Stop planning for your dream job—it won’t help you be successful or happy, says millionaire bestselling author Seth Godin

Seth Godin on stage
By treating every year as a goalpost toward your dream job, you end up living permanently in the future at the expense of today.
Brad Barket—Getty Images

From a young age, you’re asked: What do you want to do with your life?

That early-life question dictates every career move you make, from the subjects you pick at school to the job titles you fight for—and it’s a complete waste of time.

Contrary to the adage saying that failing to plan is planning to fail, the millionaire entrepreneur and bestselling author Seth Godin wants aspirational people to rip up their career roadmaps and embrace going with the flow.

The issue he takes with following a predetermined path is that the end of your journey isn’t actually when you step into the dream career you imagined for yourself when you were a teen or young adult. 

Really, “the end is your dead”, he recently told LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky’s The Path newsletter. “The goal is, did you enjoy getting from here to wherever dead is? And you do that by having a compass, not a map.”

By knowing what inspires you and following your inner compass, Godin believes you could open yourself up to a more fulfilling and “thrilling” career than by following pre-planned steps that may not even lead to your dream job. Here’s why.

Live for today, not tomorrow

Most people, perhaps incorrectly, view success as a long-term metric to stride for.

The problem with treating every year as a moving goalpost toward your dream job, is that you end up living permanently in the future at the expense of today.

Worse still, as Godin points out, your actual final destination (or rather, death) could sadly come before you reach the end of any map you drew out for your future. 

Instead, he believes people would be a lot more fulfilled in their careers if they focused on small wins, personal growth, and their current happiness level.

His advice for living, and working, for the now? Take every opportunity that comes your way like a wave.

“Surfing isn’t about winning or about keeping score, surfing is simply about saying here is this wave right this minute, how will I choose to ride it?” he said. “After this wave, there’s going to be another one.”

By taking on projects that excited him there and then instead of following a career map, Godin was able to discover book writing—he’s now authored 20 best-selling books—and blogging, which has become an extremely successful side-hustle for him.

When you start basing your next move on the possibilities in front of you instead of the path you wrote for yourself years (if not, decades) ago, he thinks you’ll learn more and have a lot more fun on the journey to success.

Each stepping stone forward becomes, as Godin puts it, “something you get to do, not have to do”.

Finding your true north

In a world where many young people (356 million to be exact, on Instagram alone) look up to the likes of Kim Kardashian, who famously instructed her followers to “get your f—— ass up and work” while dripping in designer gear, Godin’s advice may seem too whimsical to be true. 

Being in Silicon Valley, where “the compasses are completely distorted because there’s a magnetic north in the wrong direction,” he gets that. “So if you are surrounded by people who are using the wrong true north, it’s quite likely you’re gonna be confused.”

He insists that the current measures of success, from the number of followers you have on Twitter to how much money you have in the bank, are not “correlated in any way with life satisfaction, impact or generosity.”

But if ditching people that don’t align with your true north and focusing on building happiness over money sounds like advice exclusively for people who already have acquired a certain level of success, then there’s one lesson from Godin that all workers can part with: It’s time to find enjoyment in the journey, instead of the destination.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationCompensationReturn to WorkCareersLaborSuccess Stories