On Monday, I asked you what your ideal work was. Today, I’ll tell you what mine is.
I’m fortunate to have found work that I loved not once, but twice. I consider myself very fortunate because many never find the work that was meant for them.
An Outsider Goes Inside
I’ve always hated to be inside. Climbing this beats a day at the office any and all times:
And, it’s way better to be here on a Thursday afternoon than in a cube:
When I was a kid, I’d spend the summers tearing around the neighborhood on my freedom machine, the bicycle. When I first started thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up, my thought was this:
There’s no way I’m working at a job where I’m confined to an office.
When I got a little older, I wasn’t sure how reasonable it was to work outside, so I gave up on that. Like 98% of boys, my next thought was this:
Planes! I want to be a pilot! How do I get to fly an F-16?
Later, someone told me that you needed perfect eyesight to fly, so I dismissed my F-16 dreams.
In high school, I still had no clue about what I wanted to do. The only thing I did know was that I liked science, so I took biology, chemistry and physics classes.
By the time I got to college, I still had no idea what I wanted to be. I liked writing, but the job prospects for journalism weren’t good. I knew that I’d have to take out loans to go to university and I wasn’t willing to take on loads of debt for an uncertain career. What to do? I still liked science, so I studied biology at Northern Illinois University.
Four years later, I graduated and still had no idea what I wanted to do, so I enrolled in a Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
About halfway through my first year at pharmacy school, I realized that working as a pharmacist would not make me happy. I was telling my roommate about my dilemma and he said something like this:
Have you considered programming? If you like solving puzzles, you should give it a try. DePaul has a programming certificate program that’s only 30 weeks long and you can get a good job once you complete it.
I thought about this for about 30 minutes and decided to finish up my year of pharmacy school and then enroll in the computer program. At the time, for whatever reason, this didn’t make me nervous at all even though my family thought I was crazy. Looking back, it was a bit reckless. I was giving up a high paying pharmacy career for an unknown, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I ever made. I
loved love coding. Figuring out how to make computers implement the requirements of business people is great fun. And looking back, perhaps the most amazing part was this:
The kid who swore he could never find happiness working inside now found happiness sitting in a cube for 9 hours per day.
I think that there’s an important lesson in here and it’s this:
You’re never really sure what will make you happy.
And now, I’ve left my formal career, but I still write code. My next goal is to either learn Python or Swift.
My Other Unexpected Career
I started this silly blog on a whim back on January first of 2013. I was having lots of stress at my job, so I googled something like:
How do I retire early?
I discovered Mr. Money Mustache and the following happened in the course of less than an hour:
- Disbelief: This guy claims he retired in his early 30s? Bullshit. This is fake and/or this dude is trying to sell something. Fortunately, I kept reading.
- Acceptance: Hmmm, this mustache guy lives on $24,000 per year. According to the 4% Rule, he only needed $600,000 to quit his job. Anonymous people on the internet may lie, but numbers don’t. I don’t want to live on $24,000/year, but this early retirement thing is doable. Maybe this mustache guy isn’t full of shit after all…
- Onward! I’m turning violently on to Early Retirement Avenue and pushing the pedal to the metal. And, I’m going to start a blog to document my journey!
I never thought anyone would read anything I had to say. However, people did start reading it.
And, writing has been even more fun than I expected. While the blog makes some money now, for the first 3 years, readers were scant and it made about $100. I didn’t care because I was doing it for the joy of writing. And it still continues to bring me happiness.
My original plan was to end the blog at 1500 days. I had even written my final post. As Day 1500 got closer, the idea of killing the blog was also killing me. I was having too much fun, so I decided to press on. And in a strange twist, something went wrong with either the blogging platform or the website’s host and the draft of my last post disappeared. If there was ever a sign to continue, that was it.
But the time will come when I’ll get bored of writing or some other project will come along that is more interesting and I’ll move on.
Open Book (What Career?)
I think life is much more fun when the future is uncertain. Think about it this way; which is better:
For the next two decades, I will:
Work at a job (40,000 hours) and then retire. Hopefully, I’m still in reasonable health.
An uncharted path is much more interesting. I’ll go where opportunities and passions take me.
Someone asked me recently what my career was. I had to think a bit. This is the definition of career:
An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
I almost made it 20 years in computers. That was a long time, but maybe not long enough to call it a career.
I’ll figure out a career when I grow up which will most likely be never.
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