Set goals first, then follow your dreams

I’m no different to the thousands of Greeks who left their home country in recent years. Unemployed, I made the obvious choice to get a job anywhere I could. There was no heroism in this. There are millions of expats out there following their dreams. I was one of them, following my dream to live abroad, but also get a job to support myself and support my family. The mistake I had made was to not set goals first.

Complaining does not lead anywhere

I used to complain a lot. The reason was that, as a Jack of all trades and master of none, I couldn’t get a well-paid job I would enjoy. Well, I couldn’t even get a well-paid job that I wouldn’t enjoy. I was surprised by that.

I thought that since I have a master’s degree, I should have a decent job. I had earned that privilege, right? Well, no. No one owes us anything. I learned this the hard way, by struggling to afford an enjoyable life in London on a low-level NHS salary.

Identify the root problem

My biggest problem was that I had already changed careers a few times. No one was ready to trust a 32-year-old guy who didn’t seem to know what he was doing, despite being good at whatever I did. I am not saying this in an arrogant way. I was so eager to learn and prove myself that I quickly stood out. There was another reason, though: I didn’t have a safety net. Working hard was my only option.

Over the period of three years, I sent over 200 job applications, I had attended 15–20 interviews, but I kept failing. The more I failed, the more depressed I became. All my friends were progressing with their careers, and I was stuck.

Well, maybe the UK is not for me, I thought after the Brexit vote. However, I eventually realized that my real problem was that I had not set any clear goals for myself. I had been hoping that a fantastic job in London would simply fall into my lap one day.

I had to open my wings. I started applying abroad, ready to relocate once more away from what I called home.

Get ready for the challenge

After a few months, I got a new job with Amazon. They were the only people who could appreciate my inquisitive nature. After all, Learn and Be Curious is one of Amazon’s leadership principles. I had to leave London, and although I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. I was not 26 years old anymore. But I had to do it, so I did it.

In less than four months at Amazon, I grew more than I had grown in the last 6 years. I love my job, I love that I learn something new every day, I love that people treat me as a highly competent professional, even when I am skeptical about my own abilities.  

Embrace ambiguity

Another leadership principle in Amazon is Bias for Action. If you’re hesitant about doing something, it’s best to do it anyway if you believe it’s the right choice. Even if you fail, you can always try again, but differently this time. Without realizing it, I’ve been following these principles all my life. Whenever I wanted to change my career path, I did it without stopping to consider whether it was the right decision. The truth is, we can never be certain what the best decision is. We must simply follow a path and see where it takes us. If it doesn’t work out, we can always pivot and take a new one.

The decision I took at eighteen to study Psychology had a significant impact on my life. Until a year ago, I thought it had defined me in a negative way. In hindsight now, I know it helped me get where I am now. I could be in a different place, but I’m here, many random decisions later, one of them being to study Psychology. It’s as simple as that.

do the work and be ready for everything

I do not believe that simply wanting something makes a person entitled to it, or that a positive attitude can solve all our problems. Even those who are talented, set clear goals, and work hard may not achieve the level of success they aspire to.

However, setting goals is the minimum we can do in pursuit of our dreams. We must also work hard, be patient, treat others kindly, and stop complaining about things we can’t change. We need to fight for what we want, but also be prepared to live without it, even when we feel we deserve it. Life may not be fair, but we can still strive to be fair and treat others with kindness and respect.

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