What Should I Do With My Life?
Here are I am, a a time in my life when most people don’t expect to be asking themselves this question, asking myself what should I do with my life.
It’s not a bad thing. Actually, if you’ve been following, it’s a really good opportunity to hit the reset button and improve my life.
So I though I’d use the opportunity to follow up on a post from last year, where I made the case for asking yourself “Why?” before jumping into a career or business choice. But today I’m going to join the growing chorus that calls ‘em like I see ‘em about a certain popular type of advice, because it breaks my heart to see the many young entrepreneurs and freelancers being misguided by the new-agey-wannabe advice to just “follow your passion”.
Actually, Don’t Follow Your Passion
“What? Aren’t you the one posting inspirational quotes and such?”
Inspiration is great. But the realities of life are such that it is more complex than just “follow your passion”. In this article by Mark Cuban, he points out how that may very well send you on the wrong path for you. Instead, he argues, work in what you’re good at.
The way he puts it:
- When you work hard at something you become good at it.
- When you become good at doing something, you enjoy it more.
- When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good chance you will become passionate, or more passionate about it.
- When you are good at something, are passionate about it, and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen.
I think what bothers me the most about the “follow your passion” career/business faux advise is the it implies a self-centeredness that just isn’t good for communities, which brings me to the next point:
Stop Thinking About Yourself
In his now epic, harsh blog post at Cracked, “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person” (Warning, that article has strong language, NSFW content, and really, brutal, harsh truths. Read it.), David Wong lays it down with fury. And wisdom. You see, for a lot of the people that read that article and get offended, the problem is their idealized notion of life clashing with these harsh points:
- The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You
- The Hippies Were Wrong
- What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People
- You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
- What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do
- Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement
But the more you live the more you learn that David’s points are correct, and it’s actually a mature look at a fundamental reality of life:
That we can succeed by caring first about helping others. And that how much money one makes is a result of how well one does the work, and how smart one is about getting paid for it.”
So, in an ironic way, this rant at a sophomoric ezine carries more wisdom and maturity that the advice to be a selfish idealist concerned first about one’s own passions…
So What, Then Should I Do With My Life?
It’s easy to trash someone’s well-meaning advice. But a caring person knows criticism needs to be constructive to really help. That why I love this article on Time.
In it, the author takes the extra step of laying down a map of sorts:
- First, you have to understand legacy: what you care about, what you are driven by, and what change you want to create in the world, for others and for future generations.
- Second, you need to seek mastery by understanding what skills are valued by the market you want to be working in.
- Third, you need to seek freedom: cultivating and exchanging the value your mastery provides in such a way that you progressively gain the ability to do work that is in alignment with your legacy, on your own terms.
Now, this is a much nicer way of putting it, isn’t it? By not being selfish, we can find a way to help others, make a living while at it.
What we’re talking about is not to be dispassionate about what you do. By all means, be passionate about it. Just don’t choose a career or business based on that.
Image by author, made with Pixelmator (Photoshop alternative)Background image: Late Night in the Park, by KN, Courtesy of Shutterstock
Don’t know who Mark Cuban is?