I finished my degree and ever since I’ve just been spinning my wheels getting nowhere.
I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. How am I supposed to pick a career?
You know those things you do that don’t seem to have anything to do with work? Like the way you would organize your dad’s garage when you were ten even though it was really hard and no one asked you to? Or if you’d help in the kitchen and think it was fun? That’s what you should do for a career. That’s the job you should work: the thing that doesn’t feel like work. The thing you’d work your ass off to do even if you won the lottery. Do that and you’ll have loads of energy, you’ll naturally get really good at it, and it’ll never seem to take any unpleasant effort. The effort will always seem easy.
Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson was featured in over 200 recordings, he won 8 Grammy Awards and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. One of the things that he was best known for was his speed and precision. And yet both things were skills he possessed completely by accident.
First off, Peterson may well have been a trumpet player except that his childhood Tuberculosis pointed the way to the piano. He was dedicated and very good about practising, but there was this one particular recording that he was amazed by. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t seem to figure out how to play it. But with that mystery came freedom. Because after he’d exhausted everything he knew, that only left him with inventions of his own.
So he tried everything he could think of—and eventually he did figure out how to do it. But he didn’t realize what a feat it truly was until over a decade later when he finally learned that the recording he was struggling to imitate had two piano players on it.
By not thinking about limits Peterson freed himself up to think about possibilities. By being innocent he did what it previously took two men to do. There’s no such thing as a genius. There are just people that do not see limits and they continue to ask questions and try things long after others have given up.
Do not use the brilliant capabilities of your mind to calculate perceived or trained limitations in yourself. Forget beliefs about what isn’t possible. It’s time to see your life another way. It’s time to see your possibilities. You are capable of much more than you currently realize. But that’s just it—you must realize that.
You don’t come to some sort of conclusion and then boom, you’re all calm and peaceful and spiritually finished. The realizing is a verb. It’s how we live our life. It’s Oscar Peterson practising for reasons even he can’t explain. He just wants to know. And by doing so, he expands the entire universe by proving that the impossible is once again possible. You want to find your thing like that, no matter how strange it might first seem. Pick the thing that doesn’t feel like work.
Maybe it’s about how to raise kids, or influence co-workers, or improve some tool or process. We’re naturally creative. But we have to stop trying to be good at everything and we have to start focusing on being ourselves. Because it doesn’t matter what other people think of your interests whether they involve English Literature, Star Trek, or spiders. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You only have one thing to do: quiet your mind so that you can hear yourself.
I know some parents who thought their son was wasting his time with toys long after he was a kid. Now that kid makes over $60,000 a year buying and selling toys on E-Bay. E-Bay didn’t even exist when the kid was born. How could he prepare or train for that? You don’t. So great, you have a degree, hopefully in a field that genuinely interests you. Now just follow your heart. You don’t want to be successful. You want to be gratified.
Peterson failed at learning that piano piece for a long time. But he kept playing not because he wanted to impress you and I. He did it because that’s who he was. And even if he wouldn’t have figured it out, he was still being himself by trying. Because there is no success or fail. There is only the living of our life, and for that to be rewarding we should trust ourselves to know our own direction.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.