Last week, after tennis lessons, Mayhem told me about a conversation she had with some friends. She said it was about what they wanted to be when they grow up.
Having gotten to know her pals pretty well, as well as what their parents do, I was curious about her friends’ ambitions. Mayhem explained that one wants to be an engineer while another wants to be a teacher.
So then I asked if she shared what she wants to be, and she replied, “sort of”. When I pressed for more information, she said, “I told them I want to be a professional tennis player.” There was a long hesitation before she added, “But I didn’t tell them about all my slashes.”
Slashes, as in: “I want to be a professional tennis player SLASH designer SLASH pizza maker SLASH artist SLASH dancer SLASH writer SLASH actor SLASH baker SLASH YouTuber.”
When I asked why she didn’t share her slashes, she told me it was because she had shared them with another friend and that particular friend giggled and told her “well, when you grow up, you’re going to have to pick one because you can only have one job.”
So I sat Mayhem down, looked her straight in the eye and said, “I really like your friends, they’re sweet kids. And anyone, kid or adult, who tells you that you have to do just one thing is wrong. Dead wrong. And don’t you ever ever EVER listen to that.”
And then I let loose on a few examples that quickly came to mind (that she would know):
Venus Williams (tennis pro SLASH designer)
Zac Posen (designer SLASH cookbook author)
Selena Gomez (singer SLASH actress)
Ron Howard (yes, she knows Opie because Keith makes her watch The Andy Griffith show – actor SLASH director)
George Clooney (actor SLASH activist SLASH tequila billionaire) Fine, she doesn’t know George, but he’s a good example.
We followed that conversation with a discussion about Shark Tank, a regular watch in our house. We talked about how the ‘sharks’ have built businesses in one industry, but then become investors in other businesses that interest them. And how that’s a great way for people work their slashes.
Mayhem then asked me if I thought she could really do a lot of her slashes at once and I asked her to give me her current top career pick. She quickly came back with “professional tennis player”. This was no surprise as she’s built a pretty strong love for the game over the past year.
And then we built a plan.
We know how very much dedication it takes to be a tennis pro, so that will clearly have to be the priority. There will be hours of practicing every single day. [Tennis Pro – check] But why can’t that be documented in writing? Or video? Write a blog post every week about your training. [Writer – check] Or better yet, do a ‘confessional style’ video everyday after your workout and talk about what you did that day. [YouTuber – check] Talk about how hard it was, or what you’re struggling with. Share your triumphs. And the smoothie recipe that is currently rocking your world. Or better yet, have a ‘pizza aficionado’ section on your blog where you share your best pizza finds as you travel to tennis tournaments. [Pizza maker – getting there]
Maybe you can’t spend the time right now on actually designing your own collection, but you can definitely focus on fashion in the tennis world. Customize the heck out of your own outfits – feel free to take what’s available and alter it to your heart’s desire. Color your shoes, cut the sleeves off the top, tie dye the whole damn thing. And then one day, Nike takes note and says “hey yo, how about you help us design our next collection?!” [Designer – check] And then you get to be in the commercial too. [Actor – check]
Start interviewing everyone you can for your own content. Other players, coaches, trainers, nutritionists, chefs, anyone you come in contact with. And share the bits you can. When and how you can. Blogs, YouTube, social channels. Find and perfect a healthy pizza recipe that a tennis pro can eat once a week and stay on track, and then share it with the world.
We could’ve kept going, but she got the point.
And then she asked me why other people think that you have to be just one thing, and I told her it’s because they just don’t know. I told her that I believe people mean well when they say that to her, but it’s because either their knowledge or experience is limited. And I told her that it really is how the world use to work. Back in the olden days 😉 We talked about how people would become educated or skilled in a certain craft, and then they just did that one thing for the rest of their ‘working lives’.
But times have changed and to not see how very much opportunity is out there for each person, is to not see the world as it really is. To not hone ‘other skills’ while perfecting a certain craft, would be foolish. What happens if you get hurt playing tennis? What are you going to do then? What happens if it turns out you don’t really like making pizza but you just like eating it? Developing other skills and being flexible is the best way to guarantee that you’ll be able to move through life working on things you enjoy.
I left her with a final thought – be sure to update your slashes: add, subtract, multiply and divide them as frequently as needed. You’ve only got one life, so own your slashes.