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Monday, July 12, 2010

What’s Next?

One of my senior asked me this question in the beginning of the fourth year (of my five year combined undergrad + postgrad program). To my every answer I was hit back by the one same question, “why”. “Why that particular path and not one of the other paths”. Having advantage of studying at one of the world’s premier engineering colleges (which offered many career paths as options) and himself wandering into the myriad of choices, my senior was so kind to me and did not want me to get into the same situation as he was. He took a job right after his education in a specialised field of his engineering major. He had then taken a choice probably without much thought and was then thinking and re-thinking if that choice had made sense for him. Moreover, what should he do next, how did his then current job made sense for what he wanted to do next? Did he take the right choice of a job in one specialised field of engineering?

We are not to analyse his choices. Rather what follows is an account of the pursuit to the answer of one question ‘What’s Next’.

All that senior wanted was me to think cautiously before making a choice on ‘What’s Next’ after the college, so that I would not end up regretting on my choices. And that’s when we had become hypothetical. Why? As follows:

I strongly believe that if I were to quote conservative numbers on realisation of what anyone wants from his/her Life, I would say a good majority of people (much greater than 50%) on this earth would have never asked themselves what they want from their lives. More than 90% of those who have asked themselves this question are still struggling to find the answer and are uncomfortable over their this status. More than 9.99% out of the rest 10% also don’t know the answer but are probably fine with the status while a miniscule number of people know the answer to this question and working towards what they want from their life. The life pays a huge premium to those who know what they want from their life and working towards it. Earlier they find, higher the premium is. I don’t have to quote the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs as examples.

However, knowing the answer to that ultimate question is very less probabilistic. Hence, I said hypothetical and why regret!? Quoting the very famous “Sunscreen Song”:

“Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.”

If you can’t be among the tiny set of much less 0.01%, be in the last 10% of the people who have asked the question to themselves and are fine with their status of not having the answer.
Keep working towards the answer. Be aware that you don’t know what you want, what is the best next for you, however, let it drive you to pursue things, do things, till you don’t find what you want to do with the Life, but do not let it bother you. Just enjoy the state you are in, that you don’t know what you want to do with your Life, however, continue making efforts to find out your passion, the holy grail of your Life.

Quoting Late Dr. Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon University 2008 commencement speech, “...what anybody wants to do which is follow their passion, follow their heart and do the things they are excited about.... we don't beat the Reaper by living longer, but by living well, and living fully — for the reaper will come for all of us. The question is: what do we do between the time we're born and the time he shows up. Because when he shows up it is too late to do all the things that you always gonna kind of get around to...'s not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, it is the things we do not... What matters is that I can kind of look back and say: pretty much any chance I had to do something cool I tried to grab for it — and that's where my solace comes from...

...You will need to find your passion. Many of you already done it, many of you will later, many of you may take till your 30s or 40s but don't give up on finding it. Because then all you are doing is waiting for the reaper. Find your passion and follow it.”

Quoting Steve Jobs from Stanford University 2005 commencement speech, “...This was the start in my life. And seventeen years later, I did go to college... After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and no idea of how college was going to help me figure it out, and here I was, spending all the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made....

... Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn... ten years later when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me, and we designed it all into the Mac... If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class and personals computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do...

... you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference...

...I was lucky. I found what I loved to do early in life... You've got to find what you love, and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don't settle...

... If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right...for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, "If today were the last day of my life, would I wanna do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something...

...Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life...”

Knowing the answer is not an easily accomplishable task for you don’t know what the different choices will actually yield into, you may predict and forecast consequences of a choice based on whatever little understanding of the different career paths you might have at the time of making the choice, but the choice may result into complete different set of consequences than envisaged. Never forget “Life is a Bitch”.

Even if the consequences are as forecasted, for your mentality, taste, life style changes due to other things around you changes, you might not be looking forward to (happy about) the consequences as you imagined you would be while making the choice of career path. Worst, you might start hating the judicious choice of career path you made as the consequences (though as predicted) turn unfavourable.

So, what’s the solution out of it? Do we not move onto any career path and wait until we are 100% sure what we want to do with our Life? No, because more often than not, you will never know for sure what is the right career path for you. Moreover, till you don’t walk on (try) a path, you will never know how is really like. Also, only as you walk on a path you will discover more about the Life and the world and the different career paths available. So, do we try all the career paths? No, that’s also not possible, do not forget the “Theory of Activity”, you just cannot do everything in your one life-time.

Finally, is there a solution? As discussed earlier, continue your pursuit of the holy grail of satisfaction and happiness, keep on searching for the answer to what you want to do with your Life by continuing to do things. You may or may not one day find the answer to your quest.
Irrespective of that, never let the obscurity of thoughts bother you. Make peace with the situation, enjoy it and be satisfied and happy about this state of the mind and circumstances.