How to do what you love
'How to do what you love' is the title of a new essay from Paul Graham.
Paul is a brilliant essayist, really insightful, with an easy style and entertaining too. So when I read the title to this latest essay I thought to myself, 'brilliant!' and immediately had visions of putting it up on the family weblog so my four children (19 -> 25) could benefit from some pearls of wisdom. Alas, although the piece is well thought out and researched, the advice is complex and discouraging.
The final paragraph starts-
"Whichever route you take, expect a struggle. Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it's rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties."
Whenever something seems complex I always think it's a sure sign we don't fully understand the problem yet. Truth is always simple. When we can get to see the bigger picture, the larger context, clarity and simplicity follow, but to do this means first being able to raise our level of consciousness. As Albert Einstein once put it, "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them."
Many of the problems facing us today seem complex and intractable but I don't consider that reason to despair, only to recognise that we're still looking at them from the same domain as the problems themselves. I think there's another way to look at problems and that's to see them as the reflection of our limited ways of thinking and let this be the catalyst to let go of our worn and fearful paradigms.
Sorry, I've digressed way off topic. The point is, I won't be giving my kids this essay - it just wouldn't help them. But what advice should I give?
Maybe I'd be better off helping them to take a lot of what they've learnt in school with a big pinch of salt - let them see that the laws, the rules and 'the way things are' are pretty much other peoples fearful thinking taken form - but they can choose to not go down that road.
Perhaps I could show them that instead of riling against what sometimes seems like a cruel and unjust world, they could just as easily choose to call it friend, and then use their experiences to let themselves be changed, so they themselves 'become the change they want to see in the world' (Ghandi?)
And should I suggest that instead of trying to 'find the work they love' they might be better off nurturing the love within themselves so that it's always with them and can shine into whatever work they choose to do? - Let them see that their unique gift to the world is not the work itself but what they bring to their work - so their energy can enliven any flagging project, their spirit warm any workplace or breathe life into any down trodden organisation, and there genius shine through everything they do.
What if I could find a way to let them see, just as in the Buddhist Proverb 'When the student is ready, the master appears', that when they let their own light shine the 'work they were meant to do' has a way of finding them.
I'm probably not the best person to advise my own children (bearing in mind I'm 50 years old and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up! ;-) ). What advice do you think we should we give our kids? Please tell.
Credit to these posts by Lisa Haneberg and Dave Pollard for the motivation for this post.
Update: Evely Rodriguez has a great post the same theme.
Update: Johnnie Moore has taken this meme and added some wonderful perspective. Please go and read In place of 42. Isn't this sharing & building of insight an incredible way to learn & grow?