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February 27, 2012

What do you want to DO?

by Howard Suber

When all of us were young, adults kept asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It gets drummed into our head so often, most of us pick up it up and integrate it into our lives and we keep asking ourselves the same question. That’s the process that helped lead you to decide you wanted to be a screenwriter, director, producer, cinematographer, etc.

But what you want to be may be different than what you want to do. I’ve known many people who want to be a writer but who don’t really like the process of writing, and directors who love being on the set with all eyes fixed on them waiting for commands, but who don’t like all that it takes to get to the set. I’ve even known producers who hate meetings, despite the fact that a producer who isn’t in meetings probably isn’t producing much.

When we’re young, we dread saying “no” because we fear we’ll miss out on something, but when we age it’s quite possible we’ll regret some of the things we said “yes” to. After all, when you say, “no” that’s the end of it and you move on, but when you say, “yes” you might find yourself in a bad relationship, a bad job, or something else that becomes a trap.

What we want “to be” when we grow up can become such a trap. The myriad biographies of “successful” people make it clear that once you become what you’ve dreamt of, you quickly habituate to it, and so you need something else — or more of the same thing, over and over again.    

I’ve copied the final paragraph of Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford graduation speech below to remind you of the theme that runs throughout Walter Isaacson’s book on him, as well as throughout Job’s own testament.

“You’ve got to find what you love,” Jobs said three times in his speech. I think that statement is a great strategy for living a life.

Becoming what you wanted “to be” doesn’t guarantee you’ll find your life fulfilling. Fulfillment is not a goal, it’s a process.

So we need, in planning our lives, to focus on what, on a day-to-day basis, we  really want to do.

“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Steve Jobs, June 12, 2005.

Copyright (c) 2012 Howard Suber

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