Cheerleaders > Doomsayers: It May Not Sound Realistic To You, But That Doesn't Mean It's Wrong Changes in life and career trajectories can sometimes sound alarming, but you don't need to be the one to ring the bell.
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The other day, a friend of mine who recently quit his job (with plans to take time off from work) was telling me about the onslaught of negative feedback he got from most of his peers when they heard of his decision. "They said my career would be irrevocably hurt if I were to 'do nothing' for a few months," he told me. He explained that he had quite enough financially out aside, but still "they couldn't foresee anything but doomsday scenarios in my future."
Hearing the reaction my friend got for the break he wanted to take from his career stirred up a memory in me- I had experienced something similar about 10 years ago when I decided to exit my then career in software development and embark on one in journalism instead. At the time, pretty much everyone around me told me that I was making an extremely wrong decision for my life and my future. I was told that not only would the move into a new field not work out, it would also lay to waste all of the work I had done to climb up the career ladder to reach my then role as an analyst programmer.
I'm pretty sure that many of you entrepreneurs will have similar tales to share from when you told people around you about your decision to start a business of your own - there's often a bevy of apparently well-meaning individuals around wannabe startup founders telling them to disregard their ambitions and focus on "normal" jobs instead. In fact, I'd venture to say that entrepreneurs in the MENA region are especially susceptible to such remarks, given all of the norms that are characteristic of cultures and societies here. One wonders how many among us have had to see their dreams get dashed before they even make an attempt to realize them.
So, why is it that most of us are so inclined to disparage the decisions made by our compatriots, whether it be to follow through on pursuits that they are passionate about, or even just to take a break from work? Sure, the argument could be made that such comments are made with the aim to prevent people from making choices that have the possibility of jeopardizing their lives and careers, but what about the alternative- i.e. what if your (unsolicited) opinions are what's blocking them from going down routes that could see them become the most successful, most purposeful, or simply the happiest and healthiest versions of themselves?
The fact remains that none of us can predict the future, and that alone should make us think twice before putting a roadblock on someone else's pursuits. I can personally testify to the fact that while journalism ended up being an incredibly grueling industry to work in, 10+ years later, I remain steadfast in my belief that it was the absolute best decision I made for myself. That's why I cheered my friend along as he took what I consider to be a well-deserved break from his job- I like to think that supporting him in his decisions on how he wants to go about life and work is a much more fruitful activity than simply dissing him and his choices.
And I'd imagine that's what anyone setting out on an entrepreneurial endeavor would appreciate as well. Changes in life and career trajectories can sometimes sound alarming, but you don't need to be the one to ring the bell.