Here is a New Year’s Resolution that should be easy to keep and may give you a different take on career fulfillment – it doesn’t even involve a gym membership or any sort of self deprecation. Expand your worldview. You can expand your worldview by reading a news article or even watching a movie. I’ve done both in the last 24 hours.
I watched Sleepwalk with Me, the quasi-autobiographical film written by and starring the comedian, Mike Birbiglia, and produced by Jacob Jaffke and This American Life’s, Ira Glass. Birbiglia’s character, Matt Pandamiglio, struggles to commit to his long-time girlfriend and his career while managing his sleep disorder. It’s not a Hollywood blockbuster. None of the characters live in outlandish homes or drive sports cars. It feels fairly realistic, and I came away feeling like I’d witnessed an evolution in Birbiglia’s character that those not good at keep New Year’s Resolutions could manage.
I read “A Pickpocket’s Tale: The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins” in The New Yorker, about the career of Apollo Robbins, a professional pickpocket who performs in Las Vegas, lectures at Yale, and always gives back what he steals. Robbins was born with motor skill deficits to a family with limited means in Springfield, Missouri. He was not marked for career success, “Everyone said, ‘He’s awfully flighty—he jumps from job to job,’ ” Robbins recalled. “But I would take what I needed and go. I figured I’ve only got so much time.” He moved to Las Vegas without the benefit of connections in show business and a young wife and child he sometimes barely managed to feed. He worked jobs many of us would not view as the definition of fulfillment, in a magic store and entertaining guests while they waited in line for dinner. I came away feeling like success was possible with common sense mixed with hard work and passion.
Both gave me the opportunity to witness the trajectory of careers I have little or, in the case of Robbins, no familiarity with. Both made my world a little bit bigger. But both demonstrated that, regardless of the uniqueness of career choice, many of us struggle at the start.