Deciding on a Career

When deciding on a career, we are asking the wrong question

Infographic career decision making

The Should I Paradigm

This post is designed to help you understand what the “Should I Paradigm” is and how to use it to make better decisions, not just deciding on a career, but for any decision which will affect your future in a significant way.

 We are asking the wrong question

Every day, you make decisions based upon the wrong decision-making paradigm. By decision paradigm, I mean the method you use to make decisions. Most of us use the same methods to answer both types of basic questions. Is it any wonder you and I both (no one gets it right all of the time) don’t get the results we want when we start with the wrong premise?

By premise, I mean we start by asking the wrong questions, to begin with.

There are two basic kinds of questions

Most questions you ask yourself can be broken down into two different categories. Questions about things that will impact you in the future and questions that will impact you now.

The questions dealing with the here and now are typically quite simple. Questions like, “Should I drive straight home or take my favorite scenic route?” I make the decision daily, and I usually take the scenic route by the way. OK, I will admit it, I am a romantic at heart.

This type of decision only requires quantifying readily available information. In other words, you already know if you like to take the scenic route or not, you have all the data you need to make a good decision.

However, questions dealing with the future are quite different. You do not have the data you need, so you must make a qualitative decision, or a decision based upon perceptions, in other words, you have to measure the quality of the options based upon what data you do have.

Why the difference is important

Questions that will impact you in the future, get more critical the further out in the future your decision’s consequences matter to you.

The route I take home does not matter in the future if time is not an issue and I can afford the extra gas etc.

The career I choose to pursue will have an enormous impact on my future.

You cannot use the same decision-making methods used for non-critical decisions, to make decisions about your future.

We don’t have enough information

The human mind stores only about 227mb of information at any one time [Landauer 1986], and there are an estimated three thousand terabytes of data known to exist (about the size of all of the information in the Library of Congress).

What this means to you is simple, you don’t have enough information to make decisions dealing with the future.

But what is usually the reality? Most of us including yours truly, use quantitative reasoning for almost everything.

Not very smart given the limited information available to us.

My personal story

Deciding on a Career
You don’t have enough information to make decisions dealing with the future.

Let me give you some examples based on four of my own disastrous career decisions.

In High School, I was given a career test adapted from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, also called the ASVAB test. The test said I should be a mechanical engineer. The test came up with this career by analyzing my aptitudes (in this case, my personality) and knowledge. I was good in math and physics, so of course, that was the result.

It would have been a huge mistake for me to go into a career in mechanical engineering, but I thought that must be my “calling.”

Do you see what happened? My limited knowledge was used to predict what my future should be. Truth be told, there is no way any of us has enough information about a career to know if we have what it takes. My personal circumstances did not allow me to pursue that career, so I did what most of us do. I went with the flow, followed the advice of others and the path of least resistance. What we personally know at any one time is not sufficient to make critical decisions about the future, so testing someone for what they know about a subject and using that information to predict outcomes is a mistake, a mistake that is widely duplicated in education and career development.

My next three subsequent career decisions were equally disastrous.

I love cars, more specifically, I love hot rods. My early years were spent in auto shops at school and at home or a friend’s house on weekends, working on cars, a hobby I enjoy to this day. So of course, everyone I knew suggested I should work on cars for a career, I thought the same thing, all based on what I knew about cars.

From the age of 15, I started pumping gas and changing oil. By the time I was twenty-two, we had opened our own auto repair shop. The shop was very successful; however, I was not enjoying it at all. My love for cars confused the issue. I love hot rods, not working on cars for a living.

Running my own business helped me decide that I loved business, which was just another inaccurate decision based on limited information I had at the time. What I really had, was a passion for the potential of business ideas, something I would not understand for years to come.

My third career move was into the computer industry. I was taking business classes that I really enjoyed at our local community college, being taught by a very successful entrepreneur. He suggested I should get into computers and that he could provide tutoring in the industry if I wanted to intern, for free of course.

I jumped at the opportunity and that began my computer career. As you might guess, programming was not my thing, but I really excelled in the customer training and installation consulting. It came easily to me, so I set out in that career, providing some programming, and later building my own business in the computer industry.

The problem was, I liked the idea of how to use computers in business, but I wanted to spend more time with the ideas and less time with the implementation, which was the heart of my business.

Me forth career change was into consulting. People encouraged me to pursue consulting, based on my knowledge of business, computers, and leadership. I thought it was a perfect profession, and so I went into it, after all, I had lots of knowledge to share with anyone who needed help.

“Do you see the pattern? It is the same thing each time. What do I “know” that I can do for a career? No one, including myself, ever asked, “What career would take advantage of who you are and what you are passionate about?”

During each career move, I depended upon what I knew to make quantitative decisions. What I should have done was make a decision based on what career would take advantage of who I am and what I am passionate about, which would have been qualitative decision making.

I have to ask myself the same question you should be asking yourself about now, “What if I had a coach that had gone through all of this before me and understood how these decisions are supposed to be made?” I would not have had to go through what I did.

The tragedy in all this is that I could have helped so many more people. I was 45 before I figured this out. That means, in my case, I spent twenty years trying to figure out what a coach could have helped me with earlier in my life.

Now, the reality is that between the auto repair career and the computer career, I spent a small fortune on a career coach who was really a transition coach. He just took my experience (what I was knowledgeable about,) and helped me build my confidence as I worked on my transition.

What I needed was someone to teach me the correct decision-making process for choices, which impacts the future and then coach me through the career selection and transition process. As it turns out, it was a great disservice and I spent money I did not have to pursue a career I would not like.

The decision-making system I have developed and used to help hundreds of people in career transition is called the “Should I Paradigm.”

Keep reading, this book is designed to help you understand what the “Should I Paradigm” is, and how to use it to make better decisions, not just in career decisions, but for any decision which will affect your future in a significant way.

Different Questions for Different Problems

career decision making
Different Questions for Different Problems

Let me go over the two types of questions with you in detail. Understanding them well will give you some backstory on how to separate the two types of questions in your mind, and hopefully give you a “should I” mindset when it comes to questions about the future.

It is critically important to use the right decision-making paradigm when you are faced with choices. “Could I” questions are natural, we usually answer all questions with this paradigm, using what we know about any issue to make a choice. And in many cases, it is the right way to approach a decision. As I mentioned earlier, when it is the wrong decision-making method, it really messes things up.

Many of the choices you have to make, might seem to be in the “Could I” category, but actually, have long-term impacts. However, many times such decisions are relatively inconsequential and are easy decisions to make.

Some questions have easy answers, but are hard to implement like, “Should I exercise regularly?” Of course, but the decision gets harder when you start to take into account commitment. It does not take a lot of work to figure out the answer, it is obvious. Making the decision one way or the other will definitely have an impact on your future, and it matters, but this is not the kind of decision I am referring to.

“Could I or Can I” questions

These are everyday common questions you ask yourself. Not only do you ask them, other people might ask them of you also.

Sometimes, you need to do research when you make this type of choice, but often, they are simple in nature. Sometimes, these questions have long-term impacts, but you still have enough information to make the decision.


How fast you drive – your decision could have a long-term impact, but you have all the information you need to decide wisely.

How much time you give yourself to get ready in the morning – very low impact and you know everything you need to know to make this decision.

How much exercise do you get – again, your conclusion will have a long-term impact, but you know what you need to know to make this decision.

How organized you are – you and those around you know the answer to this question, it has impacts on the future, but you already have everything you need to make the decision.

How well you listen to others – this is a good one. It has an impact on the future, but you still have the information you need, so it is rather obvious that you should listen to wise people and avoid foolish people.

How you handle problems at work – You have most of the data you need to make decisions at work. However, this one could easily slip into the “Should I” category if it involves doing things you are not naturally gifted with. For example, I am very good at brainstorming and researching things, but taking care of detailed tasks on a regular basis is my weakness. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you tremendously in your work.

“Should I” questions


How much risk you are willing to take – your profile will give you great insights as to how you handle risk, many of us, and you might be one of them, are very risk adverse. This will affect your career change and transition significantly, so you need to be aware of it and know how to deal with it appropriately. If you are risk adverse and want to make a career change, I urge you to use a proven coaching system to get you through the process, it will remove much of the stress.

The books you read – this may seem counter-intuitive, but you really should take into account your own personal development when you are reading. You are the only one who can start your journey of personal development, and you are worth it.

Whether you are a leader or a follower – we all lead and we all follow. Your profile will help you understand where you are on the leader-follower scale. It is important to know because it drastically impacts your career change.

What career should I pursue – This goes back to our Alice in Wonderland paradigm, if you do not know what is at the end of the path, you cannot decide, and if you do know what is at the end of the path, then you need to know if you have what it takes to get there.

What education do I need – Before you can answer this question, you need to know what career you should pursue, so it stands to reason that you should make sure your continued education is reflective of who you are.

Questions dealing with preferences

You already have all the information you need to make decisions regarding most preferences. Here is a list of these types of choices that you and I make on a regular basis, no need to out think these choices, if you do, you might have a case of analysis paralysis (not necessarily a bad thing and usually brought on by being a perfectionist, people the world needs desperately!)


  • How late you stay up at night
  • How often you eat out
  • How often you get a haircut
  • How often you have friends visit
  • What kind of car you drive, and what shape it’s in
  • What movies you attend
  • What you eat most often
  • Whether you eat breakfast
  • What you think about, when you have time to think

The impact of feelings on decision making

career decision making
The amount of thought we put into something often results in deep feelings about it.

Do I feel like getting some air? Do I feel like going to bed? These are examples of feeling questions. Feelings are generated by what we think about and focus on.

The amount of thought we put into something often results in deep feelings about something (and often dreams!)

Think about what happens when you watch a scary movie. Years ago, Theresa and I were on the couch together, eating popcorn and watching the movie “Arachnophobia,” specifically the scene where the spider is coming through the end of a pipe in the basement. You can guess what happened when the spider jumped out of the end of the pipe at the camera; the popcorn went flying in the air.

Now, the interesting thing is that the spider was not real, the situation was not real, the whole episode had nothing to do with reality, however, we were highly focused on it and it generated enough emotion to make us throw the popcorn bowl. In reality, it moved both of us quite a bit.

Your emotions are generated by what you think about. So, if you are down, think about things that inspire you, get out of yourself and into others and you will find your feelings of self-worth grow and your mood will improve. Why, because you are intensely thinking and focusing on something that matters outside yourself.

The bottom line is that how you feel is important because it is a reflection of what you are thinking about.

Questions that you ponder for long periods of time, like a career change or career transition, furthering education etc., all generate emotions that you have to deal with. If you are thinking about them, you are asking yourself questions, and if you are asking yourself questions, the context in which you attempt to answer them will change how you feel about the entire process.

Ask them in the wrong context and you will develop confusing feelings. A confused mind is an undecided mind and will not take action, at least not the right kinds of action.

Ask those same questions in the right context (using the “Should I Paradigm”) and you will generate positive feelings and eliminate much of the confusion and thus decisions will be easier to make, and actions easier to take.

Hanging Chads

I kind of left the whole issue of perfectionism up in the air. Let me explain my comment about how the world needs perfectionists.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people with good intentions claim that being a perfectionist is something people should learn to get away from. That is absurd when you think about it in reality.

I am not a perfectionist, and as a private pilot, that sometimes causes my passengers a little grief. I like to do crazy things, like do preflight while I taxi, fly very low over unpopulated areas etc. This is not the norm and will be uncomfortable for a perfectionist who would go to the run-up area at the approach end of the runway and go through the checklists in great detail.

You want a perfectionist as a pilot on your next flight. We all want a perfectionist to design and build the plane you fly in, the yacht you purchase and the space shuttle carrying passengers.

So, the next time someone says perfectionists are a problem, remind them how important they are to our very way of life.

How to use the Should I Paradigm

Using the Should I Paradigm assumes you have first developed your life purpose statement. Some of the assessment systems will provide you with a personal mission or life purpose as part of the process, Compass by Living My Purpose, for example, provides one for you.

Just like a soccer field is marked to identify the boundaries of the field, your life purpose or Life Mission statement provides you with boundaries, or if you prefer, constraints you can impose on yourself to make sure you stay within your personal field of play when making decisions that matter in the future.

Here is an example of the life purpose statement generated for me by Compass:

Your Unique Purpose

You find purpose in your ability to see connections in complex phenomena that help you form ideas‚ learn new things rapidly and live by foundational principles and values. Your purpose in life is realized in your ability to win others over to your point of view and communicate through your natural leadership style.

Here is how I would use my Life Purpose.

Let’s say I am looking for a job, and my best friend works at a department store. Of course, he wants me to come work there because he thinks it is a great place, the pay is good, the people are nice and it would be cool to work with his best friend.

He tells me about a position open as a checkout clerk where I can surely get hired.

Because I know my life purpose, I can use the “Should I Paradigm” to make my decision by asking myself how well the job fits within my life purpose.

All I have to do is ask myself some questions.

As a checkout clerk, would I get to:

See connections in complex phenomena to form new ideas? No, I would not.

Learn new things rapidly? For a few days, but then the learning would be over, so no, I wouldn’t.

Live by foundational principles and values? No, I would not get to express any of my values and the principles I believe in, I would probably get fired for holding up the line while I discussed the meaning of life with everyone in my checkout line.

Would I be able to spend the time to win others over to my way of thinking about things? No, again there is no opportunity to do that on a regular basis.

Would I get to exercise my natural leadership abilities? No, the only thing I would get to lead would be the items moving along the checkout counter and over the barcode scanner.

You see how the Should I Paradigm works, it is a simple questioning strategy that just saved the department store a lot of employee frustration, kept me from making a big career mistake and I get to keep my friend!

What is not so simple is developing my life purpose or mission statement (who I am) and knowing what the right career is.

The three elements of your life purpose statement

The three elements are your talents and strengths, your behaviors, and personality. All of these traits can be identified for you by taking different assessments. All three assessments are included in Compass, or, you can purchase them separately.

Talents and strengths: There are five primary talents and strengths, they are identified by the StrengthsFinder assessment system. You can take this assessment by purchasing the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. You can purchase it on Amazon.

Behavior: You can find out your natural behaviors by taking the DISC Assessment or one of its many variants.

Personality: The Myers Briggs personality assessment will determine your personality for you.

Why you need all three

Most coaches use one or at most, two of the above assessments. The trouble is, you only get a partial understanding of who you are if you only look at one set of results. This is important because these three assessments all tell a different part of the story.

Talents and strengths are the invisible drivers. They give your behavior and personality a purpose. Your strengths and talents act as the foundation of your life purpose.

Behaviors identify how your talents and strengths are manifested in the way you behave and give you an idea of how they function on a daily basis and especially at work.

Personality is how others experience your behaviors, strengths, and talents.

How to develop your life purpose statement

Once you have uncovered who you are by taking the assessments, you need to boil down the essence of each talent and strength, behaviors, and personality into a simple statement that identifies the foundation of who you are, what “who you are” drives you to do naturally and how you can put who you are into action.

