As a child, Chris Guillebeau loved learning about planets and astronauts. He also loved burgers.
When grown-ups asked “What do you want to do when you grow up?,” then-six-year-old Chris gave two answers: he wanted to either become a NASA astronaut or flip patties at Burger King.
I can relate. When I was a child, I loved Taco Bell. So when I was around eight, I wrote in my journal that my dream was to work … are you ready for this? … part-time at Taco Bell.
Either that, or become a veterinarian.
(Notice that I bypassed the checkboxes for doctor, lawyer and President, in commitment to my Taco Bell dreams.)
Sometimes, people set goals without understanding the consequences.
Chris didn’t grasp the lifestyle and monetary ramifications of careers in fast-food vs. aerospace. He felt passionately about both space travel and burgers; wasn’t that enough?
Likewise, I didn’t grasp the downstream effects of working at Taco Bell vs. veterinary medicine. I loved both crunchy tacos and kittens. What else mattered?
As we’ve both discovered, it’s easy to fantasize about the future. But the reality of a given path might present a wild surprise. Your choices could create consequences you never imagined.
Maybe you’ve experienced this already.
Maybe you spent four years pursuing a degree in a field that represents your past, not your future. Now you hold student loans for a diploma you don’t want to use.
Maybe you entered a career you thought you’d love (or at least like), only to discover that you’re ill-suited for the role. Or that it’s incompatible with the lifestyle you want to enjoy. Or, simply, that your boss is a jerk, and you’ve got to escape that windowless office.
What happens next?
What do you do when reality sets in?
Chris and I discuss this question, and many more, in this week’s podcast episode.
His latest book, Born for This, explores the dicey topic of choosing a career that you love. He describes his research into how people find work that satisfies three qualities — joy, money and flow.
He’s also traveled to every nation in the world, 193 countries. (We chat about this at length.)
During the interview. Chris and I discuss Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken (also called The Road Less Traveled). The poem reads:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
Cute. But one problem: we don’t know what would’ve happened if you took the other road.
Maybe the other road would’ve sucked. Maybe it would’ve been better. Or perhaps it would’ve been exactly the same.
That’s why our mission is multifold, Chris says. His advice is to try plenty of paths. Make small bets. Travel down multiple roads. Look for patterns or themes that pull together the paths you traverse. This helps you clarify your interests.
Most importantly, he says, don’t get so distracted by the pursuit of tomorrow that you stop enjoying the journey.
“Your life is not reserved for something great one day in the distant future,” Chris writes on his eponymous blog. “Your life should be spent today.”
Hear more from Chris on this week’s episode:
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