A Way Forward in the Modern World.
It’s easy to feel lost in the modern world. On social media, you can see endless amounts of people doing interesting things. Things that you would like to be doing too. Maybe not the exact same thing, but similar. Except, you have no clue where to start. You think about it constantly, but after all the brainstorming, self-reflection, and energy spent, you don’t have much direction on where to go. It all feels like a waste, and might even produce restlessness in you. It doesn’t have to be this way, even the most lost individual can get traction with a simple plan. I’ll lay out the basics that anyone can understand.
“Choose. Create. Connect.” That’s a mantra that leads to success in the modern world. Choose what you want to work on, and who you want to serve. Create work that is interesting. Connect with the people who your work is for.
That’s it. Pretty simple, right?
The amazing thing is after reflecting on it, this is both the path to your career, and more generally to your mental stability and happiness. We stagnate and question ourselves in indecisiveness. When we don’t create, we overconsume. And when we don’t connect, loneliness and depression set in.
Choose. Create. Connect. There is a depth in those three words that could and have taken up volumes of books, but I’ll attempt to give a brief overview here.
Let’s look at each item individually.
I have always admired my few friends that went on to be doctors. They all knew they were going to do it from a young age, and they committed to it. They chose their life’s work, and they stuck to it for years, just to reach the starting gate. There are a lot of reasons why doctors earn a great living, but the drive required is part of it. Put that level of ambition into anything, sales, marketing, engineering, or even making and selling art and you’ll be successful.
But drive alone isn’t always enough. I’m a goal-oriented individual naturally. When I was younger I went above and beyond in everything I did, but still didn’t find much success in my early career. Mostly because I never made a firm decision. While I was going above and beyond in the things I did, they weren’t all compounding towards a common goal. The solution was to keep learning about myself, asking what I’m good at, and choosing a direction.
A good way to go about this is pick a problem to solve for a person, a group or society. This problem is your career until you solve it, or until you find a new, more interesting problem. After you think about the problem, then you can transform it into a career plan.
The problems span the realm of your creativity. They could go from creating a fusion reactor, to making homes more beautiful. Once you pick, you’ll find that most problems have a realm of possibilities for your career. For example, if you want to solve the cleanup of plastics in the ocean you can start to think about all the things that would help:
- Creating a non-profit doing that work (Fundraising)
- Inventing technologies for the cleanup (Engineering)
- Working in a company that does the cleanup (Labor)
- Suing companies that pollute (Legal)
- Getting involved in law-making and policy around this pollution and clean up (Politics)
- Inventing technologies that replace plastic products (Science)
Figure out your possibilities what fits you personally, then start tailoring your plan to fit the problem. The idea is also that if you stick with the problem for your whole career, you can move around in companies and job titles, but all your experience will still have a common thread making you more valuable long-term.
The decision to pick a problem often requires the heart of a lion. There is something courageous about picking a challenge before you know how it will turn out. However, as has often been quoted, courage isn’t the inability to feel fear, but the ability to work through it. Think about those doctors I mentioned earlier, they decided at a young age to spend an additional 10 years or so pursuing that path just to reach the start of their careers. At an average life expectancy of 72 that’s just shy of 15% of their life spent towards achieving that before they even knew it would be a perfect career for them. It’s one of the reasons they are rewarded so handsomely. But you don’t even have to commit that much. Just pick a problem to focus on, and get to work.
Whatever you’ve chosen as your problem, you must create something. If you’ve founded a non-profit, you must create a company. If you’re inventing technologies, then you’re building things. If you’re suing companies that pollute, you’re creating awareness, regulations, and a change in the environment.
Your important work, the stuff you create, is never finished. It requires daily practice because for it to spread, and to matter to the world, it must be remarkable. And remarkable isn’t something you figure out in your head. It’s something you figure out by doing the work. Through daily practice.
Don’t wait to figure out remarkability, start making, and when you show it off the world will tell you. I started an Instagram (@brandon_m_donnelly), putting some remarkable things in it just to illustrate this point. To go along with that, consider that Pablo Picasso didn’t pick his masterpieces. The people who consumed his art did. He made the works, they purchased them. In his ~80-year career he produced an estimated 16,000 art pieces, roughly 200 per year. While people celebrate how many of his works draw millions of dollars at auctions, what they don’t realize is how small of a cross-section those pieces are out of his entire body of work. He created daily!
This should be encouraging!
There is no need to torment and self-agonize. Simply create daily. Put in the practice and leave the determination of quality to your customers and fans. The struggle here will always be the tension between being ambitious and putting in the effort to make progress daily, while being patient for the results. However, this is the struggle for every beneficial habit in life. I once heard James Clear put it elegantly, “Every good habit requires effort now, with rewards later. Every bad habit is rewards now and consequences later.”
Examples of good habits:
Examples of bad habits:
- Junk Food
Creating is a good habit, do something daily, but don’t forget about the last part.
You must put in the effort to connect with others. And that doesn’t mean just putting up an “online billboard” that says I’m here in the lowest effort way possible. These are LinkedIn profiles that only get updated during a job search. Instead, start a conversation online, engage in one that is already going, add value to those. Put your name to it. Be present in the fields and places you want to matter in some day. Show what you can do.
- Illustrate your work to anyone who cares to look at it.
- Share with people who care.
- Build a community.
You’ll never matter to 99% of people, so don’t get discouraged for everyone who isn’t interested, just get excited about each person that is. Sharing your work with those people who need it isn’t scummy, it’s generous! Of course, that assumes that the people on the other end feel the same way. If you make 1-ingredient strawberry pops, and you share that with a group of moms who don’t like added sugars and preservatives, you are doing a generous act. Providing people with what they want isn’t scummy, pressuring them into what they don’t want is. Stay away from that and you’ll be fine.
“Choose. Create. Connect.” is the world’s simplest business plan. To actually realize its benefits you made need courage, patience and generosity, but those items exist in you today. If you can manage to summon them up, you can find yourself less lost, on a path to happiness and mental stability and doing the work that you’ve always knew you could.
None of this is Right is about seeing opportunities to apply creativity, patience, courage and generosity to improve your life and the lives of those around you. The great part is that it doesn’t require and specialized knowledge or experience. If you can’t see those opportunities, or if a reminder is useful from time to time, subscribing below is valuable. I generally send 1 email a month, so it’s low effort on the inbox management.