I know this sounds complex, and it is, that is why coaches get paid the big bucks, but it is not impossible. If you want to do it on your own, you now know what is required.

When to use “Can I” or “Could I” questions

deciding on a career
Just because your profile fits well with a particular career doesn’t automatically mean you should pursue it.

Now that you see how to use your life purpose statement to make “Should I” decisions, you can easily see that there are some questions that do not need to be answered this way. Let’s take the sample questions from the first part just to demonstrate:

  • How fast you drive
  • How much time you give yourself to get ready in the morning
  • How much you exercise
  • How organized you are
  • How well you listen to others
  • How to handle problems at work

It doesn’t take much effort to see that asking “Should I” questions and bouncing them off of your purpose statement doesn’t make any sense for these types of questions.

When to use “Should I” questions

Now, let’s take a look at the Should I questions from the previous chapter and see how they fit.

How much risk you are willing to take – If your profile shows you are risk adverse, then knowing that up front is important in career transition.

The books you read – Knowing who you are should impact what you read. Why? Because you and I should both be reading, or listening, to information that will help us grow because learning is the lifelong pursuit of people who are growing and making an impact on the world.

Whether you are a leader or a follower – We usually know if we are a leader, a manager or a practitioner. Knowing what kind, however, is not as easy to spot. Compass and other instruments will identify what kind of a leader you are.

What career should I pursue – This one should be obvious by now, you cannot know what career you should pursue if you are not asking Should I questions.

What education do I need – Knowing what career you should pursue will help you spot what education to pursue.

How passion influences choices

I would be remiss if I did not address this critical point. Just because your profile fits well with a particular career doesn’t automatically mean you should pursue it. Passion is all important when it comes to career selection.

However, the converse is also true, so just because you are passionate about something does not mean you should pursue it as a career, remember my story. I love cars, but working on them for a living proved to be a nightmare. I love computers, but that does not mean I should work on them for a living.

Our passions in life give our purpose direction. When the two lines are up, you can be pretty sure things will work out well.

There is one other thing that plays into it, skill and ability. Just because I am passionate about cars and who “I am” lines up well with working on them, doesn’t mean I have what it takes to do it, believe it or not, we are not all made to do everything. Working on cars for a living requires not only the knowledge but a quick mind and hands that follow.

Life Changing Decisions

career decision
I contribute my failures to a few simple factors. I did not know what my potential was, and I did not understand what my passion was.

Let me tell you about what has changed in my life since I have properly applied the “Should I Paradigm” to my own personal situation.

As I have mentioned before, I have transitioned from career to career over the course of my life, from the early days of working on cars to my current career coaching efforts. Each step has played well into what I have accomplished in my life, but many of the stages of my growth along the way were filled with frustration and failure, not to mention the stress on family and finances.

Most would not say that my life has been one failure after the other, and I am pretty sure you would say the same of yourself because I think you are probably in the same position at this point in your life.

I don’t, and I hope you don’t, define success the traditional way. To me, money, position and achievement’s mean little if I don’t get to fulfill my purpose in life, which is the passionate pursuit of potential. I need to help people develop their potential, to help put them into a position to change the world or it all just feels hollow.

I contribute my failures to a few simple factors. I did not know what my potential was, so I was not putting it to work pursuing my life purpose. And I did not understand what my passion was, so I never had a sustaining drive to meet any one of the many misguided career goals I set for myself.

Knowing my purpose would have allowed me to put my potential to work doing something I believed in, and knowing my passion would have given me sustainable drive.

Let me share the misery

I want to take a few minutes to share some of the misery I went through during my journey, I think if you can see what I went through, it will help you see that you are not alone. Most of us go through trials and tribulations and it might help to see that what I went through, four different times, so you don’t have to go through the same painful process.

First of all, let me say this up front, just because these careers were not right for me doesn’t mean they are not right for someone else. Every one of these careers pay well, are noble pursuits and provide a stable career for the right person.

Life as an Auto Mechanic

I loved working on cars, but I did not love working on everyone else’s. When I have to take my car in to get it worked on, I am not in a good mood and neither were customers that brought in their car to get it serviced or fixed. Some people are downright nasty about it, as if it was the mechanic’s fault the car broke down, to begin with.

I did not handle this aspect of the auto repair business. I owned my own shop, and at an early age I might add, and so I had to deal with the customers’ frustrations and their accusations. Seems if you bring a car in and something else happens to it within a short amount of time, the customer automatically blames the technician. Most of the time, the accusations were ludicrous (love that word.)

I never got to make someone’s car reach its ultimate potential, even if I got to work in a custom shop, it would not have been helping a person change the world.

And did I mention the grease! Theresa made me start stripping the moment I walked in the door, shoes first on my way to the shower.

One time, I had inadvertently dumped gear oil out of a differential into my hair (I actually had a full head of hair back then.) That stuff smells like burned fish oil, and it stinks to high heaven. I thought she was going to gag when I walked in the door with a new shinny hairdo.

I could go on, but the important point is that being an auto technician did not allow me to fulfill my purpose using my potential and it surely was not powered by my passion.

Life in Computers and IT

Working on computers is just that, working on them. Very quickly, I realized I did not want to spend hours programming. I loved the potential that computers have to do what otherwise is trivial work for humans, but the work did not allow me to fulfill my purpose.

I quickly transitioned from designing software to solving problems for people. That was closer to helping people, but not helping them personally, just helping them with tasks they wanted out of their hair. Think about it, what an application (app) does is take the place of a task you do not like or cannot do. That is far from helping someone reach their potential, quite the opposite, it is freeing them up to do other things, and maybe that is helpful, but it was just another part of their job, not helping them realize the greatness within, which is what floats my boat.

There was some satisfaction in helping programmers discover new ways of doing something, or how to make things better for others, but it was not what I wanted to do.

Life in Electronics Distribution

As barcode technology entered the picture, I got excited about it’s potential in the manufacturing and distribution industries, so I transitioned my software company into a systems integration company. We developed software that integrated barcode readers, printers and networked devices with manufacturing and distribution software.

That was an interesting transition and it turned out to be a very successful venture. But it was not me, and it still did not allow me to pursue my passion. I was still just helping others remove some of their workload, so they could take on more workload. Not my idea of the passionate pursuit of potential.

I even transitioned out of the barcode hardware and software game into pre-packaged barcode software. Don’t know why I thought that would be any better.

Life as a Consultant

My consulting gigs helped people accomplish things in their businesses. In some cases, I got to develop leaders and help them reach their potential. That part of consulting was enjoyable and was a good fit for my skill sets.

However, most of my consulting dealt with implementing software, developing business plans, developing websites and assisting people in startup ventures. A lot of my work was sitting at a computer, developing detailed plans for implementation of computer systems, process, and procedures. Not my thing.

Now, I am the right person in the right place doing the right things the right way for the right reasons

As you can see, it was one transition after another, searching for the right fit. I found the right fit when I visited an assessment center (thinking I wanted to be a pastor in yet another transition.)

At the assessment center, I took three assessments, you guessed it, StrengthsFinder, DISC and Myers Briggs. It took a couple of years, but I saw what I had been missing. And my personal talents and strengths played right into integrating the assessments into a career change and career transition system.

In 2008, I took what I had developed over the previous ten years and began the development of the Compass Career Coaching system. The system is now used by myself and other coaches to help people like you transition from one career to another. In some cases, it is used by educational consultants and schools, businesses etc.

The system has been used by thousands to help them understand their potential, purpose, and passion relative to a career change and transition and I have personally, as of this writing, guided over a thousand people into careers they are passionate about.

When you think about it, much of my background prepared me to help you find the right career and make the transition.

Helping someone find their way, so they do not have to endure the same kinds of frustrations I am intimately familiar with, is changing the world one person at a time. Now that floats my boat!

Sustaining Passion in Your New Career

career decision
One of the wonderful side effects of using the “Should I Paradigm.”

One of the wonderful side effects of using the “Should I Paradigm” in selecting the right career is the way your excitement or passion for your new career will continue and may even grow.

You may have heard people talk about how someone you know cannot hold down a job. That was me. I went from job to job for years. I could not stay put for long before I was doing something else.

One of my companies was called SSI. I transitioned it from one kind of a company to another four times over a period of about fifteen years, the name even changed three times. It went from SSI to BARANTHE to Wintercamp Technologies.

SSI started as a consulting company providing software installation services. Within two years, I transitioned the company to a programming services company.

After a few years, about two, I started to change the company into selling canned software tools, and again after about two more years, we were selling canned software add-on applications to a popular software application we were supporting.

Another couple of years and I bought a company that sold and integrated canned barcode software and hardware applications and changed the name to BARANTHE. By this time, we were doubling in gross sales every year.

You would think that would have been enough change. But I was pursuing a passion I could not find, it was elusive and I did not understand why I was never satisfied, but I wasn’t.

Within three years, I moved out of the barcode hardware business into packaged barcode software we sold to Value Added Resellers in the barcode hardware business. A very successful model that grew rapidly, until I tired of it several years later.

I have to admit, it hurts writing about this. I see it all as a series of failures, no matter how much money I made, and believe me, there was a lot of money, I was never satisfied. I spent too much time working and not enough time with my wife and children, always chasing the elusive career passion I could not take hold of.

Even after all of that, I sold the company and opened a Bible Book Store and moonlighted doing youth work at my church. You guessed it, I mistook my dedication to my faith as what my career passion was. Two more years and I knew I made another career mistake.

So back to the barcode industry selling hardware and software, and the story went on and on until I decided what I really needed was to become a vocational pastor. So my church sent me to an assessment center for three days, which turned out to be one of the low points in my life.

I thought I was the right guy for the job, deeply committed and eager to help people, I was thinking this was it, this is what I was born to do.

The assessment center told a different story. I still don’t like admitting it, but the process came up with the correct recommendation and the steering committee said no, no recommendation, no support and no to what I saw as the career that would fulfill my lifelong pursuit of a satisfying career.

There was one thing that came out of it all that changed my life. Through the process, I saw how smart people used the science of psychometric assessments to identify the right career for an individual. At the time, I thought all the personality tests were the same, but the assessment center proved me wrong.

