Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fear of Flailing


Question 1.
My boyfriend seems completely at a loss for what to do with his life. He’s a smart guy and he works hard, but he just can’t find his niche. In this economy, he really can’t afford to be switching jobs a lot. Now he wants to go back to school. I’m nervous about him spending the money, but I really want to help him.
Yeah, but you can’t. You have great intentions, and they are worth absolutely nothing. 
Case in point: My first baby started to crawl fairly late based on what all the books were telling me. I was irritated at what I perceived to be infantile slacking and complete disregard for professional authority. She would roll on her belly with her arms tucked underneath her and just rock like a seal. It was annoying. I thought, “If she could just get her arms out in front of her, she would crawl.” So, like any responsible parent, I helped my child by twisting her arms out in front of her. I set her up in the crawl pose, and then I let her go. She responded by flailing her arms and allowing her head to hit the floor with a negligent-parent thud. I was horrified and she was screaming. Really, no one came out the winner. 
The same thing will happen with you and your formerly enchanting with his many talents boyfriend. You will put him in the proper pose for success like a pensive Ken doll and he will inevitably flail…and you can’t spell “flail” without “fail.” 
He isn’t ready to make a decision yet. He may think that by going back to school he will bide himself some time until the economy improves and people with no marketable skills can get work again. Or he may want to improve his chances of getting a job. You didn’t mention what he wants to study. If he’s planning to take out thousands of dollars in loans to be a pastry chef, I would say you should probably cut your losses and either accept that you will be supporting him (and managing the money) for the rest of your lives or find someone else. If he’s planning to study something that leads directly to a career (teaching, accounting, nursing, etc.), then it may be worth the investment. Even if it turns out that he hates teaching/accounting/nursing, he will at least be able to support himself while he pursues his actual passion for producing documentaries about wood furniture styles of the 1800’s or whatever.
This leads me to my final point. He does not get to sit around and find himself on your dime. The right job is the job he can get. The right time is now. Perhaps it was insulting that in explaining my advice I chose to refer to my child. Your boyfriend is an adult. Well, adults have jobs, even jobs we don’t like. The best way to help him is to not let him take advantage of you. It’s up to him to figure out how to get his arms out in front of him. 
Question 2.
I just found out that my family does not think my new business will be a success. I’ve had some false starts in the past and I guess they think this will just be another failed project. It really hurts me that they don’t believe in me. 
By virtue of your phrasing, I assume that they have been keeping this from you and now it has come out at some awkward meal or during a car ride. It may seem hard to believe, but the fact that your family has chosen to hide their opinion that you are a reliable provider of relief from their own feelings of failure and insecurity probably means they love you enough to let you cling to your misguided dream of owning a store devoted to left-handed cats. 
If you have tried numerous business ideas, I’m sure you are highly motivated, optimistic and completely devoid of realistic expectations. This is why your family is an invaluable resource. A family’s job is to be a living reminder of all our past failings, lest the original documents be lost in a fire. Learn from their concerns and criticisms, even if they aren’t constructive. You don’t have to follow their advice, but you should ask yourself if adding a pinch of their prevention could save you a pound of bankruptcy.  
After that, stop relying on their approval. You can’t control their opinion of you and your past. When “South Paws” opens it’s 100th location, they will change their minds. Or maybe they won’t. Luckily, you will be too rich to care. 

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