When you were younger, you were always asked the question:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you were 2, you probably said, “A dinosaur!”.
In primary school, “An astronaut”.
But in high school, that begins to change.
All of the sudden, your answer is taken seriously. But more than that, it is now being judged and moderated by society, and your parents. A bi-product of what researchers call“Upward Mobility Discourse”.
The problem is that, when you’re in high school, you feel like “growing up” happens at the end of school. And that unless you have a good idea of what you want to “be” by then, you are somehow failing.
We’ve recently had some amazing college interns come to work with us at leanstartup.chat, and its crystallized for me how important it is that we nurture the next gen and give them career survival skills from as early in their careers as possible. So over the last few months I’ve been working on an idea in the hope to;
1. provide a cool way to capture what students experience when considering what to study at university;
2. Provide something that students can potentially use to bring clarity to the big career decisions that lie before them.
The fact is - up until you leave school – you have never come face-to-face with the reality of career paths and specialized study, or any other career pursuit (startups!! WOOO!). Everything you know about it is a misleading concoction of anecdotal evidence, online career guides, youtube mini-series, and mainstream media segments on “doctor’s from hell”.
But that is about to change.
I present to you...
NOTE: If viewing on a mobile, rotate your screen so you can get a better view! :)
So, the idea behind Mt Reality is simple.
Mt. Reality is a mountain. And it has 2 scales :
On the Y axis is the mountain itself – which represents the stage of your education and your career.
On the X axis we have Time – which consists of an 18 hour clock.
9 AM – 11:59 PM includes all the time you spend in the education system as a student.
12 O’Clock midnight through to 7 AM is the time in which you conclude your studies, and have to face the reality of career paths and employment.
And on this mountain – “Reality” – takes form as a beast that lives under the mountain.
Hmmm... it needs a bit more colour though...
THERE we go!
Reality comes out to hunt students down at 12 O’clock midnight, no matter how far up the mountain they manage to get.
The students ultimate goal? :
Survive till dawn and stand heroically at “Survivor’s Look out”, basking in a glorious sunrise – which represents a rewarding career and life.
So some questions to ask yourself before we set on up the mountain - just based on what you've read so far.
what's life like on the mountain right now?
Which stage are you at?
How aware are you that reality is coming?
Do you feel like you're working as hard as you can to get to survivor’s look out before Reality catches you?
Or, have you already made it?!
So let's breakdown the typical experience and pathway of a student on the mountain, then we’ll look at how to increase one's chances of survival, once reality comes charging up the mountain.
I’ll break it down into stages, each with both an explanation for what’s happening in reality, and another for what’s happening on Mt. Reailty!. It's a short story of sorts, so feel free to enjoy it as one.
(PS: Originally when I imagined what the reality beast would look like, I had the Goliath from Evolve 2 in my mind. But that was a bit too confronting - plus the whole point of "Reality" is that it’s powerful, and potentially terrifying - BUT - it doesn’t experience emotion. So it’s not angry or disturbed, but rather, completely indifferent. And you’ll see why in a minute)
Stage 1 : Base camp (before high school)
REAL LIFE: At this stage, careers and specialized study are rarely discussed. And when they are, you're not usually mature enough, or have the experience or capacity to understand the true implications of the subject.
MT.REALITY: the Reality beast is no more than a fun idea or concept to you at this point. At this point you're more concerned about friends, living, and having fun.
Stage 2 : Start the Climb (early high school)
REAL LIFE: At this stage, you now have teachers, parents, and people in your life making you aware of career decisions, university, and other “serious stuff”. But it all seems far away from you at this point, and you don’t feel as though you’ll have to “deal with it” anytime soon.
MT.REALITY: As you begin hiking up the mountain with your class, you're now hearing rumors about the Reality beast, and you’re joking about it. But they’re no more than just that. Rumors. Meh!! Nothing too serious.
