'‘There are a thousand doors before you’ – let’s teach young Islanders that their career options are limitless'

Douglas Kruger

By Douglas Kruger

EACH year, Forbes magazine issues a list of the world’s wealthiest posthumous celebrity earners. That’s “richest dead guys” to you and me. And you can probably guess who claims the top two spots. It’s the same two men, year after year.

If you guessed Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, you may go to the top of the class. The order in which these two appear tends to leapfrog year by year. But it’s always them.

Now, an interesting question: who usually comes in third?

By way of a clue, I’ll walk you through his daily routine. It’s gruelling. Each morning, he would rise and consume a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Then he’d read the post. That done, he would buckle down and spend 45 minutes drawing a three-panel comic strip.

And that was his working day. Done.

His name is Charles M Schultz. He was the author of “Peanuts”, starring Charlie Brown and the gang.

His extraordinary wealth is easily explained. Each day, for nearly 50 years, he produced these simple three-panel strips. Then each strip sold to several thousand newspapers around the world, each of which paid him a small amount. Times 50 years.

At the end of each year, a publisher also bound all of the strips into books, then sold those into several thousand stores around the world, each of which paid him a further amount whenever one sold. Then there was the merchandising: toys, cards, stationery, clothing. Add it all together, over a half century, and you can take on the likes of Elvis in the wealth stakes.

What’s possibly more interesting is what a wonderful career it made for. Fifty years of generating joy. Worrying about nothing more than the creation of the next three delightful panels. Doing what you love, with time remaining for life.

When I was 11, I tried my hand at cartooning, and, to my surprise, I had my own little comic strip published in a local paper. It ran for a couple of years, and they even paid me for it. Why? Well, because no one told me I couldn’t.

What are we telling our kids they can do? And what are we implying they can’t?

Are we placing before their eyes an unnecessarily narrow range of career options? I ask because I remember quite vividly how schools presented career advice. There’s nothing wrong with university, followed by a corporate career. But it’s by no means the only option, and it’s certainly not the entrepreneurial one. Or the most lucrative one. Or the most satisfying one.

Did you know that the majority of millionaires and billionaires living today are first-generation business owners? Not corporate career builders. Not doctors or lawyers. Oh, and they didn’t inherit their wealth. So, how often do we advise kids to start their own businesses? When it comes to advice, shouldn’t that be our opening salvo? Consider this: if they attempt ten businesses, and only one ever works, that will do.

No one ever told me I could become a cartoonist. Or a professional speaker. Or a novelist. So who’s placing these paths before the eyes of the next generation?

The range of possibilities is only growing with time. A few centuries ago, you did what your family did. Or perhaps you branched out, and chose between fisherman, farmer or tradesman. Knitting our namesake jerseys. Maybe a career in the navy.

But today? Today, there are a thousand doors available. There are unexpected dreams beyond each one, and, often, surprising potential for wealth. Have you seen how much the top YouTube personalities command?

There’s more to the equation than just wealth. In many ways, our careers become our entire lives. To this day, as a result of a professional speaking career, I have friends in Turkey, Malaysia, Ireland, Canada and elsewhere. I’ve been to places I previously couldn’t pronounce. A few months ago, I was looking out the window of a plane as the beautiful island of Mauritius receded behind me, after speaking at a conference where I also made new friends from Egypt. Tell me that’s not a life worth living.

We are a small island. But there is an entire world beyond our borders. And as tech advances, you can increasingly reach that world from here, with a green-screen behind you, and a camera in front. Or through your art, your music or your as-yet-undreamt-of new offering that no one ever believed might be a career some day. A little nudge. A bit of encouragement. Who can say where it might go?

There truly are a thousand doors available. What a crime if we only ever showed them one or two. What a needless narrowing of raw potential.

  • Douglas Kruger lives in St Helier. He writes and speaks for a living. His books are all available via Audible and Amazon. Meet him at douglaskruger.com.

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