What should I do with my life?
This is one question that is haunting us right from 10th – 12th – college- after college-and our twenties.
It is one of the most important decisions in life and it’s funny how we are given zero career guidance in our Indian school system. All we had is some ‘very well informed’ advice from parents, neighbors or relatives.
So, I have been researching, thinking, experimenting and talking to people about this for a while now. I have written down all my learning in two blog posts and this is the first part of it.
If you are confused or have no clue on what to do with your life, I think this post and the following one will be useful. I will also link to some of the resources I found very helpful.
This word comes with a set of unwritten rules – conditioned over years by the media and the society.
Let’s look at them –
Choosing The One
The word career brings the pressure of choosing this one thing and doing it for the rest of your life.
Well, forget that thought.
Gone are the times of specialists.
The now and the future is for the generalists. The jack of more than one trades.
Take the example of this guy –
He is Harish Sivaramakrishnan.
You might know him as the lead singer and co-founder of Agam band.
But did you know that he has a successful career in tech as well – that too in different fields within it.
Take a look at his LinkedIn profile.
He started out with web development – went on to designing – was the head of design at Google and is now in some sort of a management-cum tech role.
Ok. You might argue that he is an exception. But no.
Some famous examples include – Elon Musk, Leonardo Da Vince and Richard Feynman (source: this post). And yes I have met some not so famous people too – who do many things simultaneously and who have made major and minor switches in their career. And yes they earn well too.
Not convinced yet?
Then go read this post. It talks about why you need to be a generalist and recommends to get good at least three skills to be successful in the coming years.
So all I am trying to say is that you can do many things simultaneously and you can switch as well. It’s not just ok but is actually good.
Interest In A Subject Doesn’t Guarantee An Interest In The Job It Offers.
Studying a subject is totally different from doing a job related to it. They both require a different set of skills and is a different experience altogether.
You might love and be good at studying about the human body – but becoming a doctor is a whole different thing.
And often the job we do has little or no connection with the things we studied in college.
So, don’t regret doing the wrong college major as well. College can be considered as a basic degree of study just like school.
Let go of your ‘Dreams’
We all have a dream that we hold close to our heart.
Maybe that of becoming an actor or an IPS officer or a singer in a band.
But do they mean anything?
Weren’t they nothing but mere ideas?
Formed from what was shown ‘cool’ in the movies and TVs.
I had a classmate who wanted to become an IAS officer. When asked why- his first reason was being able to ride in the cool car with red beacon.
So aren’t we just attracted to the ‘coolness’ or the ‘social validation’ that it gives us?
So do you really need to go after them?
Because the only reason you should be an actor – is if you absolutely enjoy and lose yourself in the process of acting. Any other reason is secondary.
So let go of all your meaningless childhood fantasies.
Follow Your Passion?
Now, this is again another advice that is flooding the media.
Thanks to Steve Jobs – The word passion has created this huge expectation.
This one magical thing we have to keep searching and when found will give an awesome life henceforth.
I find it untrue on many levels –
- The dictionary defines passion as intense desire or enthusiasm for something. I find myself and the people around me enthusiastic about many things. I am passionate about – photography, cooking, listening to music, psychology- ok it’s a really long list. I hardly find anybody with this one single passion. And for many their passion changes from time to time.
- Passion is so-overhyped and has created this huge expectation – that even if people find something they like to do – they are still unsatisfied. They feel there is something better out there that will make them feel more awesome.
- I don’t think there is any job that will make us jump out of the bed every single day. There will be bad and unmotivated days at any work.
- Living an awesome satisfying life has many variables – your mental state, your relationships, environment and so on. And work is just one of the variable. So following your passion doesn’t mean an awesome life henceforth.
Money is important. No doubt about it. But does more money make us happier?
Yes. A huge bank balance makes us happy. And so does all the pretty things we buy with it. But isn’t all that happiness just momentary? Like a kid gets happy when you give him or her a candy?
So should we just choose a job that makes us happy at the beginning of the month?
Shouldn’t we rather look at something that gives us day to day fulfillment?
Because the only happiness that will sustain is one that comes from within.
Now, you might argue that money lets you travel. Or retire early.
Yes. All that is great.
But how many days are you going to travel in a year?
Two months max? Is it worth suffering for the rest ten months?
Or take the case of retiring say before 40.
Who is to know what is going to happen to you at 40? What if you lose all the money to some sickness on the way or even worse – die before it?
So are you going to sacrifice your youthful years to some great life you think you are going to have after 40?
Because your life is now. Your life is today.
So look for something that gives you everyday fulfillment.
Your Life – Your Way
I hate this word work-life balance. As if working is not living.
Your career constitutes a major part of your life and will affect the others parts of it like – where you are going to live, how you are living, how much time you have in your life and so on.
So don’t let this post or anybody else tell you how to live.
It is okay if you don’t have a career. It is okay if you are a family person and just want to make the life of people around you meaningful. Its okay if you just want to do some part-time job. Or just want to roam around the world doing random jobs.
It’s your life. You decide how to live. Don’t let others judgments come your way.
Ok. I know what you are thinking. How do you actually find what to do with my life?
My next post is a step by step procedure for figuring out the right career (or careers).
Leave your email id below – so that you get notified when I make the post. It will be releasing next week.