Growing Fruit Trees

I’m trying my best to live a purposeful and meaningful life. I recently read “Outliers”, by Malcolm Gladwell (#latepass), and he focuses on successful people and what they all have in common – commonalities that make them outliers in their fields. The basic gist, or main idea that I came away with is that they all engaged in meaningful work; work that caused them to work harder to get to their desired and ideal outcome (i.e., success). While their success was in direct proportion to how hard they worked, it was only because they were working to produce specific fruits of their labor, or as I like to call them, success fruit trees. I think about my professional career, and while it enables me to live comfortably, it’s not terribly fulfilling in the grand scheme of life. I don’t feel passionately invested in what I’m doing; I don’t feel a deep connection to what my focus is and what the outcomes are; and more importantly, there isn’t an evident direct “I’m contributing to the betterment of the universe” result with what I’m doing. Essentially, my work isn’t growing any fulfilling success fruit trees.

Another sub point in the book is the idea that all of those people were blessed with once in a lifetime opportunities, even if they didn’t realize they were opportunities at the time. The challenges they may have encountered that appeared to be obstacles actually set them up to be more focused on the end result, enabled them to be passionate, and forced them to grind even harder, resulting in them reaching amazing levels of success. It caused me to take a pause and ponder all of the opportunities I’ve encountered throughout my life, especially my childhood. I grew up very lower middle class, but had excellent teachers that took an interest in me and my development. There were those that took me to museums and epic overnight read-a-thons with other book nerds (back when your parents trusted teachers), those that signed me up for special summer science programs, or those that picked me as a kid that would benefit from gifted and talented and advanced reading programs. Those experiences set me up to gain more holistic knowledge than many of my peers, and in essence, allowed me to grasp new concepts more quickly and be more successful in my primary school education. When I got a little older, I had a wonderful mentor who helped me land my first “corporate” job at 17, as a file clerk. I was able to get promoted at that company three times, and when I became pregnant with my first child at 19, it kept me out of poverty.

Me Daddy and Kerbye

Those opportunities MATTERED, because they showed me how life could be, and showed me that success was achievable, despite my circumstances, especially if I worked hard enough. Did I still experience hardships and discrimination along the way? Hell yeah. I was a very young, bi-racial Black woman in a predominantly older, white male company. However, I’d be a fool to ignore the fact that my complexion helped to “soften” the blow of my ethnicity and Black-apparent name. Those opportunities have taken me far, and have taught me a valuable lesson: the art of finding and recognizing new, career-propelling opportunities.

Yearbook Photo

So, why am I complaining? I’m beginning to experience some level of stagnancy in my current career and industry. I’ve worked hard and even earned a graduate degree, but that accomplishment didn’t seem to do anything but add $40k in debt to my financial picture. Why do I feel this way? Well, I have a friend (who I’m very proud of, by the way), who has worked hard and excelled in her career, and is currently in a role that’s fairly equivalent to mine, but she doesn’t have the same level of formal education that I have. It doesn’t make me bitter, of course, but it makes me question the validity of my schooling. After reading Outliers, I backtracked on that mindset and have come to realize that my degree didn’t propel me farther, because I was already entrenched in an industry that didn’t and doesn’t value such accolades – an industry that I’ve become increasingly less satisfied with. On the flip side, my friend is rocking her career, because she is passionate about it, and is seriously growing her own success fruit tree.

Photo courtesy of Donald Darling Photography

Typically, at the end of my posts, I try to leave my readers with some sort of call-to-action, or some advice that urges them to evaluate how my post relates to their lives. This time, though, I need to be the recipient of the advice. If you’ve made a switch in your professional life, or, if you feel that you are kicking ass and growing success fruit trees in your sleep, what advice can you give ME? What tips and tricks did you implement in your life that has led you to where you are now? Leave me a comment or send me a message!

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