“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question I often ask to new friends I meet at school as I am getting to know them. To this day, I have not met anyone who has answered me in a definite way. Most simply say, “I don’t know.” Others say something very vague and seem very tentative with their choice, almost as if they would jump to something else if things weren’t looking too good.
I have asked Grade 12 students and University students why they chose their field of study and again, their answer is the same and is infected with the same sense of indecision that plagues the answer of the younger student, “I like it.” They say this with an almost flat voice and they seem to have little excitement on their face as they talk about their prospective career.
I believe Indecision is a habit that starts in grade school and takes on permanency as a child goes through high school and college. With each passing year, students seem less and less sure about what they want to do. Kindergartners when asked about their future plans will answer with shining eyes and excited voices, and they will express a big dream that they have such as making a scientific breakthrough or becoming number one in the world at a sport. This is the exact contrast to the tentative youth who seems to struggle to come up with any definitive choice.
There are so many career choices in today’s age of constant change. In fact, it is estimated that 40-60% of future jobs have yet to be created. There is no shortage of possibilities. There is also immense pressure by society to make money. It is treated as common wisdom that making more money will create more happiness. In fact, studies show that the correlation between happiness and money dissolves after an income of 75,000$ a year is reached. This creates indecision because people want to go into the secure job that makes money, however a lot of times this is not their true passion, which may be more ‘risky’. There is a constant fight within him. One part wants to keep people happy and go to the secure job, while the other part longs to reach fulfillment and go for the so called riskier option. This creates unhappiness within a person. However, if you go into the secure job and leave your passion behind, you will have an unfulfilled life. Taking the job you love is the only way to find fulfillment.
The most important thing is to keep searching. Do not rush yourself. The heart has it's own timing and attempting to rush it will only end up in disappointment. Man is born as a seed and every person has a gift within them that they have been given to express. It is okay if you don't find it immediately. Just trust that it will eventually come. However, never stop searching until you have found it. You WILL KNOW when you have. You may have to go through much despair, but it is all part of life. Unearthing one's gifts is much like planting bamboo. You can water the plant for years and not see a thing. Then one day, the whole thing starts shooting up like nobody's business. You have to go through confusion and despair to reach the clarity at the end of the tunnel. As the inimitable Bruce Lee said, “Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose- to accept defeat. To learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying!
There was a Nobel Prize winning surgeon who used to cry whenever he saw a dancer. When asked about this, he said "I had always wanted to be a dancer when I was a child. I became a surgeon and quit dance because my parents told me to. Now I am one of the best surgeons on earth and everyone respects me for this Nobel Prize but I don't respect myself. I look at the Nobel medal in my office and I feel depressed because it is utterly useless. It cannot give me a dance."
If you want to do something that is not accepted by society such as poetry, art, filmmaking, athletics or anything else, JUST DO IT. If you settle for anything less than your greatest love, then you end up stripped of your right to fulfilment. If you want to become an artist, be an artist. Don’t follow societal dogma and abandon your passion in the name of security and making money. If you put your entire being into your field, money will naturally come to you because money is nothing more than the result of the value you give to people. Value is determined by the effort and quality of your work. These two things come naturally when you have a passion for something. All that is required of you is to fearlessly put every fibre of your being into your work. There is a Korean proverb that states, “Even heaven cannot make a diligent worker poor.”
There seems to be a “One in a million” mentality in society. When someone says they want to go into a ‘risky’ field such as music or sports, people try to discourage them by telling them that “Only one in a million people become great musicians” or “Only one in a million become great athletes.” They then tell them that the rest struggle to even make ends meet and live a very hard life. This scares most people off and those people live the rest of their lives tremendously unfulfilled.
Disregard this “One in a million” mentality completely. That “One in a million” is the one person who ignored the discouraging comments of society and was self reliant enough to stay with his passion, even when it seemed as if the whole world was going against him. Nature has a way of throwing us challenges, such as criticism and societal dogma, to test us and see if we are truly worthy of the success we want. Nature only gives it’s greatest gifts to those who are worthy. Once you go go through these challenges, only then are treated to unparalleled success and happiness. It will never be easy, but as the great Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”