Stage 3 : It’s getting late (late high school)
REAL LIFE: At this stage, your teachers, parents and people around you are making you very aware that study is important, and the pressure to make a decision about what to study at university is becoming very acute. However, you do not fully understand the implications that these decisions will have on a future job or career.
MT.REALITY: Now the sun is setting, and it’s getting late. Everyone is aware that reality is coming, but they don’t know what form it will take. A few students attempt to take the bus home back down the mountain early (leave school). But most decide to make the journey towards the peak. And so they push on, all the while with Reality in the back of their minds. Constantly asking themselves: Am i ready? Have I made the right (study) decisions?…
Stage 4 : Almost Dark (University / College)
REAL LIFE: At this stage, you are well into your post-school study and are beginning to specialize in an area of some kind. The seriousness of facing the reality of career paths is beginning to dawn on you. Sure you’re still having fun living the college / uni life! But you know that this period in your life is limited, and that soon enough you’ll be coming face-to-face with the reality of a career path, or as one would say more generally…. finding a job!
MT.REALITY: The remnants of the sun now lie on the edge of the horizon as you hike the final miles to the summit. Some have opted to set up camp further down the mountain (drop out). These students will be facing reality sooner (not necessarily a bad thing…. or a good thing either…..). At this point, the rumors you originally heard about the beast Reality have more substance. Yet you think to yourself, “all I can really do now is focus on the task at hand, and I’ll deal with all that when I get to it”.
Stage 5 : 12 O’clock - Midnight (...)
REAL LIFE: At this stage, you have either finished your study, or are only days away. There is an eerie calm before the storm, as you begin to apply for jobs and get advice, not entirely sure what to expect.
MT.REALITY: The sun has sunk past the horizon hours ago. You and a few fellow students (soon to be ex-students) have set up tents at the summit of Mt. Reality. And although you’re aware of Reality’s existence, you justify setting up your tent for the night by rationalizing to yourself: “Well yes - I do need to face reality, but maybe I have a bit of time to deal with this. I’ll figure it out in the morning.” And you all decide to put out the campfire, get in your tents, and go to sleep.
An unearthly roar echoes from the base of the mountain.
And at this point, there are a few typical reactions you may experience as a student:
You pop your head out of the tent concerned and say “Did you guys hear that”.
ANALYSIS: In this response, the student is at least aware at this point that there is a problem. That yes - reality is coming. This is an encouraging reaction that may lead to some action or preparation on behalf of the student.
You don’t come out of the tent, and instead murmur from beneath your sleeping bag, “What are you talking about! I didn’t hear anything. Go back to sleep.”
ANALYSIS: Students with this mindset will be the first to go. Reality will feast on the flesh of their ignorance. It does not like to be ignored.
The hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you’re acutely aware of the situation. You immediately pack up your things, and start running down the mountain. From the sound of Reality’s roar, it is bigger and scarier than you thought, and far bigger than the first rumors suggested when you were climbing the mountain earlier (back in highschool).
ANALYSIS: This is the reaction most likely to lead to survival. Instead of discussing or debating whether there is actually an issue to be concerned about - (or how important career decisions are) - this student has accepted 100% that Reality definitely does exist. It is coming. And it sounds big, and scary - and YEA - they probably should start doing something to get ready for it.
And then there's chaos...
....as they hear screams coming from further down the mountain, from some who did not make it
(who either did not prepare for reality, decided to ignore it, struggled to adapt, faced with financial issues, wound up in a job they don’t like, ended up currently unhappy or dissatisfied with their life),
whilst they watch a sea of people rushing down and around the mountain
(trying to get a job or find a direction)
towards Survivors lookout
(their definition of success and happiness)
Without interrupting this gripping story for too long, at this point on Mt. Reality, one very poignant observation can be made.
Students who are most aware of reality’s existence, from as early on as possible, have a much higher chance of surviving till dawn, as they have more time to prepare, react, and adapt.
Now that Reality is rampaging around the mountain, there’s something you should know about it.
If you look closely at its face below. You’ll notice it doesn’t display any emotion.
