Last night I had the pleasure of meeting with alumni from Victoria College at the University of Toronto. One of the alumnus told me that “The greatest force in life is inertia”. Like most metaphors, an explanation is due. Everyone has a projected path that they are currently traversing. The path may be obvious, it may not be, but there is a path of least resistance in front of each of us. At every point in time we are given a choice, to stray from the path or hold true. The danger with staying on the path of least resistance is that it is generally created for us instead of by us. I will use the alumnus’ example of the manifestation of inertia in a career path. The following isn’t a direct quotation, my memory isn’t that good, but the overall idea holds.
“Think back to when you were a child, to the first time you thought about your dream job, what was it? Did you dream about being a vet, a firefighter, a lawyer, a politician? What about being in insurance?
Can you imagine any child, or a high school student for that matter, thinking that being in insurance is their life goal. The real question then becomes, why are there so many people in insurance if nobody really wants to be there?
The answer is inertia.
Everyone is told to follow their dreams, but the second they become eligible to join the work force, everyone around them advocates that they should lock up a solid job, something that will pay rent.
The problem is that once an individual is somewhere, it’s very hard to change direction, that is, after all, what inertia means.”
Aside from being overly hard on those who work in insurance, I think he has a point. It’s so very easy to stay on the path that you’re on, the path of least resistance. Since leaving the path requires effort, and since the destination of the path “doesn’t seem bad, I guess”, most choose to stay the course. What’s unfortunate is that many get stuck in a rut, the rut that their “temporary” job has dug for them. Changing direction not only requires stopping your current trajectory, but pushing yourself in another.
Recently I realized that I had the power to do anything I could dream. Aside from social conventions, there was nothing stopping me from just doing … anything. I could get on a plane and fly to Iceland, if it so pleases me. Life is a choose your own adventure type deal. There are no “actual” rules. There are laws, social conventions, parental wishes, but nothing is concrete. The possibilities are endless, which leaves me wondering as to why people work so that they’ll be happy later, when they could be happy while working now.
I’ve been very fortunate my entire life. One of the things that I’m thankful for is the fact that I’ve happened to stumble upon paid employment here and there. I’ve never applied (and been hired) for a job. Every position that I’ve ever held came around because I was doing something I was passionate about. My love of camp allowed me to be a camp counsellor for 3 consecutive summers at Camp Tawingo. My love of volleyball has opened up so many doors, from being an Assistant Coach for the University of Toronto Men’s Volleyball Team, Head Referee / Convener for Intramural Volleyball at UofT and a certified Volleyball Official for the OVA.
I’ve always held the belief that you don’t truly understand a concept unless you can teach it. This often leads me to offer my tutelage to my friends studying math. Every now and then a peer takes me up on my offer and realizes that I will dedicate a couple hours every week tutoring them pro bono, simply because I want to. Once I was tutoring a fellow Varsity Athlete and they offered to pay me because their coach happened to have money for tutors. I couldn’t say no to free money so I accepted the recompense, which was how I stumbled my way into the business of tutoring professionally. Since then I’ve had the experience of going to a tutoring organization looking for help in high level mathematics, only to discover that they don’t have any tutors that know anything about the subject that I’m studying. That particular meeting actually ended with them offering me a job as a tutor.
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been very lucky. What all these examples gloss over are the many hours of hard work that I spent, to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. Those hours were logged in that specific category because I was, to a certain degree, obsessed. At the tender age of 20, there’s no way I’ve spent 10,000 hours on anything, but I have spent a lot of hours on a few very specific things.
I didn’t write this with a “moral to the story” in mind, in fact I’ve Ctrl-A and Deleted this post multiple times. However I seem to have come upon a conclusion in the midst of tapping away on my laptop. The best way to choose your own adventure isn’t to make a conscious choice about it at all. The best thing to do is to find something you’re passionate about, and becoming utterly obsessed with it. Become so absorbed that the meaningless gossip and drama of life falls away. Be happy with your thing, whatever you’ve chosen to pursue, and never give up on it. It may not be easy to dedicate yourself to a craft or profession, but if that’s actually what you want to do, you’ll find the strength to push through. Resist the inertia that comes with the path of least resistance, find your thing, and then do your thing. If you stick with it, opportunities will present themselves, I promise. It may be in a year, a decade, who knows, but they will be there, and only because of all the work you put in up to that point will you be able to seize that moment.