Monday, April 3, 2017

Richard Bolles, who wrote...

...What Color Is Your Parachute?, died at age 90.

Like many people, I've consulted What Color Is Your Parachute? more than once when contemplating my "career." I actually didn't find it all that helpful, although that may be more my fault than the book's.

I've come up with a few ideas of my own about careers in my thirty-six years in the work force since college and they mostly revolve around the question, "What do you really want to do?" Not, "What should you do, but what do you want to do?" And don't tell me what you think I want to hear. In fact, don't tell me at all; tell the mirror.

I feel like the most successful people I've known in life all love what they do and think and talk about it when they're not doing it. I realize many people just want to work at a job and come home to their family at night. There's nothing wrong with that. (The world needs worker bees.) But many talented people also work at tedious jobs that are just not fulfilling. And that's a shame. For them and for us. (Can you imagine if Bill Gates had finished Harvard like he was supposed to -- instead of dropping out to found Microsoft -- and gotten a job with a consulting company or an investment bank after graduation? I probably wouldn't be typing this right now.)

Many, if not most, people I find are somewhat embarrassed by what they really like doing. I'm not sure why that is, exactly, but I can say that when I was young I was a little reluctant to admit how much I was interested in politics. Why? I guess I thought it was some kind of immature indulgence on my part. Grownups were supposed to work at boring jobs in offices that they mostly hated. Maybe it's the Protestant Work Ethic (even though I was raised as a Catholic). That was the responsible thing to do. (If it was fun, it would be called "play," not "work," right?) Go to work, be miserable, but make enough money to support your family. And then die some day. Does it really have to be that way?

But how does one get at what one really wants to do? I've heard that you should ask yourself what you would do if you won the lottery (and money wasn't an issue). Not bad, but I usually ask people, "What would you do if everyone you knew (and therefore everyone who could or would judge you) were dead? What would you do then?" I really wish someone had asked me something like that when I was young.

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