Why is being a kid on Saturday morning so dope?
Because you get to do whatever you want! And yeah, there were those weekends where you watched TV and ate pancakes and didn’t even leave the house.
But remember those days where you actually got up and did stuff?!
I’ll never forget working the entire morning with my friend and my little brother building this hot wheels car racetrack down my entire staircase.
We had loop-de-loops.?We had banked turns.?We had jumps.
And those cars came shooting out at the end into the front door so fast they literally broke the sound barrier
(in this case, the sound barrier meant being too loud when it’s still morning and people in your house are asleep.)
And you know what?
I think the most fun part was building it, not even racing the cars down it when it was done.
We had to tape track pieces together, and put books under parts of it, and reinforce the sharp turns, and figure out where the jump could fit in.
I didn’t know what time it was. I wasn’t thinking about the homework I’d have to do later that night.
On that morning, building a hotwheels racetrack was my life purpose.
I’m a junior in college and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my life for years. I just kept waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration to strike me on the head and tell me exactly what I want to spend my life working on.
It hasn’t come.
So I’ve been trying to figure it out the hard way.
Some days I couldn’t be more confident in my life plans.
Some days I’m 100% sure I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with my life.
But here’s what I’ve learned so far to be massively helpful:
#1 Your puzzle piece is shaped super weird
In your life, you will probably want to eat food, and sleep inside, and be able to afford certain things.
In order to do that you have a few options:?• Rob banks?• Find a sugar mama (or daddy)?• Get a job
The third option seems to be the most reasonable option for most of us.
And since jobs usually take up most of our time, we try to find something that we’ll enjoy doing “so we don’t work a day in our life.”
So we’ll look at the cookie cutter list of jobs and college majors and choose something that we think sounds like we’ll love doing 5 days a week until we can retire.
We think that all-powerful list of jobs are the only things we can spend our time doing.
That’s really shitty and it’s really wrong.
That list is just a bunch of jobs that help our capitalist economy thrive and society function (which are super important things.)
But they are in no way the only way to spend your time. They are purely roles in a society.
Those roles are pieces in our societal puzzle. Thinking that you fit seamlessly into one of them is both massively idealistic and very dangerous.
Your interests, strengths, and overall personality will not perfectly match that list of jobs. It will not match that list of college majors.
And even if you end up getting a job off that list, it will take an enormous amount of pressure off of you just knowing that you aren’t crazy if you don’t feel like an absolutely perfect fit.
#2 Don’t turn it into adult daycare
I’m a business major. When I first started college, I really wanted to figure out a business I could start and build on that would be able to support me when I graduated.
So I would take all the things I even vaguely liked doing and would try to come up with every possible business that could be build around it.
I came up with this idea to do week-long tours in Colorado where I’d take groups from out-of-town camping and hiking and exploring all around different parts of the state.
It definitely could be cool. But when I really started thinking about it, I’d have to go to the same places every week and some weeks I would probably get terribly whiny customers.
I’d have to scale it to make any actual amount of money, so we’d have to bring bigger groups of people and have to go to only official campgrounds. We couldn’t do any of the sketchy hikes I’d usually do with friends, and I’d have to have stupid contracts and not do anything fun so I wouldn’t get sued.
And I just saw it becoming this standardized mediocre adult daycare that was just surrounded by a bunch of trees.
But when I thought back to just planning my next trip with friends, I got this warm rush of excitement and relief.
Businesses are good. They’re essential. But they can suck the authenticity out of things. Not every experience can be replicated on a massive scale for profit.
What would be worse than creating some lifeless, processed version of your passion in order to pay your bills?
Anyway, the point here is that your life purpose doesn’t have to be what you earn money from.
You can derive value and meaning from something even if it isn’t the main way you support yourself.
In the beginning it will absolutely not be. In the end it might be. But trying to make money immediately will almost definitely convolute your passion.
#3 There Is No “The One”
You know what us humans really like to overindulge in?
Things must be black and white. There must be 1 right answer.
Thinking like that makes everything so much easier right?
Then you can just find your calling, get your dream job, and marry your soul-mate.
That sounds really nice. Like really really nice.
It’s pretty much the plot that Hollywood wrote for your life.
But I guarantee if you think that is how your life is going to work that you will be miserable.
Because here’s the thing: almost everything in life exists on a spectrum.
I mean, think about it:
You like some things more than other things. You like some people more than other people.
And nothing is perfect.
I always imagine this fantasy life where everything plays out perfectly all of the time.
“Oh someday I’ll wake up, completely rested, eat an amazing breakfast, and then head to work to do something I love uninterrupted for a good portion of the day until I go home and do something crazy fun.”
It’s a great escape from the current moment.
But then I start comparing my current day to this fantasy day and it makes me really unhappy and distanced.
Anyway, the point is that you should not measure how good things are on a scale of how good you think they can be.
You should measure them only in terms of what you’ve experienced.
In this way, you start thinking about things in terms of:
“ok, yeah. I like cooking more than any other activity that I do.”
“I love cooking but I never got a clear message from the universe that this will be my absolute passion for the rest of my life because it doesn’t electrify my entire being on a daily basis.”
That’s pretty nice. There are no massive overbearing expectations and you can just devote energy to doing something you really do like.
#4 You can’t always make decisions for “future you”
When I was a kid, I could never understand why dads wore nice clothing when they didn’t have to.
I mean, come on. Why the hell would you put on a collared shirt, nice pants, and a belt instead a t-shirt and pajama pants?
At that period in time, I was absolutely positively 100% sure that I would always wear comfy clothes as an adult.
But I got older and my preferences changed.
These days I really do like getting dressed up for no reason sometimes.
