Your future is not inevitable
…And it has never been. You may have thought you were following a specific course – adhered to since adolescence and only now coming to some kind of fruitful climax – but you weren’t. There never was a course to begin with.
In a time when everyone has been unexpectedly and violently thrust from their life plans – whether those plans included having a kid, getting a promotion, having a job, following a specific career path – it’s important to recognize the magical realization we’ve all just been granted (or, if you’re a pessimist, the unwelcome cognizance we’ve all just been walloped).
I’m talking about the opportunity to dabble. I recently listened to a TED talk titled “how falling behind can get you ahead” by best-selling author David Epstein. In it he makes a very convincing case – so convincing that it prompted me to write this article – for diversifying your interests. He explains that everyone from top sports figures to business leaders have benefited from dabbling; Roger Federer tried swimming, skiing, soccer, baseball and badminton before committing to tennis as a career. Same can be said of many elite performers, who every day buck the myth of the ‘early start’ as the only path to success.
The most lauded, award-winning, impressive creative geniuses often come to their calling after much experimentation and failure. They changed careers, got off track, fell behind, and started over. They didn’t follow an obvious path from point A to point B, and neither will you. Diverse interests help us work better and imbue meaning.
What I’m saying is, this virus is not diverting you from some predestined future. You are exposing yourself to new situations, new thoughts, possibly new career paths – and all of that is not necessarily a bad thing.
According to Epstein, people who chose a very specific career at an early age make more money right out of the gate, but later earn less and report being less satisfied with their careers. They lost out on the benefit of dabbling and often live to regret that missed opportunity.
If you can identify with this characterization, consider this strange limbo that we’re all living in as a gift. Try something new, find what you really like or – better yet – find many things you really like. Cook, paint, read, invest time and effort into yourself. Figure out what makes you happy and recalibrate your choices around that knowledge. There is absolutely no shame in changing your life.
So take this virus for what it is – a crossroads. What will you do next?