No, Really… If you could do anything….

I ran into this TED Talk the other day.

And even though it was nested in among such gems as “Your Vagina is Not a Car,” a highly intellectual search for hidden meaning in Kubrick’s version of The Shining, and assortment of official and unofficial music videos, it stuck with me.

If you ask teenagers what they want to do when they grow up, about 80% of them say they want to be one of three things: Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers. (Well, I think it said engineers. I’ve dated enough of them that there’s a semi-permanent censorship bleep over the word.)

And if you then ask them No, really, if you could do anything in the whole world you wanted, what would it be?

Uhm… well, about 80% (of the total, not just the Doctors, Lawyers, and whatevers) change their answer.

Okay. So 4 out of 5 people –already, in high school–are planning on doing something other than what they really want to do.

Or maybe… they have no sense of how to get from where they are to where they want to be.

I find myself looking around at the people I know–and people I think of as successful–and wondering which one is the happy one? If I have five people lined up, which one is doing what they actually want?

Remember that lecture from college? Look to your left… look to your right… One of those people won’t be here by spring.

This is more… well, add in the person in front of you… and behind you… and all four of those people will be spending their lives doing second-choice jobs in pursuit of stability and money.

And maybe I am the happy one. Maybe, even though I haven’t reached my goal–the fact that I’m still in motion counts for something.

Maybe the fact that I haven’t arrived at a destination I never wanted to get to in the first place matters more than I think.

And either way, so I’m in a job I don’t love, but somehow, maybe… I’m a little less alone than I thought I was.

After all… if 4 out of 5 people could do anything–anything in the world they wanted–it wouldn’t be what they are doing.


  1. Reply

    I’m so glad these questions are being asked to today’s youth. So many opportunities exist, and the world opens more every day.
    Permit me to be old for a moment. In a small town during the ’60’s, the mindset was limited for girls: wife, secretary, nurse, teacher.
    I was luck enough to find a job I enjoyed (sales support) and luckier to start writing as the internet took off.
    It’s so vitally important to find your true purpose in life and discover a way to make a living with it.
    Thank you for your thoughts and the TED link.

    • Reply

      I might have been able to survive secretary. Possibly. Wife probably isn’t my cup of tea, but play your cards right and there’s always a nice promotion to widow.
      Oh, well. We’ll see if I can find my purpose in life… or if I have one, for that matter.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: