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Monday, November 16, 2009

On not being different from everyone else

One of my favorite bloggers is Penelope Trunk. She technically writes about career advice – but what she really writes about is her own life, what she’s learned and how she’s tried and failed and triumphed. She is unusual in that she is willing to be absolutely (sometimes brutally) honest about things that most people – especially people who write about careers – sweep under a smiling, soft focus exterior.

I just came across this post of hers from a while ago, about bloggers and the tendency to think of their field as unlike any other that has come before. She could just as easily be talking about our field – a field so strange and unique I’m not even sure what to call it. Aha! See how I do this without even thinking? I’m so special there isn’t even a WORD for what I do.

Here is what she says about this, and she is right on:
One of the most dangerous things you can do in your career is to think you are different from everyone else. The biggest validation of that idea comes in AA meetings – it is widely understood by this group that thinking you're different is just an excuse not to get help, an excuse to think you live outside what we already know to be true. It's a dangerous way to live because you are reinventing the wheel for yourself and you risk just spinning in place.

Also this:
Very few of us ever have a totally unique career problem. Most problems come down to five or ten situations that happen all the time. I think we get clouded by the specifics of our own story, and that makes us unable to see why we are just like everyone else. Each person's details are different, but the problems we have repeat themselves over and over again—especially in careers. That's why a community of people helping each other with their careers works so well.

Fact is, whether it’s theater or dance or dance theater or performance or live art or conventional or classical or experimental – it’s still

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