Only a handful, I’m sure, knew what it was they wanted to do with their lives the moment they graduated from college. The rest (that includes me) had been absolutely clueless. An exceptional few didn’t get to finish their undergraduate studies – that’s how certain they were of their calling – but ended up tech billionaires or manufacturing tycoons.
It’s a precious thing, this self-awareness, this certainty of what it is you truly want to do with your life at a very young age. If I could go back in time to talk to my younger self (don’t take that banking job, you’ll be happier in a creative field!) I would. Better yet, I would have done what Sean Aiken did: try a host of different jobs for a year.
Sean Aiken, author of The One-Week Job Project (cumulative GPA a perfect 4.0), had the same career dilemma but was more proactive in his soul-searching (or should I say calling-searching?). He took his what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life quandary to the next level (and wisely so): try out 1 job per week for a year and find out what it is he’s truly passionate about. In the course of a year, he became a bungee jump master, an advertising executive, a tattooist, a dairy farmer, a pest exterminator and a town mayor, among other interesting one-week pursuits. And I thought I had this wild idea of trying out a temporary life as a barista!
“I admit, my idea was a little wacky, especially when compared with the traditional route: Go to school, get a job, buy stuff, start a family, buy more sutff, retire, die. But far more wacky is the number of people who get out of bed in the morning and absolutely dread going to work because they hate their jobs. I was trying to avoid that fate. I wanted to find something that I’d love. Something that I’d gladly spend forty hours of my life doing each week and that would allow me to pay the bills. Whether this was possible or simply the unrealistic hope of an inexperienced, idealistic twenty-something, I wasn’t sure. But I worried this same hope could easily become regret if I didn’t find out for myself.”
I liked this book for the nuggets of wisdom it succinctly summarized at the end of every job. You also get to pick up a few cool stuff from the numerous people he meets along the way. One of the things that I’ve filed away for future geeky conversation party poopers is this (from an astronomer Aiken has worked with):
“Actually, the edge of the visible universe is the beginning of the universe,” he said. “When we look at the edge of the universe, the every edge of what we can see, we’re looking at the baby picture of the universe – the moment the universe opened up and the light was allowed to shine. That’s the edge that we can see from where we’re standing, but if you were to travel to that edge, and look back at us, you would see the same baby picture.”
And of course, wisdom can be gleaned not only from the intellectual encounters but from the mundane ones as well: “Socialize more, study less” (from his fellow Radio DJ).
Aiken’s book is not only about a young man clever enough to have thought up the idea of immersing himself in different jobs. It’s about a journey to finding one’s own passion (whatever “passion” means to each person).
The One-Week Job Project lets us in on a young man’s adventure: He experienced hours of hitchhiking rejections by the side of a lonely road, almost quit one job because of a power-tripping demi-boss, got interviewed by CNN, was offered to star in a gay pornographic film and found love along the way. Isn’t that a lot like life?