Everyone wishes to have a dream job and be well paid for it, but not many are ready to actually do things required to get that well-paid dream job. Even knowing that the end result well worth the struggle. First step — draw the map to the job of your dreams, find out the route you want to take and decide not to be scared to get lost time to time.
I have been interested in psychology since I can remember myself and I’ve always dreamed to help people and got kick out of it if I was given the chance to do so. My dream job description was always fuzzy, I knew one thing for sure, though, I need to help people. So on my list were always jobs like dentist, plastic surgeon, fashion designer, cartoonist, writer (love stories or fairy tales), fitness trainer, well, every single one that includes making people feel good about themselves. Honestly, I did not realize that up until couple of years ago. And about two years or so ago I came across motivational speakers (oh, holy youtube, you opened up my eyes) and since then I couldn’t help but wish to do just that, motivate people to better their lives, help them to be happier, inspire them to strive to be better versions of themselves.. My desire slowly grew, but I still felt like it’s a fairy tale type of job and that it is unlikely that I could get a job like that. But listening to motivational speakers often does crazy things to you.. You begin to wonder first, allowing yourself just for one second think «I can do this, can’t I?!», then those seconds turn into minutes, then hours, then days.. Then «can’t I?!» turns into «I think I can, I would really love to» and many doubts battling those positive thoughts slowly became overpowered by them. Slowly…
Recently I stumbled upon a video on Youtube, that really caught my attention. I think it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.. (Thanks Till 🙂) I was finally persuaded, that I can, in fact, do what I love. Of course there are doubts, but I set them aside now with much less effort, and I actually am taking small steps and feel that I’m moving towards that dream job.. I decided to retype his speech here and definitely translate it into Russian with added discussion, review sort of style.
Here we go, the speech: Topic in TEDx talks «Forget university? 4 steps to design your own education» by Till H. Groß.
So at 19 I decided I want to become the best therapist in the world, and for this reason I was super excited to finally leave high school and go to university in order to study. And I had pretty high expectations for university. First of all- mentors! I thought my professors will be like my mentors or like open books who I can ask questions and bounce ideas off, second of all, I thought university itself designed to give me skill in my profession, and thing number 3, I thought that, unlike in high school, in university my fellow students would actually be passionate about learning and discovering new ideas about psychology.
Then, arriving at the university I was confronted with reality, and most of my professors were not like my mentors, they were just underpaid and overworked and often did not have time to get back to my emails . Secondly, university itself was not designed to give you skill in your profession but it was rather about how good you are at taking exams. And the third thing is that most of my peers did not really care about studying but rather complained that books were boring and there was too much stuff to read. So pretty soon I noticed that university itself would not bring me closer to my goal of becoming the best personal therapist I could be. So pretty soon I decided to go with the quote by Mark Twain, who once famously said «I have never let schooling interfere with my education».
And that’s what I would do from then on. On a side I would finish my degree simply because it’s necessary in psychology in order to earn a certain standing, but then I would devote most of my time to take my education into my own hands. That would mean that over the last years I would try on number of things, how can I, basically, educate myself and bunch of things didn’t work out . And couple of things worked out. And over the last years I figured out exactly four things that are helpful if you want to design your own education. And you know, here at the beginning it is really important for me to say that it’s just my experience ! I don’t think it’s the right way and I don’t think it’s the best way, I’m 22y.o I have not figured it out all yet. But maybe some of the things might be helpful for some people.
Before I start I want to emphasize exactly the things we are talking about. And I want to tell you how I managed to get the therapy and coaching education worth 25000€ without paying a single cent for it , and secondly how you can learn from super star mentors, and how I managed to learn from Nobel prize winners and best-selling authors and founders of the whole second therapy direction. How I also managed to give talks all over Germany and Austria at the age of 19 sometimes infront of two or three thousand people, and how I managed to be the guest lecturer at the university of Vienna when I was 20. And for those of you who still care about traditional and formal education, those techniques are also helped me, though we will not talk about it, but also helped me to get the exchange scholarship for top 10 universities in the world, despite having shitty grades.
So, let’s start. My story basically begins here. At 18 I broke my left arm, and back then I was a professional basketball player, so breaking my arm would mean I couldn’t play for half a year. And before this, since I was 12, I had two times practice a day, games on weekend. So this would mean I had spare time for, like literally, the first time. And dad, kind of, jumped on this opportunity and he was a therapist back then, and he offered me to read books about psychology for him. Then record it so he could listen to the recordings in his car. And at the beginning I did it just because he paid me way too much money for this, so I started to read dozens and dozens of books over half a year simply because he paid me. And then at one point I started to get interested in it myself.
