I have a long way to go in understanding how to put my skills, character and aspirations into a better use. My approach so far has been to try and learn from experience. I’ve tried all sorts of different occupations, starting from web development and SEO consulting to evolutionary biology.
I’m still searching and constantly reevaluating my goals and investigating new challenges to pursue. In all that struggle that probably everyone faces at a certain time in their lives(or all the time? :), I’d like to share some words of wisdom that helped me to structure my search for purpose and passion. Maybe you’ll find them inspirational too.
“A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.”
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
I have yet to read something more inspiring than this book, where Randy Pausch, professor of Computer Science, shares his advice and stories from his exciting life as an engineer, a scientist, a husband and a Dad. It’s a pleasure to read a success story of a technology geek who followed his childhood dreams and managed to build a great career out of it. Especially recommended to anyone considering an academic career in computational sciences.
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”
The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha
This book is actually mostly about networking and how to find career opportunities. But for me it was more than just a career guide, it helped to look at my career as a path in a mystical jungle, rather than a straight road to the final goal. Some great advice on how to leverage your talents and develop yourself professionally as a business were a nice a bonus. Not only an inspirational, but a practical “how to” book.
“The concept of deferred gratification, or sacrificing now to save for the future, can be helpful in setting aside money in a retirement account for old age. It can also serve as an effective rationalization for life avoidance.”
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau
This is a great book if you are tired of the corporate rat race and need that last push to pursue your dream of becoming a writer, blogger, traveller, entrepreneur or whatever else is on your list. It’s not practical at all and mostly irrelevant if you really feel that a more conventional career path can be just as exciting as travelling around the world.
I’m really for the idea of setting my own rules in life though and Chris’s words of encouragement helped me with it.
“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
by Sheryl Sandberg
Strong female role models are still hard to come by, that’s why I could not miss this book, even though what Sheryl is doing (she is COO of Facebook at the moment) is quite far from anything I aspire to do in the near future. It’s an easy and an engaging read that every career woman would relate to. Some really practical advice on putting yourself out there, fighting the impostor syndrome and speaking up, finding a partner that will treat you as an equal and support you every step of the way.
I don’t like how she is shaming the mothers that choose to leave the workforce or lean out from some opportunities for their children. The solution to this problem isn’t women hiring nannies and going back to work 2 weeks after giving birth, in my opinion, but better social policies for maternity and paternity leave and affordable child care solutions.
Sheryl’s definition of success is just one of a kind and I’m truly happy she found her version of “having it all”. For now I’ll just follow her advice on leaning in until I will really have to reconsider 🙂
Last but not the least comes this exercise book for finding your passion. Henry has more books and a blog with lots of materials on the topic: http://www.wakeupcloud.com/. This book is not going to be easy though, but if you have a couple of free evenings, I’d say go for it. It will help you explore what you really like doing and how to turn it into something that will both bring you money and a fulfilling life.