November 25, 2009

What should I do with my life?

There is this article (thanks Amy!) that has been in my list of "links to check out" for some months. The intriguing title both kept me from deleting it and from reading it just like that, when I had no real attention for it.
Now I found the time to read it in full. The author, Po Bronson, has written a book after interviewing 900 people, and then selecting 70 to analyse deeply how they had made their life choices. According to him, most problems in answering The Question stem from four basic misconceptions (about money, smarts, place, and attitude). He turns the misconceptions into positive assertions and distills some take-away lessons:

MONEY Doesn't Fund Dreams
Shouldn't I make money first -- to fund my dream? The notion that there's an order to your working life is an almost classic assumption: Pay your dues, and then tend to your dream. I expected to find numerous examples of the truth of this path. But I didn't find any.

SMARTS Can't Answer The Question
...the idea that smarts and intensity are the essential building blocks of success and satisfaction is a product of the past decade. A set of twin misconceptions took root during the celebration of risk and speed that was the 90s startup revolution. The first is the idea that a smart, motivated individual with a great idea can accomplish anything. The corollary is that work should be fun, a thrill ride full of constant challenge and change.
[...] What am I good at? is the wrong starting point. People who attempt to
deduce an answer usually end up mistaking intensity for passion.

PLACE Defines You
Every industry has a culture. And every culture is driven by a value system.
[...] One of the most common mistakes is not recognizing how these value systems will shape you. People think that they can insulate themselves, that they're different. They're not. The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become? What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life?

ATTITUDE Is the Biggest Obstacle
Environment matters, but in the end, when it comes to tackling the question, What should I do with my life? it really is all in your head.
[...] Probably the most debilitating obstacle to taking on The Question is the fear that making a choice is a one-way ride, that starting down a path means closing a door forever.
"Keeping your doors open" is a trap. It's an excuse to stay uninvolved.

As there are some new ideas for the course of my life on the table these days, I am concerned with making good decisions. There is a lot in this article for me and I maybe those words can help me be clearer about my personal answers. So I am asking myself the question of What is the environment I wanna work in? because it will change the way I am in the future. I am asking How important should money be in my choice? because I know that it's not what will ultimately make me happy. I need to be aware of the danger of playing it all out in my head and never trying anything for real. And after all I need to be clear about the fact that nothing I decide today will set me to an irreversible course to the future.

My worries are soothed for now and I can get back to work. Reflection is good, but only if followed by action ;)

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