I used to believe that having a single “calling” or “passion” was important. And that it was critical I identify that as soon as possible and do it for the rest of my life. Or else life would be squandered and I’d never live up to my potential to do that “one thing.”
There’s even a book with that title, “the one thing.” It was ok. I should probably stop recommending it to people.
I’m not even sure when this belief became entrenched in my mind. It’s what you’re told by your teachers in school. It’s what you’re told by your mentors. Family and friends reinforce it.
But where did they hear it? Where was this assumption coming from?
It’s been part of the zeitgeist for a long time. Unless you were wealthy, or were a polymath (Da Vinci), for most of history, it made sense to focus on one thing.
The baker would bake, the builder would build, the doctor would diagnose, the teacher would teach.
You did your thing. But you couldn’t really call them ‘careers’ because that would imply there was a choice. There wasn’t. You were a slave to circumstance — or maybe it was a blessing, depending on how you look at it.
You’d maybe live to 50 years old. Stability was good. You needed money to support your extended family — you couldn’t be irresponsible by going off and trying a bunch of things. People had roles to play, the roles were defined, and fit neatly into society.
Jobs as we know them (with systems and bosses) didn’t really exist until the 1700’s. Capitalism emerged. And then every technological revolution created new industries and new jobs. Choices increased. Now you could be a banker or a taxi driver. But still, you would choose a career, and then you’d do it for most of your life.
And then life expectancy, geographical mobility, and relative wealth began to shift the tides. Now you’ve got a long life, have a line of credit, and can work anywhere in your country (and eventually the world). You had choices. And when people have choices they can’t stay put. We want to explore.
Here’s where my thinking started to change.
I started to wonder, was the idea of having one job for life some sort of necessity, or was it a choice?
It seems like, for most of us, for most of history, it was a necessity.
Perhaps that’s where this idea of a ‘calling’ emerged from.
Maybe there was nothing natural about having just one calling.
Maybe we just made it up and didn’t really think about it, and then it kind of inadvertently morphed into something we’d repeat.
It became mythologized in popular culture…causing undue harm and existential angst amongst senior high school students for generations to come.
I choose all of them.
There’s nothing wrong with having one job or one focus in life. It’s impressive, actually. But it’s not necessary. The point is that it was an idea that survived from a lack of relative freedom.
We’ve actually had lots of interests for a long time.
Do you ever feel the need to create? To explore? To jump into something totally new? Everybody has these feelings. Maybe we should listen…
Life is short. But life is long, too.
In terms of the possible careers and skills you can have 5 careers. Or 10. Or more. The argument is that you need 10,000 hours to be come great at something. Probably less to become really good, or at least better than most in the world. Do anything for that long with intent and you will be able to make a living.
This rule is usually applied to creative activities like painting or writing or playing the piano. But it applies to anything.
Let’s say you do your job, deliberately and with intent — sales or marketing or management or whatever you’ve chosen to do right now in life. You try and improve, a little each day. You’re racking up the hours. You do the job 5 hours a day — you’re focused. In five years, you’ve racked up more than 9,000 hours. Oh, and 10,000 hours is only 416 days…It seems like theres room and time in life to do lots of things. Not only to do them, but to get really good at them.
Since we have the choice now, why not give it a shot? Why not start a completely new career for a few years? And then another one a few years after? Besides, the interesting things happen at the intersection of disciplines.
University education has become commoditized and it’s almost free to get a good education. You can apprentice for a CEO, intern for a tech company, and take a million classes online with a wifi connection.
You can learn anything.
I read something recently that said “a human that lives to be 150 years old may have already been born today.”
Wow, 150 years…that’s at least 20 or 30 careers. We’re making big leaps. It’s hard to imagine the future. The good thing is we have a choice to invent it.
People are scared that machines will take away jobs. I think it’s great. It’ll open up possibilities so that we don’t have to do boring tasks. We can focus on the things that machines can’t do.
What would you do if a machine took away your job? I’d find things to do that I enjoy. Things that I haven’t discovered yet.
Now when people ask me what my passion is or what I do…I tell them I like lots of things. Well, I write a lot — obviously. Maybe I’ll do this for a few years. Or maybe I’ll stop writing tomorrow. Or maybe I decide to do one thing for the rest of my life…
Check in with me in five years.