September 25, 2014

Finding a Meaningful Career

Philosopher and writer Alan Watts is famous for asking "What would you like to do if money were no object?" At first glance, it appears a tough question. But is it? I inherently know what I want to do on my day off from work, for example. Lay around, read a book, go on a hike, get errands done. That lists grows quickly, because I know that there are no strings attached. I can do whatever I want to do during my "free" time, without worrying about what my boss thinks, what my coworkers are doing and what time the workday ends. Is it really so different when it comes to a career or profession? [NB: if you scoff at this notion, this would be a good time to pause and watch the video link above.]
Why are we brainwashed to think that meaning and happiness have an inverse relation to prosperity? A better question might be, what is stopping our generation from changing that notion?
The more jobs I had after college, the more I learned exactly which situations I work best in, what structures I need to succeed and which types of challenges and opportunities must be present for me to feel satisfied. That took several false starts, lots of frustration, tons of trials and error and most importantly, TIME. My best advice to those starting out is to be patient! Follow your gut. Surround yourself with diversity in every sense of the word. And never be afraid to try a new path when the one you are on isn't working for you.
Failure is a harsh word, but for me, it is the root explanation of why I make better decisions now than I did when I was younger. The New York Times did a great piece on this topic, aptly titled "Following Your Bliss, Right Off a Cliff". Give it a read, both for the psychology behind failure and the opportunities that it provides those that persevere.
Yes, yes all these important life lessons take time. But hey, that is the one constant that all of us have. What we choose to do with our time is as individual to us as our fingerprints.