Though the modern economy has provided us with a plethora of diverse career paths, many people are finding it difficult these days to select a profession that allows for the full expression of one’s convictions. While such an undertaking may seem dependent on a particular career path, it can often be more of a question of how you approach whatever work you do. To better understand this concept, we looked to the career of Paul Alan Smith, an entertainment professional who has been able to habitually integrate his work with his passion to create positive change in the world.

Early roots

One of the biggest predictors of how well you’ll be able to exercise your convictions in your work is the strength of those convictions in the first place. For this reason, it can be helpful to explore where your convictions come from. Are they the product of early life events? Influential people? Educational inspiration? Having this knowledge of how your convictions came about can help you to better understand them and to understand why they’re so important to you. This knowledge can go far when it comes to acting on these beliefs, especially if you’re meeting with initial resistance.

In the case of Paul Alan Smith, many of his convictions originate from his experience growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1960s and 1970s. Since this time and place became a focus of social and political change, he was able to witness firsthand what dedicated activism looked like. This not only helped to directly influence his worldview, it also impressed upon him that the efforts of a relatively small group of dedicated individuals could have far-reaching effects. That understanding, as we’ll see, was able to show up later in his life through a variety of workplace efforts to support positive change on social issues.

Start small

One key point to understand when trying to create change is that it’s okay, perhaps even necessary, to start small. Approaching change in this way can have a number of benefits, such as keeping you from becoming overwhelmed as you work to achieve a goal that might initially seem out of reach. Modest short-term goals often also have the benefit of having a more obvious route to success than one’s long-term aspirations. By chaining together a string of these smaller victories, you will be well on your way towards whatever end result you may have in mind down the line. This strategy can also help to keep you motivated along the way.

The life of the entertainment professional shows this concept quite well through his time working at his first agency — Triad Artists. At that time in his life, the young agent already had a strong sense of wanting to create positive environmental change. Initially, however, it wasn’t immediately obvious to him how he could do so in an industry that was not historically known for this type of activism. In the face of this uncertainty, he decided to take smaller, more achievable steps, to contribute to his larger aim. This led him to implement a recycling program at his company, a rarity for workplaces in the 1980s and a first among talent agencies.

Maintain perspective

Another important aspect of following your convictions is taking steps to allows those convictions to evolve throughout your life. This concept is born out of the idea that the things that are important to us might change as we get older and our circumstances change. Since this process is likely to occur whether we intend it or not, it is often a good idea to work with this change and actively take steps to reevaluate our priorities throughout our lives. This could take the form of continuing education, exposure to new or different ideas, and even career changes that can help push us out of our comfort zone. 

For the agent/manager, travel has often provided a means of shifting his priorities. One of the ways this has been accomplished is through exposure to other cultures. With past travels that have led him to locations in Asia, Africa, and Europe, he has had numerous opportunities to see the approaches people all across the world take to tackle the problems of everyday life. These trips have also often provided an opportunity for him to engage in personal reflection apart from the daily responsibilities of his work. Such a break can be invaluable for those seeking to challenge their own beliefs and allow them to evolve along with the inevitable changes in their life.

Commit to change 

Perhaps one of the most important allies you can have in living a life according to your convictions is a willingness to follow change when it appears necessary. Many of us are probably guilty of staying in a life situation that no longer suits us simply because it is comfortable. While the unknown aspects that often accompany change can be intimidating, stagnation can routinely be the enemy of a life lived according to your own beliefs. Embracing change can be a powerful method of combating this reality.

 In the life of the entertainment professional, change has been a constant theme along the way. He’s been unafraid to switch geographical locations, job titles, and even companies when the situation was called for. A recent example of this is his latest business endeavor, New Deal Mfg. Co. This recently founded company will act as both a talent agency and a management company and will represent a talented group of TV and film directors. Though the nature of the endeavor is out of the ordinary for the entertainment industry, it speaks to the agent/manager’s propensity towards following his convictions. 

With the wide array of career options that have come from the current state of the economy, it may seem that there is a job to fit any person’s individual beliefs. While this may be true for some, for many people the truth of the matter is that they must bring their convictions to their work themselves. The life of Paul Alan Smith makes for a great study on how this can play out in practice. Look to the above overview as a first step in educating yourself as to how this can be a reality in your own life moving forward.

More about Paul Alan Smith at

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