How do you know exactly what you want to do, or be, for the rest of your life at age 22?
You can’t … so relax.
That doesn’t mean you should just kick back, sit in the sunshine and expect life’s answers and goals to magically come your way. No, that’s not how it happens. You have to work for it.
Tip #1 - You should work your tickser off exploring (and studying) those areas that interest you RIGHT NOW. That effort will open doors for you. And when the doors open, run through and see what lies on the other side.
As an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Illinois, I developed a real passion for broadcasting when I visited WPGU, the campus TV and radio station. I had always been in awe of those I heard and saw on the broadcast airwaves since I was a small boy watching The Tonight Show and the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
I just didn’t think there was a way to study that in college. The visit to the U of I student station changed that. I plunged in, and did everything I could to learn the ropes of broadcasting.
The first day home the following summer, I dressed up in a sportcoat and tie and walked into the main lobby of WHBF-TV in Rock Island and asked if I could meet with the news director.
Minutes later, Gene Lewis, an experienced radio/TV man with a deep voice and a solid understanding of what it takes to make it in the business, came down the stairs and shook my hand, “I understand there’s an enterprising young college student who wants to work here for the summer.” Suddenly I knew this was my moment, “Yes sir! That’s me.”
I went upstairs for a quick interview and then he said, “Let’s see how you do reading copy.” He gave me a script and told me to get behind the microphone for a cold read. Again, I knew this was my moment.
Tip #2 – When your moment arrives, seize it!
I read that copy like I was Edward R. Murrow (google him) reporting from London in WW2 (google that as well). Mr. Lewis was impressed, and I started work there the following Monday.
Did I become a broadcaster for the rest of my life? No.
Tip #3 – Just because you are very interested in something right now doesn’t mean you will do it for the rest of your life. Things change, and so do you.
I went to law school after graduating from the U of I. And after passing the Illinois bar exam three years later, I was sworn in as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County. For the next eight years I prosecuted over 1,000 cases to verdict … anything from a speeding ticket to a triple homicide.
It was meaningful work, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to see the criminal justice system from the inside. I then joined a private law firm and did defense work and civil litigation. But the thrill was gone, and I knew I had to change course again.
Tip #4 – Never be afraid to change course. Ask for God’s guidance, and then figure out a new path. If you don’t, you will find yourself going to work every day, and WORK will become your enemy. Don’t let that happen. Please don't.
Is it easy to change course? No, it’s tough. Really tough. And in my case it meant going back to broadcasting for a lot less money. But it was worth it.
Tip #5 – Never do something only for the money. Having a paycheck is important, don’t get me wrong. But satisfaction in your work is much more important. Everyone has to learn that lesson on their own, in their own time.
So I went back to broadcasting and rediscovered how much I loved it. I hosted local TV morning shows around the country and eventually ended up doing travel programming for Spike TV.
And then … one day, I was shooting in the California Baja, doing some web searches, when I discovered that Biola was looking for a new broadcast professor. Huh?
Here I am. Teaching at Biola. It was never in the plans.
So get ready for the beautiful twists and turns in life. I am not saying it’s easy. It isn’t. But be open, explore, learn, work, work some more, make contacts, laugh a little, and that amazing journey will open up right in front of you.
Life is an improv, a big beautiful improv. Enjoy the journey.
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