This isn’t a video game. On this Planet, you only get ONE LIFE. So what are you gonna do with it? What kind of life do you want to live?
Over the span of your lifetime, the vast majority of your time, energy, and productive work — not to mention a huge portion of your experience of life itself — will be channeled through your career. Essentially, your LIFE’S WORK… what you actually DO with your one shot at life on Earth… will be determined by that one single decision. What do you want to do with your life?
Whether you’re a kid thinking about “what I want to do when I grow up,” or a college student trying to figure out which major to choose, or a disillusioned adult who doesn’t feel completely FULFILLED by his line of work… you always have the ability to CHOOSE what you want to do.
For some people it’s an easy decision, and for some people it’s more complicated, but whomever you are, whatever your situation… if you’ve still got a few years of productive time ahead of you, you might want to take a minute to consider how you REALLY want to use them.
ASPECTS OF A FULFILLING CAREER
The way I see it, there are three major aspects that make up a well balanced work-life: enjoyment, purpose, and responsibility. What you do with your life should encompass all of these, so they may be useful to consider when thinking about what you want to focus on as a “career.”
We (you and I) were lucky enough to have been born into a pretty frikken exciting time.
We have the technology to fly through the sky, travel to to the other side of the Earth, and explore the deep blue world under the surface of the sea. If you want to, you can jump out of an airplane, dive through the fluffy white clouds of the heavens, fall through the sky at over a hundred miles per hour, and land safely on The Surface of The Earth like an Olympian God. Skydiving costs $200. Or, you can just relax on the beach and listen to beautiful music, the quality of which the great kings and emperors of old couldn’t even imagine.
Our cave-living, hunt-and-gathering ancestors would be jealous. I hope you’re taking advantage of your incredible fortune!
If you can find a way to work “the fun side of life” into your career, you will probably find yourself waking up in the morning, excited to go to work! Musicians, pilots, and SCUBA instructors, for example, tend to have a lot of enjoyment in their jobs.
For many people, it may be more practical to choose a career that is geared toward purpose & responsibility, as opposed to enjoyability. “Fun” careers tend to be less common than careers that involve “helping people” in ways that are… well let’s just say “not as enjoyable” as skydiving or lying on the beach.
If you choose a career that is more on the “social responsibility” and “helping others” end of the spectrum, you might want to take up some hobbies that you really ENJOY, to balance yourself out and bring some FUN into your life.
With that said… whatever career you choose, you’ll need to find some aspect of it that you enjoy. If you don’t, no matter how important and fulfilling it is, you will soon tire of going to work, and that’s never a good position to be in.
As we get older, we begin to realize that a life spent solely in pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment is empty in the end. We all die… and with us, all of those experiences simply cease to exist. All of that awesomeness, spiritual gratification, and sensory enjoyment adds up to a grand total of… nothing. Poof! It disappears. And then… nothing.
With this realization, we begin to strive for a sense of “purpose.” We start to focus on doing things that leave a lasting impact; things that will go on even after we’re gone.
We expand our focus outside of our “selves,” and into the community of humans and living beings around us. We want to help others improve their lives… we want to improve the world around us… we want to leave a legacy, so that our lives will have served some kind of purpose in the end.
Through the experience of helping others, we develop a deep understanding of how our actions affect the living beings around us. We begin to realize that spending a few minutes to make an old person smile is a better use of your time than drinking beer and watching TV. It’s not that it’s better for YOU; it’s just better OVERALL.
The more powerful you are, the more your actions have the potential to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Somebody related to Spider Man once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Someone with billions of dollars, like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet, has the power to choose what he wants to do with that potential energy (money being a form of potential energy). Each individual has the ability to choose. Heal the sick, cure the dying, save the life of some lady I’ve never met? Or buy the new Bugatti Veyron?
Do you think that’s an easy choice to make? What do you do with the money in your own life?
For most of us, it might be more telling to look at what we do with our time. In other words… what we do with our lives. What are you doing with YOUR life? Are you doing things to improve the lives of the people around you? Or are you doing things mostly just to improve your own life? Does this give you a hint as to whether you would choose to “cure the dying” or “buy the Bugatti,” if Fortune placed you in Zuckerberg’s shoes?
On a larger scale… and a more practical one… what are you planning to do with the 20, 30, 40 years of physically active LIFE that lies ahead of you?
CHOOSING A SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE CAREER
Choosing a socially responsible career is the most direct and powerful way that you can have a positive impact on our World.
Many people miss this point completely. They compartmentalize their “work life” and their desire to have a “positive impact” into separate boxes. “Work” is seen simply as a way to make money and stay alive. “Doing good” is something that can be done as a hobby, once or twice a month, or on weekends.
