To begin with, changing people’s minds is not a “career path.” A career path is a path you follow to make a living (and a path we all have to follow, since we all have to make a living, unless we’re born independently wealthy). Changing minds isn’t a career path even for me.
My career path is that of a writer; I make my living by writing books—and if those books change minds, that’s fine, that’s what I want them to accomplish. A writer’s books can do all sorts of things: they can amuse, they can frighten, they can mystify, they can inform; but the career path is writing (not amusing, frightening, mystifying, or informing).
You can’t make a living changing minds, but you can make a living in some way that provides opportunities to change minds (as I do). Now that I have a certain reputation in systems-thinking circles and sustainable-development circles, another career path is open to me: I could become what is known as a motivational speaker.
Associations and businesses are always looking for people to come in and speak to them on issues relevant to productivity, success, sustainability, creativity, and so on. I have in fact done a bit of this—and it gives me another opportunity to change minds. A quick internet search on “motivational speaking” turned up plenty of information, for example an e-book on the subject (“If you have a talent for speaking, you can become a motivational speaker. No special education or experience is necessary to break into this career and succeed.”)
I don’t agree that “only the famous” can reach people. After all, I wasn’t famous when Ishmael came out. If you have something to say and say it with passion and skill, you’ll reach people (and perhaps become famous at the same time).
You say you need an education very different from the one that you’ve received. Well, of course. So did I. It took me decades of reading to answer for myself the questions posed and answered in my books (and the process continues). I lacked a great tool that is available to you—the internet. You don’t need to go back to school to learn. All the answers are available at any decent library.
There’s no single way to “get started” except to follow your nose, to try the things that appeal to you, that seem promising to you. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll be disappointed, you’ll come to dead ends, but this happens to anyone with ambitious goals. During the second half of my career in educational publishing, I spent a decade working under the delusion that I could smuggle my ideas into materials I was developing for the schools.
I was in my mid-forties before I began writing the book that ultimately (after twelve years) became Ishmael. Changing people’s minds is something you’ll be doing for the rest of your life; it’s not a career, it’s a mission (and as such can be pursued by someone on ANY career path).
posted: 08 Jul 2001
updated: 01 Apr 2002
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