So I had my first foot in the door of the psychology field , and then I started to read those books on my own. And then I did something back then, and I did it unknowingly, but now I understand the importance of this, and this is the thing number one. If you want to become good at something you need to 1. Develop skill. And some of you might think — «of course, if you want to become good at something you need skill, obviously». But here is the thing: just think how many college graduates come out of university with hardly any skill that they can apply in real life. And if you go to university or your kids go to the university ask yourself or ask them «am I really learning anything? Am I getting better at anything?» And if you just cram the night before exams or just study for multiple choice test — the answer is probably NO.
So what should you do instead? I did two things. One of the things was deep work, as Cal Newport calls it, and the deep work is that I not only read the books, I read the books and then summarized them in my own words, and then I explained it to other people. If you do this, you grasp the real deep meaning of the stuff that you read. The second thing that I did was deliberate practice. So, I would invite classmates over, when I was 18-19, and try all kind of coaching techniques on them, record those sessions, send it to my dad and he would give me feedback on the process. By doing that for a half a year, step by step, I was able to develop a certain level of skill, which I then could leverage in the next step, to do other things. And at this point, unnoticeably, at one point I, kind of, hit the ceiling.
So, I was thinking «hey, I’m okay with it now, but how to become really good?» And then I would think «hey, the answer to the question — how to become really good at something — I already know!», because back then I managed to go from humble beginnings in basketball — this is the lowest league in Germany- to, exactly seven years later, play in one of the highest league in Germany and actually top score in my last game against current jump champion of the Berlin. So I was thinking «how did I manage to go there?» The first thing, obviously — certain amount of talent, second thing — certain amount of hard work, obviously, but this got me only to a certain level. And I was thinking, what always got me to the next level? And to the bunch of really lucky opportunities I often had the chance to play with players who were way better than me, and I noticed that if you want to become really good at something, you should 2. learn from the best. Because back then, of course, the competition was better players, and that would have made me better, but also adapting the work ethic and the work habits . And people completely underestimate the difference between the work ethic and the work habits of average players and pros. I’m telling you, pros not only work harder but they work way way harder. And that’s what I started to do. Adapting the work ethic and the work habits of those people around me. And for example back then, we were 16-17 and all my friends, I was living with them, went out 5 o’clock in the morning before school to practice jump shots, and if everybody around you starts doing that , you also start adapting it. I became better than I would have been otherwise, if I just stayed with an average team.
So what I did then was, because I knew how to become good at something, I applied this lesson to psychology. And what I would do, I would reach out to my favorite authors, to founders of whole therapy school and so on and so on. And now I wanna give you the example of the first time ever I reached out to somebody and I made a bunch of mistakes here, so don’t worry. I reached out to this guy, for example, and he is the best paid coach in Europe, he is the best selling author and he runs huge seminars, so I would start out by reading his stuff, I read everything, and then I would write him a letter, and in this letter I stated how important it would be for me to actually learn from him and for whatever reason I had back then, the exact same letter, I printed out three times, and sent him the exact same letter three times, for whatever reason. And, obviously, didn’t get an answer. More emails, more letters, more emails, more letters, no answer. And then I would think «maybe I should do something different» and among other things this guy was working with hypnosis, and if you have any idea about hypnosis, this would seem pretty weird. So, what I did was, I wrote him a letter which at the same time was a trans induction, so, it would read the following: » ..and while your eyes glide across the lines you can start to relax more and more and understand how important everything in this letter might be for you..» And I sent it to him and finally got an answer. And I was so happy that I got an answer that I didn’t even care that it was a «NO». But a few emails later and few weeks later he actually agreed and I got my first scholarship worth 3500€ and actually went on in order to learn from him face to face.
So, by this I wanna show you that it’s actually possible to reach out to those people. I made a bunch of mistakes here, and I think the biggest mistake I made here that I just focused on what I can get, and if you want to learn from a person that is on a higher level than you , you should focus on what you can give to the other person. And this can be anything, from taking some mineal job from his shoulders, redesign their site, do social media for them, whatever it is that adds value to them and brings you close enough to actually learn from the person, and there are bunch of examples how other people did it. I’ve talked to some of those guys, and I think the most prominent example of who did it was Charlie Hoehn. It was the most structured approach ever. When he was 22-23, he worked with best selling authors Tim Ferriss, Tucker Max, or Rumit Sethi. Edward Roos was 17 and applied lots of hustle when he became the right hand man of the best selling author Matthew Hussey; RSDMax, actually from Vienna, he worked four internships over whole year for free just adding value and then went on to become the right-hand of one of the leading dating guru. And now he has thousands of YouTube funs himself. So what I wanna show you with this — it is actually possible to do this and whoever I talked to whether it was Daniel Kahneman or Paul Eckman or Cal Newport, they all said how important it is to have a skilled mentor, and it is possible, but you need to understand that if you want to do this you need to put yourself out there and actually take an active role in the process or as my buddy Edward Druce say «don’t wait for mr. Miyagi to come around». And this is the reason I pick my first example, where I made bunch of mistakes to show you — your approach doesn’t need to be perfect and you just can try, step by step, work closer to it. So that’s what it is, first thing is develop your skill, through deep work and little bit of practice. Second thing — go to the next level by learning from some of the best therapists in the world.