This is the case of Doug, the Day Trader with the heart of gold. Doug has a deep sense of love for his fellow man, and he wants to have a positive impact on the people around him. He drives a hybrid car, and is very conscientious about recycling. On weekends, Doug volunteers at a homeless shelter, and teaches orphans how to read. So, for about 20 hours per month, Doug is doing something useful for society. Those 20 hours each month make Doug feel like a million dollars. The fulfillment, self-esteem, and sense of accomplishment that he gets from helping those kids brings a happiness into Doug’s life that his million dollar condo and brand new Tesla Roadster never could.
It’s too bad that Doug has to sit in front of his computer for 60 hours per week (240 hours per month), clicking buttons to make money. Who is he helping during that time? What is he doing for society? Well… nothing, really. In fact, all Doug is doing, for those 240 hours per month, is playing a complicated mathematical video game, and trying to take money from less talented and less focused players.
Mike the Doctor, on the other hand, spends his 60 hour work week saving peoples’ lives in the Emergency Room. Mike knows that his work is important. His life is infused with a sense of purpose, responsibility, fulfillment, self-esteem and accomplishment. There is a certain underlying happiness that pervades all aspects of Mike’s life, because he knows that his work is valuable. He knows that his effort is not just a waste of time in the vain pursuit of money, pleasure, and personal happiness; his work is making a real difference in the lives of real people.
But, when it comes to “social activism,” Mike is a real selfish douchebag. He doesn’t care about recycling, he drives a Hummer, and, worst of all, he doesn’t even do any volunteering during the weekend. In fact, he spends all his time at home with his family, or hanging out with his friends. Sometimes he takes slow, relaxed, month-long vacations just for himself and his family, and doesn’t even do anything for anybody. What a freaking selfish douchebag, that Mike. Those Doctors are all the same.
So, what’s the score, at the end of the month? Who is contributing the most real, productive time & energy toward the greater good?
Doug, the Day Trader with the Heart of Gold: 20 hours/month
Mike, the Freaking Selfish Douchebag Doctor: 240 hours/month.
What what what? It seems that, from the perspective of “time and energy spent doing something useful and working toward the greater good,” Mike’s life is worth 12x more than Doug’s life! Who’d’a thunk it?
From this simple example, you can see how powerfully and directly your choice of career affects the net outcome of your existence on this Planet.
Your “career” is your “life’s work.” The two are inseparable. What do you want your life’s work to be? Do you want to be the person who clicked buttons for 40 years and accomplished absolutely nothing? Or do you want to be the person who saved little Timmy’s mother’s life? How about the person who taught the next generation of children about the ancient Egyptians, or the person who finally found the cure for AIDS?
Most people I’ve talked to respond very positively to the IDEA of aligning their life’s work with the Greater Good. However, when it comes down to it, they are almost always unwilling to trade the convenience and easy money of their current careers for something more socially responsible and fulfilling.
I once met a young woman in a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand. She told me that her dream was to be an Environmental Activist and a Natural Healer in the Southwestern USA… but ultimately she was unwilling to leave her job with an oil drilling company in Alaska. This is not a joke, this is a real person. When I suggested that it would be worth switching careers and living her ideal life in the long run, she and her boyfriend looked at the ground, and said sadly, “That’s true, but we would have to get a smaller house… and we wouldn’t be able to travel as much.” As far as I know, she is still working for the oil company.
I know it’s hard to take the “right” road instead of the “easy” one. It’s hard to change a path once you’re on it… especially if you’re really enjoying the path that you’re already on. Uprooting everything that you’ve worked for… throwing your life into disarray… it’s a very scary thing to do. Your life will change, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
If you realize that you want to switch paths in life, but you’re being held back by fear, it may be helpful for you to realize that you’re not the only one in this position. In fact, there are many people around the world who would rather be doing something else with their lives. Some of them stay on the same old paths that they have become accustomed to, out of convenience and/or fear of change. Those people often end up looking back from their deathbeds, remembering lives lived on autopilot, wishing that they had just woken up at some point, realized that you only live once, and lived the lives that they had truly wanted to live in the first place. Some people do have a moment of “waking up.” They realize that they really do have only one life to live, and they give up everything in order to live it the way that they really want to.
As for me; I had one of those “waking up” moments. I left a fun, successful, and exciting life as the CEO of a real estate brokerage firm on Wall Street, to pursue a career as a doctor/healer. I left a big, beautiful company that I spent years building… because I realized that I was on the wrong path, and that there was something else that I really wanted to do with my life.
I don’t want to spend my life doing random, uninspiring, unproductive things just to get money and power. I want to spend my life doing the things that are important to me, and that are important for our society. For me, it’s saving lives. I can’t imagine anything more important than that. So I am learning medicine, and I will become a doctor. This is my path now.
There are many career paths that will allow you to contribute to the greater good of the world around you. Firefighters, teachers, inventors, scientists… we all play a role in improving the world that we live in.
Do you feel that your work is contributing to the greater good? Is this what you really want to be doing with your life? If not, what would you rather be doing? What’s stopping you from doing it?
Don’t be afraid. Do what you want to do.