There comes a point in everybody’s path in which we must decide what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives. And, not only must we choose while not being fully mature, we must also be able to [somehow] guess the future viability of our choice. Five years down the line. I’m speaking, of course, about how to choose a fulfilling career.
The idea of this article first came to me while watching the soon-to-be-classic Three Idiots. A movie which, needless to say, is a must watch for anyone. Period. But, I guess, if you’re going through college (specially engineering), then the movie’s going to resonate with you a lot more.
Most of the drama in Three Idiots revolves around the feelings that drive the heroes in their career choices. It also deals with the pressure that comes from basing such choices on the wrong reasons.
While it is a little more complex than this, the three main viewports that the movie provides for picking a career are:
- Pressure from others.
- Fear of embracing your true calling.
- And (if you’re lucky) true passion towards the craft.
And these points are the reason that got me hooked on this movie, in the first place.
Each one of these world views represents one of the main characters: Raju, Farham and Rancho respectively. But they also represent points of view that I held at different points in my life. And I doubt I’m the only one.
During this article, we will be having a look at all three reasons in order. Mostly because I feel that the first two precede the last one in most people’s journey for self understanding.
That being said though, let’s get started.
Choosing a career because of pressure from others.
You know? I think this is a pretty universal feeling: having to carry everyone’s expectations.
And, at the same time, it is also one of the saddest things to happen in any given relationship between two or more people.
The reason for which I say so is that, the people involved in putting that pressure on others, rarely (if ever) realize what they’re doing. Specially parents, who tend to have the best of intentions (misguided or not) for putting pressure onto their kids.
I’m not saying there aren’t people who’d do this while knowing the damage they’re causing. But I would want to believe that most people who love you (which are the only ones you should be listening to, really) wouldn’t do you any harm on purpose.
What does this mean for you as a person though?
If you’re feeling pressured into choosing a career, let me tell you a very harsh but necessary truth: You’re the only one who’s going to have to answer for the choice that you make.
That’s right, not your parents, or your friends, or your teachers. Nobody. Just you. You’ll be living with this decision for as long as you allow it.
So, why not make yourself?
Choosing a career out of fear of embracing your true calling.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I enjoyed making stories in my head and then trying to put them into paper. Nothing excited me more than the idea of growing up, and studying literature.
But, as I grew older, I started to realize something that can be paralyzing at a young age: A lot of people were better than me at the thing I loved.
And this realization made me scared that I would never amount to anything as a writer. So, when the time came to pick careers, literature wasn’t even in the picture.
What did I pick?
Mechatronics Engineering. Not my brightest moment, I’ll admit, but one that I am grateful for. Because it was here that my second [and true] calling came. The one that I would eventually choose as my vocation.
In my earlier days as an engineer, I came across a little class known as Algorithms and Programming. This class was my very first step towards the world of code that I’ve come to love.
And boy, was I bad at it. Bad enough to barely warrant a passing grade. Needless to say, I wasn’t too encouraged.
But, this time, something different happened. Over the years of my career, different classes gave me the chance to have a second go at programming: specially Integrated Circuits and Robotics. And with each class I felt a bigger pull towards my craft.
So, when it came time to pick my second job (we’ll talk about the first one later), I knew programming was the thing I wanted to master.
It took me some time, but it was an adventure that taught me what I wanted to do with my life. A journey that I’m always very happy to share with people. And may do so here eventually.
The main point I wanted to teach you here was that your true calling will find it’s way back into your life if you keep listening.
So don’t choose if you’re not ready.
Oh, and back to the topic of my first option: I didn’t quite become a writer, but I am writing this blog, am I not?
Choosing a career because you love what you do.
I left this point for last because it took me a while to truly understand it. I always admired this kind of people: the ones who do the things they love and are good at them because of it.
But, this is just what people see on the outside. In reality:
People are rarely good at something just because they like it
There’s been a trend lately for telling people to just do what they love. And the advice seems to make a point in saying that, if you truly like something, you just have to be good at it somehow.
And to that advice, there’s something that I believe needs to be said:
You’re not going to be good at something just because you like it.
But, if you like something, then the practice and dedication, that are required to become an expert at it, won’t seem all that painful to you.
If you love something, then doing it for 8 or 12 hours a day for months (or even years), won’t seem like a chore. If you’re passionate, then pushing yourself past your limits on it, will even look appealing to you.
Being both passionate and consistent at something will make you good at it.
It’s not going to be any easier. In fact, I would bet that it’s probably much harder than going for one of the safer choices out there in life.
Do not be fooled, it’ll take a lot of sweat and effort to become to best at the thing you love. But when you do, it’ll taste all the much better because of it. And you will also have a story to tell.
If you’re going to make this leap of faith towards life. If you’ll put everything on the line in favor of doing something that you (and you alone) know you’re meant to be doing. Then you have my outmost admiration and envy. For I wish I had found out my true calling earlier.
Now, go make great things.
How to choose a fulfilling career.
After all these points, I guess I haven’t really explicitly called out just how to choose a fulfilling career. So let’s gather all the information together:
- Pick it for yourself: Nobody can pressure you into doing something they won’t be doing themselves.
- Don’t be afraid to wait: Your true calling will find you, if you keep on listening and trying new things.
- Be ready for the challenge: Just because you like something doesn’t mean getting good at it will be easy. But it does mean you’ll enjoy making the effort.
But more importantly:
- Don’t be afraid to make the wrong choice: You’ll, at least, learn something from it. And the experience will get you one step closer to where you really have to be.
And finally, let me be honest with you, some of the best (and most talented) people I know didn’t have a clue what to do with their lives at 18 either.
So don’t be afraid if you don’t either, and remember, All Izz Well.
I hope my rambling about Indian movies and my own experience was of some use to you. And don’t worry, we’ll get back to the code related posts next week.