My sister and I were talking about the first Passion post (here) and she said some things that I thought were really interesting. First, you should know that she is a Major in the Army, she’s done two tours in war zones, and she is kind of* kick ass. Anyway, she’s currently doing some continuing education required by the Army for her current rank. That is oversimplifying it a little, but I think for our purposes, it is sufficient.
*Translate “kind of” into “totally.”
In one of her classes, the discussion turned to career soldiers. I’m paraphrasing, so I may edit this in the future if she lets me know that I’ve misrepresented things, which I hope is not the case. The discussion was about how some soldiers are professional soldiers. My sister is one such as these – her career is in the Army. Other soldiers join briefly, for a variety of reasons, and then leave the Army and have their actual career in a different field. Their discussion brought up the concept that these short-term soldiers are still highly trained, but at what point are they professional soldiers? They can be sent to a war zone and sustain a life-long injury or die, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a professional. It’s an interesting question. She noted that this strange grey area exists also for police and firefighters. They have dangerous, possibly life-threatening jobs, but that might not be what it is They Do with their lives.
I mentioned that if we had a thing (like, “the internet”) that showed all the possible jobs to people who were trying to find a path in life, maybe more people would figure out what they wanted to do earlier. I guess it works hypothetically (barely), but would be horrendously overwhelming in reality. Then I wondered if those among us who don’t fit molds and who re-make culture in their wake (could be people like Steve Jobs, but could be anyone who starts an enduring business in their home town) were confronted with such a list, would they say “no, I still don’t see anything that’s quite right – I’m going to do something else” or would they fall into the trap of “well, I assume I HAVE to choose one of these; this works well enough” and that’s that?
And after letting that stew in my brain for a few days, I am starting to think that having some kind of master list to present to people is a little too Ayn Rand-ish. NOW, the only thing by Rand that I’ve read is Anthem – admittedly, because it’s short and it sounded interesting – and I spent part of that wondering what would happen if I re-read Slaughterhouse Five instead.* So I’m not an expert.
*Nothing. Nothing would happen. It would be fine.
We almost need a system that can be abandoned, because it is not a true system but simply our natural tendency to go with the flow, so these rare individuals who change the culture aren’t inhibited. Granted, our current “go with the flow” style is very inhibiting for most of us. A lot of us are raised to prefer security and a 401(k) over a risky play, like starting a business. But we kind of need this Plinko-style passion hunt. The hunt is integral to the find. You try a little of this, you try a little of that, you consider this skill set, you volunteer here and there, and before you know it, you are uniquely you and you have found a role that best suits you. I’m not sure there will ever be a prescribed set of rules to get two different to the same result; at least partly because no two people are exactly the same in their contributions and fulfillment level. We wouldn’t want to get into a crazy alterna-situation where we’re churning out duplicates, because obviously no one is a duplicate of anyone else – ever. No one would ever be happy. We’d get to the opposite result than the one intended, which is happiness for everyone.