- Are you still saying, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” and you’re already grown up?
- Are you in a job that you don’t like, but feel stuck in because you really don’t know what you’d rather do?
- Do you know what you’d rather do but it’s financially unfeasible?
- Do you feel squirmy when somebody at a party asks, “What do you do?”
- Are you in a life transition? Are you going from high school to college, college to a job, career to retirement and don’t know what to do?
If this is you, I know you, because I’ve been through all these scenarios. I’ve spent half my life trying to figure out the color of my parachute.
I read a million books, took countless quizzes in magazines, talked to guidance and career counselors, took interest inventories, even prayed to god to send me a sign telling me why I was put on this earth.
It was kind of interesting, but none of it worked.
What did work was when I started paying attention to my one wild and precious life, and not how I could fit this wild life into the existing world of work, and careers, and jobs.
My version of “paying attention” involved making lists. Lists of all the things I liked and all the things I hated. The work of building and tending those lists brought my life into incredible focus.
Then I learned to meditate and take better care of my body. These two steps took the longest, but gradually I noticed that I had more energy and stamina, and I could stay calm when everybody around me was freaking out. This, I’ve discovered, is a very rare and in-demand skill set.
Then I wrote down what I stood for, what I believed, and the qualities I wanted to spend my life trying to cultivate. This personal manifesto became my North Star. Now everything I put my time into has to align with that, or else I don’t do it. This makes decision-making super easy.
Essentially what you are about to read in this book is a series of exercises that will take you through the process of list building and manifesto writing and project development, and all the rest. The exercises are fun and easy. They take time, and commitment to the process, but in the end you’ll end up with self-knowledge.
With self-knowledge you won’t ever have to ever ask yourself again what you want to be when you grow up. Self-knowledge will render that question completely absurd and meaningless and stupid. Once you realize you’re constantly evolving and growing and changing and that there is no such thing as a “grown up” anyway, you’ll be free from that little box, that suffocating prison.
I also want to help you negotiate the icky “What do you do?” question at parties. I’ve avoided many parties in my life for fear of that one question alone. Once you understand why people ask it in the first place, it’s a fun question to play with. I’ll teach you how to come up with funny and creative ways to respond that will move the conversation forward into rich and delightful territory.
But most of all I want to help you discover exactly what activities jazz and excite you. Then I want to help you develop strategies to work those activities into what is probably your already over-committed life.
I want you to find one absorbing, challenging and worthwhile project and see it through to the end.
Then, after that project is finished, I want you to find another one. (Projects breed projects, so not to worry.) And another one. Until eventually your whole life—everything you do, and who you are, is defined by your current absorbing, challenging project.
Eventually, your life will become just one cool project after another.
You’ll love this project. It’ll be your baby. It’ll become your life at the moment. It’ll align with your values. It’ll make you excited to think about when you wake up. It’ll become who you are.
That’s the project-driven life.