What I needed then was a real life experience and you get this by 3. Learning is more important than making money at least at the beginning of your career. Because if you stop focusing on making a quick buck , but rather focus on how much experience you can get and willing to work for free, more and more and more opportunities will pop up. And if you do this step by step, work up the ladder, as Cal Newport calls it, gain «career capital», and then get cooler gigs later on. And one example of how I get bunch of speaking experience when I was 19. This guy is German therapist Hansel Lee Shcukhner, I started out as I approached him, then I started to sell his books, his DVDs, and so on, and in return he mentored me, and then one day he needed to give a talk in a city I was living in and he knew I know his stuff inside out, so he offered me to give the talk for him, I prepared weeks ahead, did okay job, I got quite okay feedback from the audience then I walked up to him and said «you know what, I can do this more often for you and willing to do it completely for free». He, obviously, agreed, because he knew I’m reliable, he knew he could trust me and he would save a lot of time and money, and, on the other hand, I was 19, and would get dozens of public speaking opportunities where I could gain experience,a and that’s what I did over the last year. And then a year later, when I was 20 I actually leveraged this experience to give a guest lecture when my professor Claus Lamm gave me the opportunity at the university of Vienna. This return once more, as well completely for free, this one year later I could leverage this because right people watched it and I got a bunch of high paying speaking gigs. So this is an example of how you can, step by step at the beginning, working completely for free, step by step work up the ladder and then get really cool gigs later on. And you know, when I tell this to people , a lot of people go like «yeah, but this sounds like a lot of effort, you are so lucky that you found your passion when you were so young». See where come things four. Because thing 4. Hustle comes first and passion actually follows.
Because for me it was not like this, that I opened my first psychology book and I was like «ah! That’s what I would do for the rest of my life!» It was rather like this, like a complex mixture of lucky opportunities and a lot of effort beforehand. So, first lucky thing is — my dad is a therapist, so I was always surrounded by therapy. And when I was 18, I was really lucky that my dad paid me to make an initial effort, but still I made the initial effort, you know, and here is an interesting thing, when I started with this deep work and deliberate practice, still from the exact same time I have an application, where I actually applied to university to become an engineer, so I was not always sure what I wanted to do, but sticking with it over long period of time and applying the effort step by step get me really interesting opportunities and now I obviously ended up with something that I really care about and love. And I think a lot of, young people especially, underestimate the complexity and the effort to arrive at the job or career that really matters to you. But there is also a good news. As soon as you start to apply the effort you can rise to the top pretty easily because most people not applying it. So, for this reason I want to encourage you to take your education into your own hands and start developing skill with deep work and little bit of practice, then reach out to the luminaries of the field, because it’s easier than you might think, and then be willing to work for free to gain hands-on experience. And step by step work up the ladder and then, thing number 4 you might end up with the career that really matters to you, but also want to warn you, because if you start to do this and stray away from the normal path two things will happen.
On one hand a lot of people would just wait until you fail to tell you what you were doing was the wrong thing. But this is alright, because they have to justify their own crappy decisions. The second thing is — you will need to get accustomed to the word NO . Because if you are young and you don’t have skill yet and you approach the luminaries on a field you will obviously be rejected most of the time. But this is okay, because it’s just part of the process. And of corse it might get rough here and there, but in my opinion it’s worth it. At least it was worth it for me, because I actually got all things I hoped for in university. First of all as I told you I got a bunch of mentors. Secondly, I not only got skill but I also got real life experience. And the third thing (and this is the thing I am most happy about) I also found peers, because if you are young and sort of put yourself out there you gonna attract young people who are equally passionate about it and you can go on this journey together. So I hope that my talk might be a starting gun for a couple of people to actually go out and take responsibility for their own education, and not rely on formal education system to make some most important decisions of your life. What you learn and how you learn. And rather start early, otherwise at one point there might be the point where you regret not laying the foundation for your career that matters to you and the job that you love. And I wanna close with the quote by, actually, Pink Floyd, which I found in Meg Jay’s book «the defining decade». «Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain. You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun». this is the speech itself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUnpSYMNEhY