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Learn to question your invisible scripts by reading Paul Millerd’s Pathless Path

Millerd’s book is about developing awareness of these scripts and our own cognitive biases and challenging ourselves to live the life that’s right for us. The subtitle of Millerd’s book could easily be: learn how to think for yourself.
Learn to question your invisible scripts by reading Paul Millerd’s Pathless Path

“Conscious quitting” is a new trend sweeping corporate America, and Paul Millerd is one of the key trendsetters driving the phenomenon.

In his book, “The Pathless Path: Imaging a New Story for Work and Life,” Millerd sets out his reasons for quitting the consulting industry (Millerd’s no slouch; he was last working at McKinsey & Company) and provides advice about how to leave the corporate world behind and transition to work that’s better aligned with your own personal values and interests. For many of us, joining the corporate world is the “default path” in life and is the cause of much unhappiness in many professionals.

While Millerd makes good suggestions about how we can take incremental steps to slowly drive career change and find more meaningful work, his book reads like a memoir that’s unlikely to resonate with older millennials and Generation Xers as it fails to provide an actionable framework one can begin implementing immediately. However, if you read deeply and closely, there’s tremendous value in Millerd’s words and experiences.

Conscious quitting refers to employees quitting their jobs because their personal values and interests no longer align with their employer’s company values. Millerd doesn’t mention conscious quitting in his book, but this concept underlies much of his treatise.

For the first six chapters of his book, Millerd sets out how he arrived at McKinsey, one of the top consulting firms in the world, as well as why he became miserable in his job and decided to consciously quit. Millerd focuses much of his discussion detailing how his educational goals were primarily concerned with gaming the system, leading him to the default path and being unfulfilled.

For example, taking easy classes to get straight As, therefore ensuring he could get into a top graduate school and get a high-paying corporate job. Millerd didn’t care about what he studied, but instead focused on how he could move up the hierarchy in the post-secondary education system. His focus was rarely on present activities and work and always on the future — the focus was on climbing up to the next rung of the ladder as fast as possible.

Millerd’s discussion will resonate with many Type A personalities who pick up his book because this is the educational philosophy many of us have accepted and subscribed to, knowing it will likely pay off.

However, this is why so many professionals working in corporate America are unhappy: instead of pursuing personal interests, passions, and goals, they prioritize prestige, power, and money. Moreover, instead of thinking outside the box, most pursue the default path because they don’t bother thinking for themselves: get good grades, get a good job, and make six figures. But as North American culture, work, and society shift, the default path resonates with professionals less and less. This is an emerging phenomenon, and Millerd only scratches the surface of it in his book. Further discussion of politics, culture, social media, and economy would have strengthened Millerd’s arguments.

While Millerd’s book is entertaining, there is little discussion about how we can break free from not only work but also the very thinking that lands many of us in this predicament (i.e., the unhappy, default path) in the first place.

Millerd has been critiqued by others for failing to be explicit about how to best implement his advice; indeed, there are no hacks, detailed instructions, tested formulas, or secrets to get you on your way. However, if you pay close attention to his discussion and read between the lines, you will find some valuable nuggets of information and actionable advice you can implement, there’s just not an abundance of it.

For those who lack self-awareness about why they may be miserable in a job or career, Millerd’s book may help them understand the psychological, cultural, and economic frameworks that led them to their current unhappy work situation. Those with strong self-awareness, something one usually obtains later in life, may find his advice less useful and will likely want more tips and clear directions about getting on the pathless path.

What’s more, older readers may find Millerd’s suggestions and experiences trite and out of touch; not everyone has a graduate degree, a top consulting firm listed on their CV, or an MBA from a prestigious business school that they can leverage to find meaningful work. Millerd’s credentials and experience make moving into consulting and general upward mobility in the marketplace easy, and he fails to adequately acknowledge this. Those with modest degrees and CVs, not to mention those packing mortgages and supporting families, may struggle to take Millerd’s advice seriously, which sometimes comes across as unrealistic.

While it’s easy to levy criticism against Millerd’s book, if you look deeper, his advice and philosophy are mainly about questioning the invisible scripts that guide our actions and thinking. These scripts operate unconsciously and lead us to do all sorts of things and make decisions that may not work for us.

Millerd’s book is about developing awareness of these scripts and our own cognitive biases and challenging ourselves to live the life that’s right for us. The subtitle of Millerd’s book could easily be: learn how to think for yourself. Millerd doesn’t have concrete answers or direction for you, and that’s the point; his advice is to begin exploring your own core beliefs, attitudes, and biases to uncover why you’re unhappy. Seriously, how often does the average person sit down and work out their life’s purpose, values, and major goals. This is a lot of work, and the reason why many people will fall back onto or choose the default path: because it’s easy and comfortable.

However, those who digest and meaningfully reflect on Millerd’s advice, experiences, and mistakes may one day be able to summon the courage inside themselves to make life and career decisions truly aligned with their personal values. And these people will find themselves, one day, living an entirely different life, on the pathless path.