck and benefits. This allowed him to take care of his family… until, that is, he lost this job. As a result, Carey’s family struggled financially for many years afterwards. Reflecting on his dad’s sad fate, Carey warned his audience: You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on what you love.
Perhaps learning this difficult lesson from his father helped Carrey pursue his own dream more enthusiastically and break though to become a legend in the comedy industry.
Several lessons emerge from Carey’s speech that you should find both challenging and encouraging as a leader of an organization in the throes of crisis or change:
- Don’t mistake fear for practicality. Choosing a safe option may seem like the responsible decision for your future and for your company’s future, but this desire for security often reflects a sense of uncertainty about whether you deserve – or can succeed in – the position or role you’ve always wanted.
- Stop rejecting possibilities. Once you convince yourself that there is no way you can achieve the goals you have set for yourself and for your team and your company, you’re almost certain to fail. To paraphrase Henry Ford, he who says he can and he who says he can’t are generally both right. When it comes to success, you must believe you can do it.
- You can still fail at the “wrong things.” Trying to make yourself fit into an unsuitable career — or to force your company to be something it’s fundamentally not — because it seems “safe” is no guarantee you will succeed. In fact, you may be more likely to fail, if you have little or no interest or passion. And you certainly will be less likely to motivate your team to march forward behind you.
- Take a chance on your passion. Each person gets one life. Pursue what you care about. You will do better work and motivate your team to bring their A Game.
It may seem easy for an Oscar-winning celebrity multi-millionaire to stand in front of a crowd of young people and speak of dreams in such a bold way. However, Carey’s journey from humble beginnings to a fantastic career shows he understands the challenges leaders face and proves that fear can be beaten.
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