Do What Interests You

I was once sitting down to dinner with a group of people I was meeting for the first time. Directly across the table from me was a pretty young woman who, from what I could tell, was facing difficult decisions and needed advice.

I caught on to her situation because of the questions she was being asked:

“So have you picked a major?” — “Have you been accepted anywhere yet?” — “Have you decided where you’re going?” — “When will you be finished?”

She was clearly a senior in high school faced with the difficult questions that go hand-in-hand with preparing for graduation:

  • Which college?
  • What major?
  • When will I know?
  • How do I choose?

In other words: What happens next?

I remember how stressful that time of my life was…

The number of different college programs was overwhelming…
The application process was tedious…
Applying to a college guaranteed nothing…
There was no telling when you’d hear if you were accepted…
Enrollment deadlines and the end of senior year were approaching…

…and I remember panicking as a result of all the stress I was under.

At the time, I imagined the decision I made regarding college would be the most important decision I made in my life. I was under the impression that my fate rested upon that single decision because the choice I made would start a life-long chain of events:

  1. The college would affect the friends and professors I would meet.
  2. My friends and professors would affect the quality of my education.
  3. The quality of my education would affect my future career path.
  4. My future career path would affect my future success.
  5. My future success would affect my future happiness.

Note: I admit to being incredibly naive at the time.

Although I realize the extent of my naivety now, back when I was facing the different college choices these thoughts daily haunted my mind. I was convinced that my entire future would be affected by my decision. Consequently, I was confused, scared, and desperate for advice.

I sensed the same confused desperation in this girl seated across from me.

“I think I’m going to go into Communications,” she explained, “because my dad said it would make a lot of money.”

I winced — the same bad advice led me into a college curriculum I disliked. My computer talents caused people I knew to constantly make the same suggestion: “Get a computer science degree — you’ll make a fortune.”

She continued, saying: “I actually don’t know what Communications is about, but it’s better than listing ‘Undecided’ as my major.”

I winced again — a memory of my older brother came to mind. He went to college for only one year, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. The problem was, he knew nothing about the subject. His high school guidance counselor pushed him into choosing something so he wouldn’t have to start college “Undecided.” Choosing something he knew nothing about, as it turned out, caused him to drop out within a year.

The more I heard from this girl, the more I wanted offer her some simple advice: Do what interests you.

Doing something for money will lead you to a life you have no passion for.

Doing something because someone else told you to will lead to the same.

Here this girl was following the advice of her father, who was encouraging her to choose a major she knew nothing about with monetary incentive. It was a recipe for disaster.

Unable to hold my tongue any longer, I suggested that she reconsider her choice of major. I explained that it was unwise to choose a major based on money, or at someone else’s suggestion.

“Just do what interests you,” I said. “And if you don’t know what interests you, that’s alright. In fact, I think that’s common. Start undecided, fill your first semester schedule with intro courses, and find out what interests you.”

When you’re interested in something you’re bound to do well in it.

Don’t make the same mistake I made — if you do something in the interest of money, you’re just wasting time. Just do what interests you, and have fun.

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5 Responses to “Do What Interests You”

#1 bryan king on 16, Jun, 2007 at 3:11 pm

like Nursing.

#2 Ian Adams on 24, Jul, 2007 at 5:20 pm

When I was 16, I started going to community college, paid for mostly by the school district. I did a lot of the whole “trying to find what interests you” and wasn’t able to find it at that school. I felt like I was wasting everyone’s (including my own) time and money, and it led to me dropping out. When I turned 18 I started my first job, in the computer industry, because it was an easy way of making good money. But I don’t think I was ever passionate about it. I think your advice is sound — keep looking for what you’re passionate about, and never stop looking until you’ve found it.

#3 Cubicle-Fu » Blog Archive » Am I having fun? on 25, Oct, 2007 at 5:46 pm

[…] Read Tim’s book for lots of ideas on how to escape the rat race. And if you don’t believe us, ask LifeReboot. They say to do what interests you. […]

#4 Mneiae on 15, Jun, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I understand the need for you to be part of the “Working Dead” right now. Please set yourself a goal for a life reevaluation though. It’s true that everyone [including me] thinks that a compsci degree is a sure moneymaker.

Right now, your passion is writing. And you’ve kept that up [very admirable] even with the outside drama going on in your life. But I think, one day [someday haha], that the computer skills you learned will come into play. As you showed with the article mentioning your phil class, things show up later that you don’t initially think will be useful.

#5 Mneiae on 15, Jun, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Guidance counselors now tell kids that it’s fine to go in undecided. Just spend your first 2 years getting all your GenEd and your electives out of the way. Try different classes to see what you’ll pick as your major.

A lot of people tell/told me the same spiel, over and over. I always counter with the fact that I started my first fall semester at college with enough credits to make me a junior. I took one 300-level class to round out my GenEd requirements. Now I’m totally done with GenEd and I want to know what my major is.

So does everyone else.

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