Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about myself and my place in the world and what I am to do. Coincidentally, Po Bronson wrote a book, What Should I Do With My Life?, and Fast Company has an article about it. In the book, he interviewed 900 people and lived with 70 of them discussing how they found their “calling” and, hence, true happiness.
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? Because once you’re rooted in a particular system — whether it’s medicine, New York City, , or a startup — it’s often agonizingly difficult to unravel yourself from its values, practices, and rewards. Your money is good anywhere, but respect and status are only a local currency. They get heavily discounted when taken elsewhere. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and opportunity can lock you in forever.
There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are. It comes down to a simple gut check: You either love what you do or you don’t. Period.
Those who are lit by that passion are the object of envy among their peers and the subject of intense curiosity. They are the source of good ideas. They make the extra effort. They demonstrate the commitment. They are the ones who, day by day, will rescue this drifting ship. And they will be rewarded. With money, sure, and responsibility, undoubtedly. But with something even better too: the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing your place in the world. We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity — if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes.
As the New Year begins, I think I will be thinking quite a bit about this question. Maybe it’s because I’m 33 and feeling anxious, somewhat depressed and direction-less in life, but I have found myself wondering what I’m doing and if is the answer to that question. It should be an interesting 2003 for me.