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 don’t. It picks you. Either that or you become a slave to something.
We all have bits of life that don’t seem to have anything to do with work. For some people it’s the way they would organize their dad’s garage at ten years old, without being asked to. Or the way some people help in the kitchen and think it’s fun. That’s what we should look for in a career.
Every job has crappy parts that they pay us to do, ideally most of our job doesn’t have to feel like work. There are people collecting garbage who enjoy having no boss looking over their shoulder all day and they know they’re job and they can just focus on getting it done. There are no jobs that exist outside of these motivations, just people in jobs that don’t match their natural motivations.
How we know this thing is that it’s the thing we’d work our ass off to do even if we won the lottery. Do that thing and you’ll have loads of energy, you’ll naturally get really good at it, and it’ll never seem to take too much unpleasant effort. The effort will always seem easy when we choose the right things. But our thoughts can often tell us that simple things shouldn’t satisfy us when they often do.
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. They just happened to line up with what he found compelling to do.
First off, Peterson may well have been a trumpet player except that his childhood Tuberculosis pointed the way to the piano. That is turning bad into good. But the real manifestation of his interest was that he was always naturally dedicated and very good about practising. That was his skill. What came after made him famous because he had that skill.
There was this one particular recording that Oscar was amazed by. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t seem to figure out how to play it, and yet he was driving to figure out how even though there was no money or fame involved. But with that mystery came freedom. He was free to simply be himself in action.
In that naturally motivated action 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 alone, had actually had two piano players on it.
By focusing on his drive and not being stopped by his current limits, Peterson freed himself up to think about possibilities. His innocence about the recording meant he could not tell him stories in which what he was accomplishing it was impossible. He couldn’t say to himself, “But that’s two people, you can’t do that.”
By not perceiving that limitation he did what it previously took two people 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.
We were not meant to use the brilliant capabilities of our mind only to use it to calculate perceived or trained limitations into ourselves. We can forget beliefs about what isn’t possible. It’s time to see life another way. It’s time to see our possibilities.
We are all capable of much more than we currently realize. But that’s just it —we must realize that.
It’s also important to note that we don’t come to some sort of conclusion and then boom, we’re all calm and peaceful and spiritually finished. The realizing is a verb. That was all of Oscar’s failures. It’s how we live our life.
Many times, Oscar Peterson practised for reasons even he wouldn’t even be able to explain. He just wants to know. And by doing so, he expanded the entire universe by proving that the impossible is, once again, possible. If we want to find our thing like that, no matter how strange it might first seem, we should pick the thing that doesn’t feel like work. But often we won’t, because we’ll be worried about what others will think of us.
Who knows where our real interests will take us if our minds are quieter. 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.
It doesn’t matter what other people think of our interests whether they involve English Literature, Star Trek, or spiders. We don’t have to explain ourselves to anyone, we only need to be able to take care of the bottom two layers of Maslow’s Pyramid; food and shelter.
This is nice because it means the only thing we have to do is quiet our minds so that we can hear ourselves. Sometimes what we think will feel crazy to others, but that’s what originality does.
I know some parents who thought the idea of 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? He couldn’t.
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.
And remember, Peterson failed at learning that piano piece for a long time. But he kept playing not because he wanted to impress us. 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 in the reality we experience, 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 when we see it. We will change paths many times in life anyway.
Good luck with your career.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.