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The Course You Choose
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My nieces and nephews are sorting out what they want to do when they "grow up." One has graduated from college, a second graduates this spring. They plan to get “temporary” jobs—just until they find themselves.

My sons knew which direction they wanted to go. One wanted to be an electrical engineer, and design antennas. He graduated two years back, and is working. He is not designing antennas, however. He is building databases. It was not what he set out to do, but he is having fun doing it.

My younger two also have plans about what they want to do. I do not know if they will end up doing what they plan, but they will probably enjoy whatever they end up doing. My middle son says he does not know if he will end up doing what he is majoring in, but that it seems like something worth doing until he finds something that really interests him.

Work That is Fun and Worth Doing

The difference between my children and my nieces and nephews is not brains—they are all smart. It is not ambition, family background, or drive. They have similar backgrounds. Some of my brothers’ children are more ambitious or driven than mine. The difference is my sons use my approach towards careers. I look for work that seems fun and worth doing—then prepare to do that work.

In high school I liked history. I was good at it. My interest in history showed that engineers made history, while historians watched. I liked making things, so I became an engineer.

I noticed that other engineers dislike writing. I like writing. I concentrated on engineering work that involved writing:  procedures, specifications, instructions. I was good at it. I was never the most talented engineer in a group. That was fine. I had fun.

Time passed. My goals changed, but I always moved towards a goal. I told my children, “If you do not know what you want to do, pick something interesting. Go for that. It may not be where you finish, but you are more likely to find what you really want moving towards a goal.” They listened.

My brothers were not as focused. They followed the path of least resistance, studying what they were good at. One studied physics. His real interest was religion. The other studied social science—everyone told him he was a born politician. He liked politics—as a sport, but not a career.

Both floundered after leaving school. Eventually the older one became a minister, the younger one a computer administrator. Both found careers they enjoy, but it took a long time. Their children are following their examples.

Set a course, and go towards it. It may not be the right one, or the best one. The Roman philosopher, Seneca once observed, “If you have no port of destination, no wind is favorable.” With a destination—even if not the one you ultimately reach, the winds become favorable.

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By Mark N. Lardas, Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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