The other day I stumbled upon Daily Endeavor and EndeavorPrep. It posted a question “why so few people thrive in life while other’s don’t”. They arrived at an answer that “too fewer people discover what they want to do”. Is it really easy to discover what you want to do? Is it something that someone can help us discover?
If you are one of those lucky ones who knew early in your life exactly what you want to do and is now successful doing it, read no further. What I say here is not for you but for the rest of the unlucky world.
I do not think its easy to discover what you want to do in life. I do think it is possible but it requires a lot of soul searching and reflection. The world around has tuned us to believe and follow the “norm”. We are required to “go with the flow”. If we do certain things because that’s what we want to do, we might get chastised for “swimming against the tide”. [Jonathan Livingston Seagul, ]
How late is too late to discover what you want to do? What if I am 35, with a masters in chemistry with a job running research programs for a leading pharma and suddenly I “discover” what I want to do is to be a fighter pilot? I know many would argue that one is never too late to pursue whatever they want to do, but realistically speaking the earlier you discover the better off you are and the world will likely and greatly benefit from your discovery of our your own passion.
On the other hand, some think it might be too early to attribute a passion or pick a career for kids, when they haven’t had enough opportunities to explore every thing in the world.
Between these two ends is where most youngsters get side-tracked and simply pursue whatever they can get their hands at or whatever parents suggest.
Which brings us to an issue that is close to my heart, How can we – the grown up you and I who realize and acknowledge this gap – help younger kids (say 5th to 8th grade) to be more informed and ultimately make better decisions about what they want to do in life – careerwise or otherwise?
I believe we can and should. The world of “work” is getting complicated as economies evolve from industrial to service to knowledge to creative. To make choices about what type of jobs and careers to pursue is painstaking hard so most youngster skip it outright. To expect someone coming out of high school to figure all this out is akin to dropping them in the middle of amazon jungle and expecting them to make their way back.
Career guidance programs in schools as well as government-sponsored career exploration websites seem somewhat incomplete, though certainly very useful. The labor department classification of jobs and careers is no good either. Today, a position described as “Business Analyst” likely has a few hundred variations to it depending on the industry or company or department. Job roles and job titles are invented on the fly many leading to no correlation between the actual work and the meaning the title implies. Ultimately, no one can figure all this out.
So sites such as Daily Endeavor (treat it as sort of Wikipedia for careers) are trying to directly address this need by cataloging and documenting 21st century job roles and what it means to be on these jobs. Others are trying to cater to this need through books, video [check The Futures Channel] and cable and online series – check PBS Design Squad, . The hope is to that the younger generation and mid-career changers will have more clarity to match their natural skills and passions to what jobs and careers to pursue.
I strongly believe every child and every individual has certain innate potential to be good or even great, in some things, using which they would make this world a better place. Majority of us never get a chance to know what this potential is – we just float like a leaf in the river and get by life doing whatever we can. Some realize it too late to impact the world with their greatness, even if they get to excel in their passion. Very few realize it and make the best out of it.
The best bet is to provide a conducive environment as early as possible so a 10-year old kid can independently and consciously recognize and realize his or her innate potential. It will require a holistic ecosystem of products (books, DVDs), services (online video, interviews, offline guidance, school support, parental support), tools (assessments, tests, coaching), organizations (placement services, scholarships, financing, job searches) and many passionate people to make it happen. Daily Endeavor and EndeavorPrep are definitely step in right direction. But we need more and I have come to realize that is what I wanted to do in my life. In my view, the developing countries need such services more than ever. Without such early intervention and nurtured guidance, they will end up with millions of computer programmers or hundreds of thousands of half-baked doctors, engineers and lawyers whose tomb might read “I had no idea what I wanted to do with life – so here I am”
PS: As I was writing this, it reminded me of Richard Bach’s Illusions. The hardback edition comes with a handwritten story of creatures who clung tightly to the bottom of a river. When one of them decides to let go, he is thrown over others into the deep waters. He goes off saying something like, “The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”