I seem to never be able to shake the feeling that I am not doing what I should be doing. I always try to look for the lead domino – the most important thing I should be doing. I haven’t reached that extreme where I am stopped by perfectionism. I am aware of this trait and cognitively, I understand that done is better than perfect.
However, even when I am doing things – I nearly always feel that the part of my brain that is meta-analysing: is this really what I should be doing? What is the opportunity cost? What am I missing out on by being here? Obviously, when part of my RAM is taken up like this, I am less functional. In addition, it is quite the saboteur: it kills motivation.
I am also very familiar with how it is possible to get nowhere fast. Execute brilliantly, get a brilliant result – but not the right result. It’s like not being quite sure where you are sailing to, working hard to get to a good place, arriving at a beautiful tropical island only to realise that you’re allergic to everything on it.
I’ve always envied the people who didn’t struggle with this. However, at this point I realise that many of them oversimplified their problems. Engaging with uncertainty – including the uncertainty of one’s own mind is optional. A lot of the people who have this seemingly inalienable clarity simply ran away from uncertainty and are blissfully ignorant in their cocoon.
In a sense, I’ve experienced this clarity myself – I’ve always known where I wanted to live and that I want certain people around. These things always appeared kind of black and white to me – of course, I oversimplified. However, there’s a significant difference here: you can generally move quite easily. You can build new relationships relatively quickly too. And the thing that you dedicate your life to – that has a big lead time on it. It is also subject to a compounding effect. People who spend long periods of time doing something specific almost inevitably become exceptional at it. This also kind of means that if you don’t commit to one thing – you will never be quite good at anything. It’s a scary thought for any millennial.
As a millennial, I have already switched a couple of very different jobs – being a doctor, working in management consulting, a start-up, diverse small business projects – and I often do many of these things at the same time. The reason for switching was never a failure of any sort. What was it?
I think part of the reason is a kind of insatiable curiosity about real life. With formal education now taking not all out 20 years – and in my case it was very intense formal education, I have a feeling like there is so much out there I haven’t seen. I feel compelled to try things. Perhaps, I only have this insight due to the education I’ve received. I’m not quite sure.
Another reason was the feeling that something is missing. It always feels like I should have more ownership – and to be really able to put all my weight behind a project. Perhaps that’s why it feels like there has to be the one thing that I will do.
Things aren’t as I expected: being a doctor is quite different to how most people imagine it to be. What makes an office job good or bad also came as a complete surprise. Entrepreneurship isn’t something I considered remotely interesting, in fact I hadn’t considered it full stop when I was younger – it wasn’t quite as glamourised back then. Again – it turned out completely different to how I imagined it. As I keep learning that the only way to figure whether I will like doing something is to try it -how can I resist wanting to try it? This approach is congruent with the way traditional advertising doesn’t work with millennials: we have learnt not to trust what we’re told – at least in certain circumstances – and instead we rely on social proof, the next best thing after trying it yourself.
I think a lot of people prefer the comfort of certainty to the dangers of this journey – hence they stick with the thing they know. Why is it though that things aren’t as I expected? I doubt I am the only one. There seem to be a lot of informational asymmetries and a huge amount of erroneous preconceptions when it comes to younger people deciding what they will do. I know this because I am in touch with many of them in my education project. I wish we could dispel the myths that surround certain activities. At the same time, I know it’s impossible for a variety of real world reasons.
I guess we live in an age where the barriers of moving between careers are low enough so that those who want to brave those seas can do so, but high enough that we can’t quite see what we are getting into – so the only way to find out remains through experimentation.
UPDATE: Literally, minutes after posting this, I randomly ended up on LinkedIn – where I saw a chap I remembered from school change career. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know. He just went from M&A lawyer in a top firm to an iOs developer – also in a top firm. I think I know what’s on his mind.