When I saw the power of how the StrengthsFinder, DISC, and Myers Briggs assessments were able to pinpoint the traits of a church planter I was hooked. I began to realize I could help others avoid the misery that was my career path.

By using the same tools and my personal experience in successful career transition, I could build an automated career coaching system.

That was twenty years ago, and I am even more passionate today than I was when I first started to realize I had found my life’s passion.

Why I am passionate about helping you find a career that you are passionate about

I know the misery of being in the wrong career, I endured many transitions trying to find mine and I do not want you to go through the same thing. That is why I offer so much free information about a career change and career transition. I don’t want anyone to go through the same things and make the same mistakes, there is no reason to.

So, here are twelve things that happened to me when I found the right career, and I believe some will most likely be your experience also. These are going to sound like I am bragging about myself and how wonderful I am now that I am working at my passion, but I want you to see how some of these things will also be your experience.

You will perceive your own uncommon competence

I cannot believe how good I am at what I do, that sounds arrogant, but it is true. I have never experienced this kind of competence and people see it and comment on it all the time.

People comment on how passionate I am at what I do

It happens to me all the time, people tell me they can see that I am passionate about what I do, I even notice how they will often be sitting on the side of their chair like I am, as I coach them. Nothing I have ever done has been so exhilarating.

Others see your competence and they are drawn to you

I don’t know if it is intensity, or just what it is. But people, especially younger people, are drawn to me, they ask to spend time and be mentored, separate from career coaching by the way.

People will refer others to you

In all my businesses over the years, I have never received the referrals like I do now. I get calls every week from people that are referred by satisfied clients. That is unheard of, at least in my case. I have always had to reach out to others, but now, people call, text and email me all the time, introducing themselves, in many cases, other life coaches are referring their clients, it is incredible and very rewarding.

Your spouse and your children will notice the change in how you feel about yourself and the difference they see in you

This may sound trivial, but it is a significant change. Theresa knows there is something different and it shows in how she smiles at me when I am telling her about the amazing people I work with. Even that has changed, as I would not have called my clients amazing before, but now I do because they are!

People will contact you years later to thank you

This happens regularly now. It never happened to me in my life before. Now, on a regular basis, clients contact me and what to thank me, asking if I can meet for a coffee so they can tell me about the change in their life and what it has meant to them, it happened again this week and it’s awesome.

Your friends will notice a difference in you

When I found a career I was passionate about, everyone around me started asking what was different, and they could see what I had not seen for years. I was always excited about a new business opportunity, but there is a difference between being excited about something and having a sustaining passion for what you do, no longer is it a job, it is who you are…and you get to make money at it!

You will be satisfied with your work

I don’t think I need to say much about this one, you will be satisfied because it is the real you doing something that is important to you.

You may find it hard to limit the number of hours you work

This may or may not be your experience. I find it is difficult sometimes to walk away and get some time off. We try and take lots of time off when we can, it makes up for some of the long hours. I have gotten better at limiting my hours over time and I recommend you try and keep your hours to something you believe is reasonable.

There is a sense of pride in yourself that comes with working in the right career

I am good at it, I know it and I am proud of the work I do, and even more importantly, I am extremely proud of the changes my clients make. In my life, nothing makes me prouder than to see a client working at their passion.

Everything about the job feels natural, and you don’t stress as much

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

I have found this to be true, and I believe you will also. Not much I can add here.

When you speak, people listen

When you are with a group and a person who is passionate about what they do is telling you about it, don’t you get into what they are talking about? It is hard not to. The reason for that is we all want what they have found. I have found the career I am passionate about and I want you to find yours. When you have found a career you are passionate about, you will want others who are unhappy to find theirs.

When to use the “Should I Paradigm”

Whenever you have to make a decision that involves how you use your personal potential, you should be making decisions using the “Should I Paradigm.”

Potential is something locked up inside of you which has always been there. An apple tree has the potential to propagate an entire orchard. In fact, the seed of each apple has the potential to propagate an orchard. The potential itself is in the seed.

The seed of potential is locked up in you just like it is in the apple. It is there, you just have to discover it, nurture it and lean on it in your decision-making process.

My focus up to this point has been on career, but the “Should I Paradigm” has a much broader application. Understanding some of those applications will help you see how important it is to know yourself, and to use who you are and what you learn to make better life-changing decisions.

As you can see, this is a list of some of the bigger decisions in life, let’s take some time and go over them point by point.

Personal development

job decision
Critical decisions at a time in your life when you are very vulnerable to making mistakes.

It is not possible to grow if you do not know “who” you are.

I keep the life purpose statement for Theresa and all four of my kids and their spouses on Evernote, so I can reference it at least once a month. The question I ask myself is, “Am I helping them be everything they can be?” It is simple to know. I just read their life purpose statement and consider whether there is anything I can do to encourage them to live who they really are. If I can think of something, I call or write them a quick note.

Choosing or changing careers

Of all of the important life changing decisions you have to make, career is right up there with deciding who you will marry.

I think that life has a dirty little trick to play on you, forcing you to make critical decisions which are so important to your future at a time in your life when you are very vulnerable to making mistakes.

