Sunday, July 18, 2010

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Earlier today, I was spending some time with my 6-year old niece, when an interesting thought came across my mind. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, and her eyes beamed, a huge smile filled her face, and she shouted - "Makeup artist!" "Aaaahh yes, makeup artist, of course!" was the thought that filled my mind. And then I remembered a moment in first grade when I was asked to write about the same question. My answer was, with as much enthusiasm as my little niece, "professional football player!". Later, I wanted to be a doctor. Then a lawyer. Then I wanted to get in real estate. Then I wanted to be a sports agent. Then a recruiter. And well, now, I want to be an economist. Now that I think about it, I wonder how many times I've actually been asked that question - it's definitely way too many to count.

In society, especially American society, people are constantly pushed to look for the future. What do you want to do? Why? How will you get there? Will it be worth it when you get there? Are you sure when you get there, that that's really where you want to be? Starting in Kindergarten and asked every step of the way thereafter, these questions are always swarming the thoughts of growing minds. For some people, they pick a direction early in life and develop their entire life around that direction. For others, they don't decide until later in life, and some, maybe never at all. And of course, it's never solely a personal decision. It's a decision and a thought process that is influenced by hundreds of different outside sources - friends, family, tv, internet, etc.

Personally, I think Steve Jobs said it best in his Stanford graduation speech, which you can see here. Jobs speaks about how earlier in his life he was unsure of where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do - he hadn't picked his direction yet. He dabbled in this, including trying acid and living on an ashram in India, and tried out that, but none of it seemed to fit. In his speech, he says how looking back on his life, the path that he created for himself all seems to makes sense, but when he was younger, he had no idea the path that would form. Rather than create a plan, follow that plan, and execute that plan, which is what is told to millions of college graduates nationwide, he says to connect the dots looking backward. To, essentially, do what you want to do now, and then eventually everything will fall in to place.

So as many of my recent college graduates, myself included, continue to debate their futures, it's important to remember that as valuable as thinking about the future may be, it's more important to not lose focus on what you're doing now. And, lastly, as important as some might say it is to create a plan and follow that plan, I say do what Emerson said -

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I enjoyed it. Now back to searching for a job :).