Thursday, May 24, 2018

The marathon ain't over

As much as I think that I am still the dashing young man with a whole lot of hair on my head, I know well that I have become a part of the "old" generation.  I now have become old enough that there are children of my undergraduate classmates who seek my advice!

Of course, as always, I never advise them on what they should do.  Whether it is students at my college who make the mistake of coming to me for advice, or the youth from the other side of the planet, my approach is no different: "What do you want to do, if there were no restrictions?" is what I typically ask them. 

Almost always, it is a confused, stunned silence as an initial response.  Because, most never think about that.  You--yes, dear reader, you--too perhaps did not think about that when you were young.  When you were 17, or even 22, did you think long and hard about what you wanted to do in life, if there were no restrictions and constraints?  Did you use that as a starting point in order to attempt to define the rest of your life?  Chances are that most people do not.

It is a long life.  Life is a marathon, I tell students.  And life is not easy.  For the most part, life gets harder in many ways as we grow out of our childhood.  In that challenging context, imagine doing something that you really, really, really do not want to do, and having to do that day in and day out.  It will be a miserably long life, I would think.

A Cornell University economics professor writes about such matters and more in this piece, where he has a clear bottom-line:
Resist the soul-crushing job’s promise of extra money and savor the more satisfying conditions you’ll find in one that pays a little less.
Before reaching that bottom-line, he writes:
The happiness literature has identified one of the most deeply satisfying human psychological states to be one called “flow.” It occurs when you are so immersed in an activity that you lose track of the passage of time. If you can land a job that enables you to experience substantial periods of flow, you will be among the most fortunate people on the planet.
Have I told you enough times that I am one of the most fortunate people in this regard?  

I often comment to students that I would do what I do even if I don't get paid and, thankfully, I get paid as well.  I get paid to read, think, write, and--most importantly--help young people understand the world.  How fantastic, right?  "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life" is true--if we can find that job.

No comments: