Thoughts on determining what type of work you want to do

Ever since I was a kid I was always told that the way to determine what type of work to do is to find out what you like.  You basically do what you like.  As I grew older I began to disagree with this.

It seemed to me that things that you like to do should become a hobby.  This way you can remain liking them.  This way, it does not become work.  What you like to do should be looked at in that way and not be destroyed by responsiblity and day to day monotony.  I, for example, like ships.  As a result, I considered being a Naval Architect.  That goes on the premise that “I should be a Naval Architect because I like ships”.  But, later, I found that I like ships better as a hobby.  Just because I happened to ‘like’ something doesn’t mean I want to spend my life at it.

I always felt this tendency, at least in the US, of saying that you should follow what you ‘like’ is a result of the hedonistic quality of the US.  Since this society is about pleasing oneself I should use ‘pleasure’ as a measure of how I should determine and live my life.  This is not a good way to look at work or ones life, in my opinion.

I have always said, and I feel that this is still true, that if I were to offer advice to kids I’d say that a person should not use what one ‘likes’ as a measure of what to do with their life.  I felt it should be looked at from these two perspectives:

1.  What are you good at?  Find what you’re good at.  Determine what it is that you have a ‘knack’ at.  Often, this can be quite surprising and shocking, something you’d never consider or thought of.  This, really, will lead to the easiest path in life too, as you will be catering to your abilities.  This means that you will use minimal effort to attain it.  Not only that, natural ability can help carry you over bad periods (such as when you’re stressed out or when ‘work’ just isn’t what you want to be doing at the time).

2.  Do something that you don’t detest.  Naturally, you don’t want to do something you detest, dislike, or loath.  Doing something you detest isn’t worth doing, regardless how much money you make.  At the worst it should be something that is ‘OK’ or ‘tolerable’.  At the best, it is something you have a passion for.  I’ve always felt that one of the ‘wealths’ never spoken of is the ‘wealth of not having a disagreeable job’.

Any activity, which you do day after day, requires more than ‘liking’ it to make it worthwhile.   This is why one of the other advice I’d tell kids is to work at developing a good attitude about work.  Many times I’ve wanted to tell kids this:  “It’s imperative that you develop a good attitude about work.  You will be working for decades for most of the day.  This is not something to look at lightly.”

And it isn’t.

One of the best ‘skills’, I think, for a kid to develop is a good attitude about work.  These include attitudes about why they’re working, it’s benefits, but also dealing with the bad times that always seem to come (days you don’t want to be at work, stress, etc.).

I’ve always felt a good attitude is the knowledge that we are all working for the society as a whole, to help each other live by working, no matter how small or trivial the job we do.  We all play our part, each one of us.  I often feel that a person who doesn’t work (such as these people who have all this money, buy a mansion, and vegetate) are really thieves, stealing from everyone else.   Why?  Because they make no contribution . . . not really.

Work is part of how we contribute to life and society.  It’s a big and major part of our contribution.  It takes up a lot of our energy, our efforts, our life.  This is why the attitude which surrounds work is so critical.  Work encompasses so much of our life that we cannot look at it trivially.

One of the more important things to develop a good attitude, I think, is to not make work revolve around money.  Once work revolves around this then work, and the attitude that surrounds  it, deteriates.  Making life revolve around money, or even retirement, is like looking at life through a tube.  It scales life and work down to a minimal entity.

I’ve always felt that another aspect of work is the moral and ethical issue.  I think it’s good for a person to look at what work they do and determine if it is harming or exploiting people or is unfair in some way.  Many people are attracted to jobs that exploit other people, that take more than they deserve.  The reason for this is that it makes more money.  Most, if not all, high paying jobs are high paying because they are unfair and exploiting other people.  Where do you think the money comes from?  Sadly, a lot of the abuses in work, of exploitation and unfairness, have been ‘justified’ by the system.  That is to say, it is ‘O.K.’ to demand an unbelievable price for a service or product.  A good example of this is the legal and medical industries.  Both of these fields have become, in my opinion, a scam in general.  They have become justified ways to exploit the situation to get as much money as they can out of it.  The system allows them to do this.  But this fact, as far as I’m concerned, does not make this right.  It is still a form of exploitation and unfairness regardless of whether the system allows it or not.  Another form of exploitation is the ridiculously large wage owners or controllers of businesses think they require.  Why must an owner or a controller of a business have to have 10 or more times what everyone else makes?  If they require that much money, they certainly aren’t there for the joy of doing it.  In my opinion, that is just another form of ‘justified exploitation and unfairness’.  Many types of high paying work fit this classification.  The question of whether you think this is ethical and moral is up to you.

In general, it seems, many of us will not be able to do what we ‘want’ anyways.  Our work is seldom what we choose.  More often than not we find ourselves working in a particular trade, company, or what have you.  This seems to be the most common path.  Here in the US they talk to kids like they can do whatever they can, as if they can pick and choose whatever they want.  This is how I was brought up too.  But experience has shown otherwise.  Very few people I know are doing what they ‘wanted’.  Often, a big part of work is accepting what comes and trying to adapt.  In some cases, the ability to accept and adapt is one of the greatest ‘work skills’ a person can have.

For other people, a specific type of work will be something they strive for and devote themselves to.  Normally, you’d think the people who strive for a specific form of work would be the happiest.  But, from my observation, I’ve not seen any real truth in that.  Some of the most happiest people I know are people who did not strive for a specific type of work.  This shows, at least to me, that education, college, etc., and the striving for a specific form of work, is really a myth.   Again, I think that, here in the US it was immortalized as a ‘sign’ of the ‘oppurtunity’ that is supposed to be here in the US.  But, its not necessarily true in actuality.

This shows that work is not about how much you make, or even what you do, but more how you feel about it.  A person can have the highest paying job in the world and be ‘poor’ because they have the wrong attitude.  And a person can have the lowest paying job in the world, with the right attitude, and be the ‘richest’ man in the world.  The true ‘wealth’ is not money or material items but how you feel about your self and the contribution of your work in the world.

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