Studies have identified many factors that contribute to career success, but so far, nobody has been able to build a convincing model to predict an individual's future or how much happiness a certain profession will bring him. In case of doubt, people will opt for the safe choice and this is why you seldom hear career counsellors recommend artistic professions that may lead to unemployment.
advice aims at achieving social insertion. Risk is identified as a
problem, safety as the solution. However, a career recommendation based
on conventional truth is never going to inspire a daring adventurer. In
times when the market requires creativity at all levels, a fearful
approach might prove fundamentally wrong, or perhaps, it is wrong in all
In the year 1820, Bertel Thorvaldsen, an
acclaimed romantic sculptor, travelled back from Rome to his native
Denmark. Thorvaldsen was then 50 years old and at the pinnacle of his
fame. During his stay in Copenhagen, he talked to many aspiring artists,
giving them generous advice and encouragement.
One night, when
Thorvaldsen returned to his hotel after a reception in his honour, he
was told that a boy had been waiting for him all day. Intrigued,
Thorvaldsen looked around the hotel hall and found a poorly dressed kid
asleep on a chair.
He walked up to the boy, shook his arm gently,
and whispered to him: "It's late, kid, go home." Startled, the boy
opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. "I was waiting for you, Herr
Thorvaldsen. I have been waiting for you all day."
true, thought Thorvaldsen, since the boy looked so exhausted and hungry
that he was pitiful to see. "I wanted to ask you for advice on my
career," the kid went on. "I cannot decide whether I should become a
novelist or a poet."
Out of compassion, Thorvaldsen ordered a
glass of warm milk for the boy and listened to his story. It was a
heartbreaking tale. With adolescence, the kid had lost the striking
voice that had gained him praise and a small income as a singer in his home town,
and had joined the thousands of unemployed that roamed the streets
"This is why I have thought of becoming a
writer," the boy explained shyly, taking three ruffled pages out of his
pocket and handing them over to Thorvaldsen. Strangely enough, the idea of
asking a sculptor for literary advice seemed to fit the kid's pathetic
Thorvaldsen devoted a few minutes to reading the text
and was appalled to see that it contained dozens of grammar and
spelling mistakes. It was obvious that the boy had no chance of becoming
a writer. Even if it was cruel, it was better that he learned the truth
right away, so that he could at least learn a trade.
your name?" asked Thorvaldsen, returning the pages. "Hans-Christian,"
replied the boy full of hope. "Hans-Christian Andersen." A silence
ensued, as Thorvaldsen searched for the least hurtful way to express his
Thorvaldsen stared at Hans-Christian Andersen for a long while
as he remembered his own artistic ambitions as a young man, many years
ago, but of course, his situation had been completely different.
Thorvaldsen took a deep breath and shook his head. "Look,
Hans-Christian," he began, "I don't know how to tell you this."
that moment, Andersen nodded and gave the sculptor a crazy smile. That
was what he had been waiting for. He was about to hear the words of
encouragement that he needed so badly. He was sure that an artist of the
calibre of Thorvaldsen would be immediately able to recognize his
literary talent and point him in the right direction.
you think, Herr Thorvaldsen, should I become a novelist or a poet?" he
asked again, this time full of confidence. Fascinated, Thorvaldsen
looked at the kid's bright eyes and realized how foolish he had been. "I
have no doubt, Hans-Christian," he answered softly, "that you will
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
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