Dream Your Job: Part 1 – The Checkbook Game

Most career resources assume that you know what you want when you’re looking for a job. The starting point for resume development is usually a short instruction about writing a career objective. Job boards and search engines require that you know what you’re looking for. There are scant tools for figuring out what you want.

“What do you want?”

The question paralyzes even the most successful.

It’s part of what makes looking for work and building a career so frustrating. Most of us end up doing what we do through a series of accidents. Just ask your friends whether or not they are using what they learned in school. You already know the answer

For the vast majority, ‘career’ is a funny thing to call the lurching moonwalk we do from job to job. Routine planning, which involves a huge slug of imagining the future, is rarely a part of a ‘career’. “My career path” is usually shorthand for “working on the next promotion” and almost never means “I know exactly what I want and am figuring out how to get it.”

Getting what you want is directly related to the precision with which you can imagine it. Even if you never get exactly what you imagine, precision in your dream is the key to achieving it. Getting to where you’re going depends on knowing where you’re going.

Over the coming months, I’m going to present a series of exercises designed to strengthen your imagining muscles. If you need a job tomorrow, these tools are not for you. But, if you are planning your own personal Shawshank Redemption, this is how you do it.

The first exercise is called “The Imaginary Checking Account Game“. It is designed to help you get better at imagining the details of your wealth while learning about the things you value. It takes a minimum of 30 days (although you can play it longer).

  1. Create an imaginary checking account. You can use an old check register or a spreadsheet. If you make a spreadsheet, you need columns for date, description, deposit amount, check amount and balance.
  2. Each day, you are going to deposit some imaginary money into the count. On Day 1, Deposit $1,000. On Day 2, deposit $2,000, On Day 3, $3,000 and so on.
  3. Each day, you must spend every penny in the account.

It couldn’t be simpler. Here are the guidelines that make the exercise work:

  • Play the game at the same time each day.
  • When you spend money, it must be for something specific. Research the exact price. You need to be able to imagine the exact price of things and what it feels like to buy them.
  • Saving is cheating in this game. If you want to invest, buy an investment (12 shares of Google @ $514.18). Never leave more than 2.5% of that day’s deposit in the account overnight.

I’ve given the exercise to about 50 people over the past couple of years. Many have come back after a month and said “I paid off the mortgage and invested the rest in my company’s stock.”

I always ask them why they are scared to want something with imaginary money. If you can’t have a dream with fake money, how do you think you’ll have it with real money?

On the other hand, the 15 or so who took the exercise seriously started to notice a change in their lives. Being able to start imagining your dream in detail makes it possible to realize it.

Categories Career Advice