In fact, when it catches you, it doesn’t necessarily do anything to you that’s harmful - despite its obvious capacity to do so! This is because reality - just like money, and other inanimate objects - doesn’t have any feelings, emotions, or reasoning. It’s just a force of nature that we have to respond to, because we’re in it's path.
Back to what’s happening on Mt. Reality...
some people begin to make it to Survival Lookout. At that point on Mt. Reality, they feel they have found their place in the world. They’re happy with their job, what they do, what they believe in, and their life.
But as those people turn around to look how far they have come… they’re faced with a surreal and unexpected sight.
Many people are still stuck on the mountain, but reality hasn’t come for all of them.
In fact, for some of them, Reality watches them from the shadows, as they continue to wander Mt. Reality searching for the lookout - all the while feasting on those that pretend it doesn’t exist.
To sum up!
If you think about the people in your life that feel like:
they haven’t made it
have found themselves doing something they really don't want to do
are generally not that happy with their life…
chances are they’re still on Mt. Reality, searching for survivors lookout.
And for those that acknowledge Reality - sometimes - when they get tired, and sit on a rock for a short rest. Reality will come and sit next to them, indifferent to their plight, before scampering back through the trees.
For the people you know who live an extremely un-sustainable lifestyle, suffer depression, or experience worse fates, then reality may have really caught them. And some may never make it off the mountain.
But for those who have not only survived reality - but thrived as a result - Mt. Reality is the most beautiful place on earth.
So tell me - what thoughts are going through your head right now?
Has Mt. Reality - and its powerful yet indifferent beast - had an impact on what advice you’d give to a student? or indeed anyone still “climbing the mountain”?
Here’s a few final questions worth considering
Q: What is the main advantage that uni graduates have over those who choose to drop out?
A: Distance. Regardless of whether you end up using what you study at uni for your career, the main reason its important for students to go to uni is to learn how to learn; which means not only can uni students adapt faster and more efficiently than those that don’t… they also get to set up their tent higher up on the mountain – so they are further away from reality when the clock strikes 12! (in other words, you get to put off facing reality properly for a little while longer)
Q:Does Reality have an agenda? Does it go after certain people? Is it angry or vicious?
A: Short answer: No, no, and no. Reality is indifferent – there are only ever two outcomes – either you tame reality, or it takes you. Those who aren’t prepared for Reality, or who pretend it doesn’t exist, are always the first to go. Ignore Reality, and it will eat you alive. But embrace Reality for what it is, and you may be lucky enough to find yourself in this situation:
So what points can we take away from Mt. Reality, and reinforce for the next gen?
1. Reinforce that the Rumors are true when they are scaling Mt. Reality early on. Reality IS coming. But don’t intimidate - rather, inspire!!
2. Reality is Binary. While emotion plays a big part in "choosing what you want to do", post-compulsory education should be considered as a largely objective proposition. One of the most vital things business teaches you about life is objective reasoning - that at the end of the day, every action and event is defined as either “it is” or “it isn’t”. And when Reality comes charging up that mountain – that’s exactly how it will judge you.
3. Redefine Failure. Often people talk about helping students “deal with” or “cope with failure”. They approach failure from a negative standpoint straight out. We need to be adopting an entrepreneurial approach to failure – that is failure is a beautiful, integral step towards progress. Peter Jones says there’s no such thing as failure – only feedback. And as long as you don’t ignore reality, it might leave you alone for long enough for you to find your survivors lookout.
Because it is, or it isn't.
PS: I attached some Mt. Reality wallpapers below which you can download to your hearts content :)
(Just click the images to open the full res versions!)
Love the concept?
Want your own Mt. Reality sitting on your desk to remind you not to ignore it? let me know and I'll get on to manufacturing official Mt. Reality merchandise - plush toys, key rings, anything you like.
(I was thinking of making some pens that have the message "When the clock strikes 12, this won't save you". Could be entertaining!)
If you have any thoughts about the concept or any experiences you've had coming face-to-face with reality.... please let me know in the comments below!
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