"Working with what you have to make what you don't" or "Your future is a coloring book"

How do you figure out what you want to be when you grow up?  Some have it easy and know from a very young age, others (like myself) have a dimmer view of the future, but that’s ok.  I’ve been to career counselors, I’ve read books, I’ve talked with friends, I’ve dabbled in so many jobs and hobbies that my bookshelves are as varied as they are full.

Mine isn't this fancy, but it gets the job done. Joe Mabel / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Mine isn't this fancy, but it gets the job done.

Joe Mabel / CC-BY-SA 3.0

I’ve recently taken up woodworking to make some things I need.  A desk here, some bookshelves there, a wind tunnel when I need it (ok, that one was mostly cardboard, but not without its complexity).  Making something in the shop involves some planning and purchasing, but thankfully our shared shop was full of tools to help me get the job done.  

I drafted up a design, consulted with some friends (shout out to the talented BT Livermore), bought some wood, and got to work.  Then I revised the plan after some initial mistakes, watched some videos on how to use all the tools, and slowly my desk began to take shape.  Back to the analogy at hand.  I looked at what I had, what I knew, I acquired some skills and materials (within my budget) for what I didn’t have, and I learned as I went, all the while working towards that end goal I dreamed up at the beginning.

So you too can craft your desired future.  Let’s focus on work, as it’s a big stressor for many of us.  Here’s some steps to follow, surprisingly simple but not without their required effort:

  1. Imagine your future perfect day.  Think about what work you’ll be doing, who you’ll be working with, what change you’ll be causing, or projects you’ll be creating.  Imagine all the way through to the end and feel some future gratitude for being able to live your dream.

  2. Look at your past.  What skills have you learned on all your various jobs and hobbies?  What surprised you that you discovered you loved?  What were some unwelcome surprises?  What tedium would you have rather offloaded to others, and what did you miss out on that you wish you could have learned?  End with gratitude for all your experiences that have shaped you up to this point.

  3. Sit down someplace comfy, with time to think, and a strong cup of coffee or tea, and start slowly fitting your skills to your future dream.  Think of it as one of those grown-up coloring books.  You have the picture of what you want to be, and you have an array of colors that are yours to uniquely place.  

Now you’ll learn along the way what works and what doesn’t, and these mistakes are just preliminary research for future successes.  You’ll find gaps of skills that you’ll need to acquire later, and you’ll find talents that you’ve taken for granted that others envy.  When in doubt reach out to friends and colleagues for feedback, they can help you overcome all the normal hurdles of figuring this out.  

In the end my desk turned out perfect.  This isn’t a perfect that is an exact match of my initial vision, but a newfound perfect that makes me smile every time I use it and remember the process of building it.  You too can dream big, work hard, and get to where you want to go, even if it’s a little bit different than what you expected.