By Younas Chaudhary
In my early twenties, I learned to quit dead-end jobs without fear or hesitation. In those days—the 1970s—slaughterhouses were workplaces of choice for immigrants in Edmonton, because they paid over three times the minimum wage of $3 and also offered lots of overtime. I desperately wanted the money, as I had arrived in Edmonton with just $30 in my pocket. But I knew cutting meat was a dead-end job for me. The environment was stinky and very cold, and the work was tiring and monotonous. So I left the job within a few months, and did so without any regrets. But many immigrants stayed, because they were too narrowly focused on the money.
My next stint was as a security guard—another dead-end opportunity. But I managed to hustle, read newspaper ads, and sell used cars on the side. Eventually I left that too, switching to one job after another in which I had no passion or interest. In each of those jobs, I was simply a disengaged employee, because they never offered a career pathway for me. No wonder nearly 70 percent of American employees, according to a Gallup poll, are disengaged from their jobs.
I then took night classes at a local college, switched jobs, and ultimately became a steam plant technician at a boiler plant for the Alberta Government. This job offered a sense of security, convenient shift work timings, and opportunities to hustle and do other things in between. The night classes paved the path for me to be a plant manager someday.
However, the sense of security, convenience, and comfort often proves a trap, keeping us in the same jobs until we get bored to death. Our lives should not be like that!
Fortunately, I managed to escape this trap when I got the opportunity to move to the U.S. in the late seventies to start my entrepreneurial journey in the oil and gas business. In making this transition, at first I was apprehensive. Should I leave a secure government job to be a landman, leasing land from farmers in an alien place and in an industry that I knew nothing about? At that time, the Iran hostage crisis was in full swing, and I had all the features of a typical brown immigrant! I was lanky and brown, had a moustache, spoke little English, and was a total stranger to the locals in Kansas. Yet I took a calculated risk and moved to Kansas.
When we decide to leave our current jobs, we take a big risk, especially when we seek uncharted opportunities. The path is never straight and is fraught with self-doubt, struggle, adjustments, worries, and confusion.
For me, leaving my wife and two little children in Canada and moving to rural Kansas was a momentous decision. I slept on the floor for months in an old, run-down rental home in Chanute, Kansas with a sloped floor. I would go to bed on the floor of one room and wake up the next morning in the opposite end of that room!
If you decide to move on, be self-motivated. If you have the passion, discipline, motivation, and humility to learn a new venture or new craft, with consistency you will master that trade over time. I myself went to the middle of nowhere from a cushy government job and a comfortable bed to sleep. How did I muster the courage to go to an alien land and start from scratch with so many unknowns?
Looking back, I believe it was because I had uncompromising moral values, a solid and consistent work ethic, the passion to learn, the willingness to endure discomfort in order to embrace an entirely new field, and a commitment to constantly motivate myself even as I faced potential failures.
During certain days when I felt low, I clung to a self-invented quote from my childhood: “Everything is possible to accomplish in this world, but it requires sacrifice and constant efforts.” I knew I had to make sacrifices to create a better future.
Thus, every day I negotiated deals with local farmers, learned from oilfield pumpers, studied how a rig worked, and soaked up the oil industry with unrestrained curiosity. Since then, I have consistently made it a point to pass on and share my knowledge to others who are interested in a career in the oil and gas industry. As a result, over the years I have seen data entry persons and bank tellers join our firm, learn different aspects of the trade, and move on to higher positions.
In my observation, most of us stay in a job for two reasons: Fridays and a paycheck. But if you take that path, you will dread Mondays and all the days in between. By contrast, if you want to move ahead, have a good family life and a good work/life balance over the long-term, then you ought to find an area you are passionate about and find yourself a good coach—a mentor who can work with you, lead you by example, and guide you in the right direction.
But you must be willing to dedicate your own time in order to constantly improve under the mentor’s positive guidance. Your learning will be worthwhile as you progress in your career. Your mentor, like a fine craftsman, will guide and help you shape your career like a piece of art.
Here are some tips for you to make your next bold move:
- Be self-motivated: The decision to move forward has to come from within you, not from your friends, family members, or anyone else. You have to decide your own destiny.
2. Once you find your passion, find someone who has the heart of a teacher and learn from that mentor with consistency and humility.
3. Do not wait until you have achieved mastery—once you have the basic required skills, take a leap of faith.
4. Take calculated risks, but do not follow people who jump into things in haste. Inconsistency never helps.
5. Work hard, stay consistent, be diligent, and show others by your own actions how you progressed through the years.
6. Remember, everything is possible to accomplish in this world, but it requires sacrifice and constant efforts.
You can read more by purchasing my best-selling memoir “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.