I know as a young adult, I didn’t have the experience or knowledge, and quite frankly, the wisdom, to start making decisions which would impact the rest of my life so drastically.

Think about it, when you got out of high school, you probably didn’t even know that selecting a career direction should come before figuring out what to study, and choosing what to study comes before choosing what kind of education you need.

Having to make these kinds of decisions at such a vulnerable age is one of the real puzzles of life.

I think this is why there are so many people who are working in jobs they do not like, about seventy percent of the population. What a waste of potential.

Choosing a school

I had a conversation with an Education Consultant last year that really threw me in a loop. I asked her what career assessment she was using for her students. She told me her students did not need one because she only worked with students who wanted a liberal arts degree.

Of course, I was dumbfounded. She is helping students get into a liberal arts college to get degrees without any research as to what her student would do with the degree once they got out of college. I quizzed her a little more about it, but she was adamant, they did not need to know what they would use it for, they could figure it out when they got done.

You can guess what my next question was, “What if they want to work in a different field, one outside of their degree?” Her answer? “Only students who know they want a liberal arts degree come to me in the first place.”

So, this Education Consultant actually requires her students to make one of the most critical decisions about life before they even leave high school, no wonder the education satisfaction statistics are so poor. Take a look at these stats:

job decision
It is estimated that as many as 70% of graduates work outside their field of study.

Current 4-year college graduation rates:

  • Overall* 50%
  • White Students* 62%
  • Black Students* 42%
  • 2 yr. Community College** 12%
  • 4 yr. Public State College** 33%
  • 4 yr. Private College** 56%

*American Institutes for Research

**Hub Grads Come up Short in college, James Vazmis

It is estimated that as many as 70% of graduates work outside their field of study. When a graduate fails in their first job out of college, it takes an average of nine years to recover.

This is usually right at a point in their lives when they are getting married, having children and buying a home. They quickly discover that they are stuck in a career they do not have the potential to succeed in.

Selecting a mate

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is really quite simple. Once you know what your personality is, you can look up online at to find your perfect personality match. Once you know what personality type your perfect match is, you can go to to find what career your perfect match should be in and maybe find someone working in that career.

Even more important, and probably more practical, is that once you get your profile and your prospective mates, you can see where the conflicts will be by visiting the website. The site has an entire section called “Intertype Relations” that cover the issues that will be challenges in your relationship, that does not mean you should not marry someone just because you have conflicts. What it does mean is you know what to expect and what you will have to work on.


I actually wrote a book called “Raising High Octane Kids.” It is a book about raising kids according to the potential you see in them. It is available on Amazon if you are interested.

There will come a time in your child’s life where they will start asking the same questions you are asking about your life; what career, what school etc. When you have been through it, and you understand how to use the “Should I Paradigm” to make life’s most important decisions, you will be in a great position to help your kids make an impact in life.

Theresa and I have four children, three boys and a girl, our youngest. People who know our family comment on how our children are all so successful. So what made the difference? We raised them with the knowledge of who they are and we spent time and effort making sure they focused who they are on careers that would take advantage of their personal profile.

Let me brag on my kids a little.

Michael, our oldest, is an environmental controls commissioning agent, in other words, he is the guy who signs off the programming, installation, and operation of environmental control systems in giant commercial building complexes.

James, our second born, is a sales and marketing consultant. He left his job as a VP to help companies build their marketing and sales departments.

Jason, our third born, is an airline pilot for Envoy, part of American Airlines.

Rachel, our fourth born is an office manager for a capital equipment manufacturer.

They would not be where they are now if we were not using the “Should I Paradigm” to give them wisdom about how to choose.

Business decisions

As of this writing, I have planned, but have not completed, a separate book called “The Should I Paradigm for Business.” I hope you will read it if you are a decision maker in business. It will help you make better decisions about many of the foundational issues you deal with daily about the future of your business.

Employee development

If you have people reporting to you, then you should be taking their natural talents, strengths, behaviors and personality into account. It works the same way for them as it does for you.

You should be trying to make sure that what you assign them to do fits who they are. Delegating a detailed task to someone who is not a detail-oriented person puts you both in a precarious position and it will make you both look bad in the end.

It is easy to fix this problem. Make sure you have at least an outline of their personal profile available to you before you assign them to projects, or for that matter, to their everyday tasks.

The ramifications are obvious: if someone is working within their natural strengths and talents, they will be very effective (think about how important it is to have perfectionists working on space shuttles…you get the picture.)

Now you know more about when to use the “Should I Paradigm,” let’s take a look at the outcomes you can expect when you deploy this strategy in your life.

Should I Outcomes

So what will be the result of using the Should I Paradigm? Let’s take a look at just a few of the ramifications.

Worry, stress, and anxiety

Isn’t this the stuff you are trying to get rid off? So, let’s take them one at a time.

Essentially, worry is building a story in your mind of all of the things that could go wrong in the future. In other words, you build an alternate reality in your mind to try and see what the outcomes of decisions in your life are going to be.

