delaying answers until later

Published on April 23, 2020

What do you want to do with your life?

This is a question I have found myself pondering yet again over the last few days and weeks. I thought I had answered this question a while back, when I first broke into a career in technology. When I started doing research, I said to myself “this is what comprises my ideal career” and I was happy with where I was.

Now, though, this question is coming back to me. I love what I am doing right now -- and I think a career in writing and/or product could be really promising -- but there is still a part of me that has been questioning how best I can optimize my career. How can I spend the limited working hours I have doing the work that has the greatest impact on the world?

What really brought this to mind was reflecting on a recent blog post by Marc Andresseen. In it, he describes how, at this very moment, it is more important than ever for people to be engaged in work that makes sense to them, and work where they can have a real impact.

There are so many issues our society still has to solve -- a fact made increasingly evident over the last few months -- and we need builders who are going to work hard to solve those problems. We need people placed in the right jobs.

This has made me think about what my long-term career plans look like. Then, I remembered something that I realized a while ago: my long-term career plans do not matter. I didn’t make one when I left high school for a reason.

To remind myself, I do not have a long-term career plan because times change so much. Jobs come and go, and so do career opportunities. It is a natural part of life that sometimes you are engaged in an exciting activity, and other times you have to do work you find boring.

When I have been thinking about this question, I have been encouraging myself to delay having an answer until later. Why is this the case?

Well, first, I have been here before. I have asked myself what I want to do with my life, and last time I did not get very far at all. I thought I had figured it out, but I believe that was the naivete as a result of being young that made me feel that way.

Second, I realize that what you want to do with your life is a big decision. It takes time to figure out what you want to do, and I am still relatively inexperienced in the school of life. So, it does not make sense for me to ponder this question until I have had more unique experiences that can open my eyes to the rest of the world.

The main point I want to make is that, sometimes, you need to ignore questions going through your mind. This is a question I need to ignore because I know that no matter how much I think about it right now, I am not going to get very far.

And, I am happy with what I am doing right now anyway; the only reason this came to mind was because I was concerned that I was not doing the “highest impact” work, which was never really a concern for me. I know that what I am doing has meaning.

There are plenty of these questions that come up in life. For instance, asking yourself: who do you want to marry? If you are still young, you don’t need to worry about that; in fact, the best way to find a life partner is to live in the moment, go with the flow, and just appreciate every moment you have with the women in your life who you find interesting.

There is no right answer to the question “who do you want to marry?”, and it is impossible to answer that question without the right experience. So, instead of letting the question worry you, you should let yourself move on to a more productive line of thinking.

Delaying these questions until later can be difficult. I have told myself “well, if I don’t think about this now, then when will I?” but this is not a very effective heuristic on which to depend. There is plenty of time for me to embrace these questions. But if I am happy right now, then that is all that matters.

When a question comes to mind that troubles you, ask yourself: is this a question that I can really answer today? Can you answer “What is your passion?” today? Probably not. So think about it for a minute, see if any thoughts come to mind, then move on with your life. Don’t let it worry you, because you’ll probably never have a good answer to it anyway.

Do you have any feedback on this blog post? Send me an email.
Do you want to hear more from me? Subscribe to my weekly Coffee with James newsletter.
Made by @jamesg_oca. Code on GitHub.