1. Ignore the future, deal with the present.
The question, “What should I be when I grow up?” is wrong. Ask instead, “What is next today?” People become fat one bite at a time, and we become adults one hour at a time, so what we do today matters.
2. Shop around.
Unless you try on the outfit, you’ll never know if it fits. Do the same with vocations, avocations, hobbies and skills. You’ll need to sample every flavor to know your true favorite taste.
3. Say yes to odd opportunities.
Say yes to the things that intrigue you, instead of the ones that bore you.
4. Find a problem to solve.
Being the solution makes your work feel meaningful. Having an issue to work against also gives you a villain to play against—and makes you a hero.
5. Burn your plans.
Your life will not go according to plan. Nobody’s ever has. So don’t worry if you get off track. The track was imaginary anyway.
6. Do not follow someone else’s dream.
Your parents want you to be A. Your boss wants you to be B. Your friends want you to be C. And society is clamoring for you to be D. You can’t please everyone, but if you do what YOU think you should, at least you’ll be able to sleep at night.
7. Blend your talents.
Instead of doing something that only takes advantage of one skill, create a mash-up of several things you do well. You’ll set yourself apart and feel more satisfied with what you’re doing.
8. Seek out people you actually like.
It’s more satisfying to dig a ditch with friends than to design a skyscraper with a team of sociopaths.
9. Give yourself permission to change your mind.
Most of us choose our paths around 18. As time passes, you might find new things to do and places to be and people to know, and a few calls you made at 18 will probably need to be overturned.
10. Ask the elderly for advice.
They’ve been there, done that, got the AARP card. You’ll find that happiness and satisfaction have more to do with love and purpose than dollars and cents.
11. Roam a library.
You never know which book, author, or topic will speak to you from the shelves. You might just find what you didn’t even know you were looking for.
12. Seek support, not tolerance.
You’re going to need help with anything and everything. Make sure you have people in your corner who do more than just nod and say, “that’s nice,” when you tell them your dreams.
13. Spend time before you spend money.
Invest in reading and talking and finding out before you plunk down a ton of money on a degree or a certification or a relocation. You might find that you don’t have to write a check to compose your future.
14. Don’t confuse a job with a purpose.
If you are working to support your family, they are your real bosses. If you are working to further a goal or idea, don’t let your paycheck (however plump it is) become an obstacle to it.
15. Consider your epitaph, not your resume.
Thinking long term can help you see both what’s vitally important and what’s certainly silly.
16. There’s no need to be THE best.
Very few people are the very best in the world at anything. Doing your best doesn’t mean you have to be THE best. Your best is more than enough.
17. Don’t keep score.
No one will be at the top or bottom of their game forever, and who you perceive as your competition is a constantly changing cast of characters. Keeping score can become a full-time job if you let it, and that’s an awful way to spend a day, much less a lifetime.
18. Change course if you find yourself coasting.
It’s possible to get stuck on a very easy and vaguely rewarding path, like a cushy or undemanding job. If you feel yourself simply rolling along, it’s time to switch gears, because coasting can atrophy your dreams.
19. Be authentically uncool.
Stick with what you love, even if others sneer at it. This is also referred to as integrity.
There’s no right answer, but there are thousands of viable options.
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