I came across your blog while reading Dan Shipper's blog which I came across while reading Lifehacker which I probably found during some random web crawl. I usually don't write to bloggers/people-online much but you seem pretty cool about receiving and answering mail so here goes. I am not sure where your usual readership comes from but I am writing to you from Sri Lanka, which would most likely in the minority when it comes to your readership. :)
Your interests seem pretty varied on your blog, so I was wondering, how do you choose your particular 'line' or career, or where you ultimately want to head. Ideally one would want to specialize in something, but when your interests are varied, how do you figure out what you want to be. In various times of my life I have been interested in the pure sciences (Physics, Chemistry kind of stuff), computer science, I dabble in some photoshopping even though I am not great at it, I like music even though I am not great with an instrument, I like the idea of programming even though the thought of becoming good at it is too daunting, I like writing, even worked a bit on international relations, but haven't come across something I can devote myself to. It would be nice to find my calling before I grow old and die.
How would you choose where you want to go with your life if you just like everything?
Hey, thanks for dropping a line Andre. Dan Shipper is an excellent guy, so I'm thrilled you came here via his blog.
Sri Lanka, huh? I've been meaning to visit at some point... with the final defeat of the Tamil Tigers, I think Sri Lanka stands to grow a lot and enter in a sort of renaissance. From what I've heard and seen, it looks like there could be some serious booms in Sri Lanka in the coming years. I'd like to check it out firsthand sometime soon.
As a tangential note, I think this Wikipedia page provides fascinating insights on international relations 2009:
There were three basic positions expressed - either emphasizing human rights (Canada, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland), congratulating Sri Lanka's government (Russia, Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan), or tactfully saying nothing (Singapore, Japan).
I won't go into analysis here, it's very tangential to your email. But is fascinating - after a 26-year war ends with the insurgent side losing, do you congratulate the winners or express how important it is to protect the losing side?
Anyways, I think Sri Lanka is in line for a renaissance coming up, so congratulations on the successful conclusion of the war.
Your question -
"How would you choose where you want to go with your life if you just like everything?
I think about that a lot. It's taken me a while of working through the question many times.
The general conclusion I'm coming to is this - you want to be achieving things in a way that helps build your future ability regardless of what path you eventually end up on.
See, right now you don't know what path you're going end up on. Yeah, same here. I've spent time with the hard sciences, law, business, entrepreneurship, writing, art... I have an interest in governance and military science and organization and... well, y'know, all the stuff I'm interested in. I've been learning a lot about finance and marketing lately. (Recommended: "Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath and "The Intelligent Investor" by Ben Graham)
I wanted to get some clarity on this myself, so I went to a cafe with notebook, pen, and coffee, and did some brainstorming. I came up with this list, as I wrote up in "The Building Blocks of an Empire" -
Family – Friends – Counsel – Network
If conflict started today, who would be on my side?
People knowing of me.
Accomplish & Credential:
Credentials – Elevator pitch – Prestige – Relations – Memberships with Factions
Written works – Events – Art – Science – Accomplishments – Governance – History-changing
Portfolio – Blurbs/testimonials – Reviews – Soundbites
Skills – Habits – Routine – Regular environment – Knowledge – Intek
Diet – Sleep – Time spent (quality) – Emotion/mood – Beliefs – Goals
Purpose – Loyalties – Muscles/body composition – Biochemistry
Rituals and customs – Celebrations – Things like Marshall Salute
Cash – Cashflow – Paper assets (stocks, bonds, etc)
Grants of rights and privileges (passport, limited liability, etc)
Tools – computers, clothing, software, other technology
Real estate for use (rented or owned)
Real estate for investment (rental or business)
Processes – spreadsheets, workflows, etc.
Ownership stakes – Royalties – Digital assets
Commercial – Nonprofit – Governance – Security – Cultural
Guild – Private club – Other private organizations – Religious/spiritual
Banks – Universities – Investment groups – Small groups (regular dinner party, card games, etc)
See, I didn't put much analysis down in that post so I guess I didn't communicate the real significance of that list. That list answers the question, "I have a lot of interests, but don't know my calling. What do I do?"
The answer is, while you've got your current interest, also optimize some stuff on that list at the same time.
There's various exercises and thought processes and reading you can towards finding a main purpose in life, and we won't go over all those again. Rather, let's think about how we can build things that will be useful regardless of what path we end up on.
Cash, cashflow, assets are all valuable. Building your habits, self-discipline, knowledge, skills. Connecting with more people. Accomplishing and getting credentialed in things. Building relationships with or joining relevant organizations.
So, let's say you're really getting into international relations at some point, and you're doing lots of interesting learning and connecting with people across the world. Well, it might make sense for you to work to giving a relevant speech at some event. By doing that, you'll be forced to improve your skills and knowledge (on public speaking and the topic you choose), you'll gain a permanent credential (that you spoke there), you'll develop a bit of a relationship with the organization you speak at, you'll stand to meet people at that particular event, and so on.
I think this is key, I think this is the way. Whenever you're working in a field, you look to see how you can generalize it into valuable things across the board. If you were getting into making electronic music, then work hard to polish and release five or six remixes of popular songs you like. See, that's cool - after you release some things out into the world, that's something you've done forever.
Even if your interests move on from music, in the year 2031, you can say, "Yeah, back in 2011 I made some electronic remixes of popular 2011 songs. Oh yeah, they sound silly now, but it was fun back then." And it's cool.
And who knows, if one of your songs took off, you might have people in the music world reaching out to you to do some official remixes for pay, or work on a soundtrack, or something like that. But even if not, it's something tangible you've done that you can point out, it requires developing more focus and discipline (to polish and release things that are 90% done, which is the hardest part), and so on.
I'd recommend you lay the foundation of success regardless of which path you choose in the future. That's what I'm thinking more about these days - interests shift over the years, but completing interesting work and developing skills, discipline, resources, and meet interesting people in 2011 - that's cool and worthwhile, and that doesn't go away.