And other than the occasional trip to IKEA in a bathrobe, I’m always wearing actual clothes and not pajamas.
But I wouldn’t have ever known I’d be thinking differently about what I wanted to wear when I got older.
That’s not bad. That’s just life. That’s just being a human.
Down the road, when you get older, and have more experiences, and maybe even change on some fundamental levels, you’re passions will change.
If you realize this is natural, you won’t hate yourself for trying something new, and you can move on to the next chapter of your life.
But if you desperately cling to something that you only used to enjoy because you were so sure it was “the one,” you’ll cause yourself a lot of misery and self-loathing.
You will never know what you are going to like 30 years from now. Don’t try to. Focus on what you enjoy right now and if you need to make a change down the road, make it.
#5 You Aren’t Special
You’ve been lied to by every teacher you had.
You are not the exception to rule. You are not a special little snowflake.
And that’s actually a really cool thing.
We all think we’re the only ones with our problems.
“No one would understand. No one can relate to this.”
That’s just not true. Because while your exact situation may be unique when broken down to very specific details, the lifelong emotional journey to find meaning is a defining characteristic of the human race.
The journey of self-doubt, overcoming obstacles, and finding something you care about is a fundamental part of every single person’s life who has ever lived.
So while we live in society that tells us to buy individuality and to stand out, we are truly all the same.
If you look at the root of everyone’s life, they’re all searching for the same things: purpose, meaning, love, and belonging.
We all want the same things. We all have the same needs.
It’s just the details that change.
So the point of this is 2 things:
1. Almost everyone struggles to know what they want to do with their life (if they don’t they are the exception to the rule or lying to themselves.)
2. Since we are all the same, you can pretty much tell how much you will enjoy a certain job or career path by looking at people who are in it.
And while you’re probably instantly dismissing that fact, it is true.
Like I said, you are not the exception to the rule.
Don’t think that even though a ton of people on Wall Street, make millions, and are unfulfilled that you will magically be deeply satisfied with those same things.
You don’t need a time machine to predict your happiness.
The experiment has been going on thousands of times and thousands of years and the results are right in front of you.
If you can take off our “unique snowflake” blinders and actually see how satisfied other people are in certain jobs, you’ll save yourself unimaginable stress, purposelessness, and discontentment down the road.
#6 Don’t Try and Save the World (at first)
I want to leave this world better than I found it. I want to make a valuable positive impact here.
So when I started trying to figure out things I wanted to do, I’d not only try to figure out how to monetize them, I’d try to figure out how to “Gandi-cize” them
(No, I’m not referring to the little known Gandi Jazzercize series he did towards the end of his life. I’m talking about making something that has a powerful positive impact on the world.)
I would take an idea and try to stretch it to meet my grand visions of making massive positive changes.
But here’s what I think now:
Being as selfish as absolutely possible when you decide what you want to do will ultimately lead to the greatest good for the world.
And to clarify, when I say selfish I don’t mean making the most money.
I mean choosing an activity that, as Scott Dinsmore says, “you can’t not do.”
Find that thing where you are your harshest critic of anyone in the world. Finding that thing that validates you internally.
The one where the grade you get, or the reactions you receive don’t really even matter.
You can feel it deep inside if you did the best work you were capable of. That’s all the validation that you need.
You think Beethoven wrote music to save the world? You think Einstein produced theories to save to the world?
Hell no. They did it because they had an excruciating internal drive to create, to discover, and to explore their passions.
They were their harshest critics and they were not driven by saving the world.
They wanted to know more. They wanted to do better. They wanted to push further in their field because they were curious, and excited, and couldn’t do anything else.
And yet, they did change the world. A lot.
I see that as true generosity.
You are special in the sense that you have a very unique skill set and passions.
The world gave you those. Refine them and give them back.
True selfishness would be wasting your natural gifts to pursue some mindless job for the wrong reasons.
#7 You will work everyday of your life
We’ve all heard the advice “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
That’s a dirty lie. If you find a thing you really love you will work every day of your life! You’ll work a hundred times as hard as you would otherwise!
But here’s the fallacy: work is bad.
That’s such a misguided version of the truth.
We don’t hate work. We hate meaningless work.
We hate mindless work. We hate work that uses your brain like a cog in a machine.
But true work, spending time and effort on things that you really love, is one of the most beautiful things that exists.
And yes, working is hard! It’s frustrating, it’s challenging, it’s painful.
But when you just embrace that this struggle is what it takes to make something great, it gets a lot better.
That’s just the creative process. It’s hard.
But you want to create something good. I kind of like the misery. It’s how I know I’m actually pushing myself to make something great.
I can’t imagine a life without working on things I care about. There would be no meaning.
It would be like being a spectator to the game of life.
Walt Whitman has a great line that’s been quoted in Dead Poets Society (and they even made it into an apple commercial):
He asserts that the answer to this absurd world is this:
“That you are here—that life exists and identity,?That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
You may contribute a verse. Man isn’t that so spot on?
Work is your chance to transcend yourself.
It’s just the bad work that we have problems with.
I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.
But understanding those 7 things helped me realize a bunch of things that I know I do not want to do.
It makes you feel a lot less stressed about the process and makes you realize you aren’t crazy if you don’t have it all figured out.
But we have time. And we have passion. And we’re going to end up doing great things.
We’re all born with massive potential.
And I think that someone’s greatness is not measured in the jobs they accept but in the ones they reject.
Nobody has it all figured out.
Don’t trick yourself into thinking you do.
I’m Ryan. I like chips and guac, bodysurfing, spontaneous weeknight adventures, and listening to Vance Joy. If you ever dream about being better, traveling more, and working on stuff you love then I bet we’d get along.