I know it sounds crazy, but think about it, that is exactly what worry it is and what we all do. We think about the things that could go wrong in the future, based on what we know about the past. Then, for good measure, we take into account the decisions we either made or procrastinated on.

The very nature of the “Should I Paradigm” is to remove as much of this kind of self-torture from your life as possible. You will make better decisions because you will not be as confused about the choices. Remember, a confused mind is an undecided mind, and an undecided mind will not take action and you guessed it, a confused mind is one that worries; worry begets stress and anxiety.

Personal conflict

When you are not happy with your life choices, it takes a toll on your outlook on life. Those closest to you get the brunt of your dissatisfaction with life.

I often ask myself how many divorces and unhappy marriages begin as misplaced dissatisfaction with work life. In the marriage counseling, I have done in the past, as limited as it has been, I would guess that many do.

Of course, this entire train of thought results in a personal conflict when you start asking the question “Am I the one causing all this trouble in this relationship?”

Usually, the mere fact that I ask myself that type of question brings me to the conclusion that I am.

Normally, people do not stop there, we have to find an outlet for our frustration, so we take it out on others, with even letting them know what the issue is. Why, because you probably do not even understand how to communicate the issue without it sounding like you feel you are a total failure, and who wants to be that guy!

Conversely, when you are making the right decisions about your life, you are more confident, you carry yourself with some personal pride and everyone can see it in you. You want to look better because you feel better about yourself.

Let me tell you something about myself. I am a much better human being today than I was before I figured out who I am. I do not dwell on myself as much, in fact, I spend a lot of time in personal development, working toward becoming a better person, so I can help others do the same.


career decision making
“Marriage is grand, and divorce is a hundred grand.”

A wonderful friend of mine who passed a few years back had a great saying, “Marriage is grand, and divorce is a hundred grand.” Funny, and probably pretty accurate.

Financial strain is listed as one of the top drivers of failed marriages, but when you are conflicted inside about who you are, what your life means and you cannot advance your life, you will not be easy to live with.

Who wants to live with someone who is constantly unhappy with life? Think about it from your spouse’s perspective. Living with someone who hates their job, or even worse, hates what they have become is not easy to deal with because that person is dealing with internal conflicts that are difficult to deal with, for both self and for those closest to them.


What we think about generates emotions and emotions generate actions. We are known by what we do, not by who we actually are. Why? Because people do not always know who they are, and if they do not know who you are, their emotions do not reflect the real you because your actions are not a reflection of the real you. In other words, our reputations are the end result of how we react to life.

I do not want to be known as someone who reacts well to the pressures of life, I want my reputation to be the result of living a life of significance. I want people to think of me as someone who helps other people develop their purpose, potential, and passion. That is who I am and that is what I want my reputation to be.

And so what is my reputation? I have been told by more than one person “Mike, you are all about potential.” I could not ask for a better description of my reputation. I am someone who helps people know who they are and what they are designed to do and every time I get an email or meet up with someone that I have helped, it is exhilarating.

Personal satisfaction

Let me tell you about one such encounter recently.

I was at a conference that was catered by a local caterer. When I walked into the room, the caterer saw me and I recognized him, but I could not remember where I knew him from. He shouted out, “Mike Adams” and came up and bear hugged me. He looked at the conference leader and said: “This man is the reason I am in the catering business, I am living my dream and Mike helped me make it happen.”

To tell you the truth, I meet with a lot of people every year and have been for many years and I do not remember our meeting, but the time I spent with him ten or fifteen years ago changed his life, and his comments changed mine.

Now, my reputation with everyone in that room that heard him is different than before because he is a changed man and I got to help him change.

Can you see how wonderful it is when you are living the life you are meant to live?

I am very serious about living a life of purpose and knowing who I am and putting that into action in my career has made me a confident person who has great satisfaction in work, in relationship, and in reputation.

Personal effectivity

Efficiency is doing something correctly, effectivity is doing the right things, there is nothing more worthless than doing something exceptionally well (efficiency) that should not have been done, to begin with (effectivity.)

Working at a job you hate means you are being more ineffective than you should be. You will be much more effective when you are working at something you are more equipped to do from a personal talent perspective.

How good you are at completing a task, being efficient, is a very poor indicator of how effective you could be. In fact, if you are not working in a career you should be, you probably do not even know just how good you could be. I know I didn’t, in fact, as I look back, I was completely out of my element and I kind of laugh at the poor decisions I made, all because I did not have an understanding of how to use the Should I Paradigm.

Life changes

So what are the results, what is the big deal?

The bottom line is, if you know who you are (your personal profile) and you make decisions about the future using the “Should I Paradigm” instead of the “Could I Paradigm,” you will be happier, more fulfilled and probably make more money in the long run.

If you are one of the 50% to 70% of Americans who do not like their work, the Should I Paradigm can bring you some sanity. Properly implemented, the strategies I have laid out in this book on how to use the paradigm will set you free from the self-imposed torment of wrong life choices.

I hope I meet you someday and you can say “Mike Adams, you helped me change my life!”

That is how I know I am changing the world, and it is why I know you can change the world, because I have personally made the mistakes and I have personally seen the Should I Paradigm turn my life around.

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