Monday, September 13, 2010

What would you do? Getting past carrots and sticks

Let's play a game. It is a game I have been playing with myself a lot since being laid off in July. It is a short game but potentially, if played at the right time, life changing.  Respond with the first thing that comes into your head. Don't think, just listen to your gut. It goes something like this: quickly, answer the following question:
"If money were no object, what would you do with your life?"

I usually think 5 seconds is enough to form an answer. Or sometimes its long enough to realize that you have cast your ship out in the ocean with absolutely no idea the direction you'd (generally) like to be sailing. 

This is a "game" I have been playing with myself as I wade into the waters of choosing another job, career or path. I have never been primarily motivated by career path, instead motivated by my passions instead (running, food, introspection). I have not really ever co-mingled the two. I started out on a super responsible path while I was speeding through college and grad school and didn't really stop to consider the above question until I was knee deep in student loans and the proud owner of a piece of paper that called me a Master. I am a master of a specific trade, I have lots and lots (and lots) of excellent skills and yet when I mull over the question of what I want my career to be, most of the answers are practical, sound nice, have good benefits or fit my skill set but excite me as much as watching paint dry. I know that sometimes (and probably at some point) practical trumps passion and excitement (like when the rent is due), I'm not arguing that. But I also have found myself dead ending with asking the too basic of a question: what do I want to do for work/ I can peruse craigslist all I want, I can "what color is my parachute" myself to death but what I truly seek is not contained there.

Hence, the game.

I figure that if I look at what my answer to that question is, I can find a direction I can point myself towards. I don't have to have a reasonable answer, I don't have to have a practical answer. I don't have to temper my answer based on my fear of failing or because I was traumatized at my high school graduation dinner by my family essentially telling me that my dreams were utterly ridiculous (from which I internalized, "don't dream, be practical"- though that whole event is a much longer story, but you get the point). Just play and answer.

I did. Many times. At first, there was nothing. No answer, nothing springing to mind. I was tempering my response based upon my own view of it being something I could tangibly reach or reasonably achieve. But that is not the point of the exercise. So I asked again.

And there is an answer, an answer which has been around for a while I think too. Purpose, mastery and self-direction are the great motivators (see below video) and that transcends the learned behaviour of "be practical", "follow through on your commitments", "take the safe path". Why not dream big? Why not take the idea of money out of the equation and direct from there?

You may not find a life changing answer, I sure didn't. A slam on the brakes, turn this car around, answer. Instead you may find a direction and from there you can begin and work backwards to begin to set a new course. That is what I feel like. I feel like my answer to the question chose a fork in the road that will lead me in the direction of the future I want. It does not mean I have a course charted, nor where the road may lead me. But it does make me feel like I am being true to my deepest desires, that I am continually learning about myself and being true to the life I would like to live.


  1. Nice post Devon. Tough things to think about. Great video, amazing drawing skills! If fantasy job for you includes running and cooking, maybe you could start a fully supported running tour company.

  2. GREAT post Devon,

    I did (do) the "practical" thing with my life. But I've molded my life so I can keep the adventure and dreams in my life alive. I wish I had followed a few of my friends and spent more time (or all of it) following my dreams.

    One friend runs and works enough to get what he needs, no more. He is the happest person I know and his dreams and adventures are still the best out there. He dosen't need money just time and dreams, (I'm plagerizing him here).

    I say blend what you love with a bit of practical to get you through or to the need dream/adventure.

    If could I would go back in time, I would have moved to Tahoe, Bishop or Mammoth Lakes when I had the chance. Work a bit and then run, climb, hike, ride a lot more than I have at 39yrs, (and thats just the summer months).

    Do what makes you happy, the rest will fall into place. I love your blog, keep it up.


  3. Thanks for your entire blog, very sweet and inspiring.

    Best wishes from the Pyrenees.

  4. Great post Devon. I think about this periodically and luckily I think I'd just keep being right where I am. I hope you can get to that place too because it's super chill :-)

  5. Ahh, Devon I love this post. I was raised by 2 woman. No dad, no men. My grandmother and mother. My grandmother was the ultimate driver. She drilled me from the time I can remember about being practical, make money, do your laundry, keep your house spotless and most of all never let anyone see you sweat. My mother on the other hand was the ultimate feminist before the word was invented. She was an artist (painter)a dreamer. She meandered through life falling every whim that came way. She is sweet, loving and accepting. I had the dynamic duo raise me. I was practical with my degree, dove into high tech and did exactly what was expected and more. However I pursued every dream I wanted. You can do both and though they may not coincide perfectly at times in the end if you pursue everything you choose out of necessity or excitement with the passion you exhibit total enrichment will follow. You won't be able to help yourself because ultimately you will skyrocket. It's who you are.


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