Totday’s post is titled after the new motto of writer and happiness researcher Will Wilkinson, who is leaving a successful career and moving across country to pursue a dream. In announcing the move on his blog, he writes:
I think the most important thing I took away from all that time with my nose in happiness research and behavioral econ is that we overestimate the value of what we already have and so underestimate the upside of taking a chance, leaving something behind, and making a big change. Most of us end up where we are through a sort of drift. Sometimes that works out splendidly. And drift hasn’t not worked out for me. I really like what I do. But, alas, I don’t really love it.”
How many of us does this describe? Our lives, the result of an accumulation of unrelated choices, are nothing like anything we ever envisioned or planned. This isn’t necessarily bad, but is it what we want? Are our current lives what our younger selves would have chosen for their future?
Most of us arrive where we are for perfectly prudent reasons. Our mothers tell us, quite rightly, that our dreams of achieving greatness as an artist or a musician or whatever need to take a backseat to more practical considerations. We’re told “we need something to fall back on” and it’s true. Achieving the level of greatness necessary to make a good living doing something you love is no sure thing.
So we commit ourselves to building a safety net which often involves getting a responsible job with a reliable paycheck. The job then dictates major life decisions like where we live and even our professional ambitions. All of the sudden we’re working hard for a promotion to middle management.
No child ever dreams of being a middle manager. And yet here we are.
All is not lost. In fact, you’ve likely already achieved that objective of your wise mother’s counsel: something to fall back on. If you have an income, you obviously have a skill so valuable someone is willing to pay you for it. That’s a wonderfully liberating thing. Because now that you have “something to fall back on” there is no reason not to pursue your long-neglected dreams.
For Will, that means trying his hand at fiction writing.
I never wanted to be a pundit or a “public intellectual.” I always wanted to be an artist of some sort and I still want that. I want to make awesome shit people love. It’s my new motto: make awesome shit people love. So here we go!”