What a question! Of all the questions I’ve been asked in my life, this one has probably caused the most thought and, unfortunately, the most confusion. Maybe even angst. That whole issue of finding your Life’s True Calling can result in disillusionment and shattered dreams.
It really shouldn’t be that way at all.
In a world that increasingly becomes more specialized, people are constantly defined by what they do rather than who they are. I think the latter is far more important. It shouldn’t matter that what you do is serve coffee at Starbucks or flip burgers at McD’s. It shouldn’t really matter how impressive (or not) your work happens to be. Why? Because it doesn’t have any relevance to the goodness that you bring to the world. It has no bearing whatsoever on your interaction with others, your kindness, your knowledge and the beauty that is your inner light.
What you do for a living is an exchange of perceived value between you and your client/employer. What you do for a living probably defines certain of the skills you have, but it doesn’t define YOU. What defines you is the legacy of all your interactions throughout your life. And in your last breaths before you move on to the next phase, you can see who you are by understanding what you’ve learned and how you’ve treated those with whom you’ve interacted.
Your job? Not so important, really.
Of course, what you do should make you happy. It should fulfill you in very basic terms. If your work isn’t fulfilling to you, consider exploring why that is and take the necessary steps to make that experience a better one. Remember: You are responsible for all aspects of your life. If something is amiss, only you can fix it. Don’t leave your happiness to others.
Alas, I digress.
What do you want to be when you grow up, Trane?
Nowadays, I love this question. I ask it to myself regularly, to be perfectly honest. I don’t feel angst about it anymore, though. I explore this question as a vital reminder that I have a rich and almost impossibly varied range of interests. I ask myself this question as a way of giving myself permission to explore new interests and to go after those new-found passions with energy and enthusiasm.
I strongly believe that our modern life of specialization is unavoidable, but I also believe that within any society of specialists, there must be a group of generalists. Specialization really can only thrive when those of that group are supported by others who have a greater breadth of knowledge. Specialization, by its very nature, is a pursuit of depth of knowledge. Generalization is the pursuit of breadth of knowledge. Neither is better than the other. And, frankly, nobody can tell you which one is best for you. Only you can answer that particular question.
So, if you want to spend 50 years going down one particular rabbit hole, bravo! Follow that passion and make it happen. If you want, however, to explore as many of this universe’s infinite possibilities as time allows, know that the experience will not only serve you well, it will serve the rest of the world, too.
I’m a generalist. I’ve done everything from flip burgers to software localization, from managing a motorcycle dealership department to managing computer servers and networks. And, in the context of Living Intentionally, you know me as the guy who explores energy healing and coaching others in the pursuit of health and joy.
What do you want to be when you grow up? I think the best answer to that question should be, “I want to be me.”
Here’s Emilie Wapnick’s thoughts on the subject. I hope you enjoy it.