Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One-a-Days VII: Go Fix Something

I can feel it. Clothes are furiously being thrown into suitcases and the sun is coming out for good.  I took a last ride up to the top of Lookout Mountain today (23:33 pillars to post, but who's counting?) and I'm feeling ready to go. The next adventure is close but it isn't here yet.

Yesterday my very astute father (who occasionally writes at sent me the link to a spectacular op-ed by  Germinal Provocations, if only to show me up) NYtimes columnist David Brooks entitled "It's Not About You." I'm not sure whether my pops had read my post entitled Do What You Do (after all, he is overseas) but the timing couldn't have been better.

The point of the article is simple: we spend too much time telling college grads to follow their passion, chart their own course and live their own dreams. These overly-supervised grads are then set out into the world to figure out what this passion might be. The problem is, they've never been taught how to do figure something like that out. So they wander for a handful of years trying to find their way in the world and making excuses for playing over accomplishing.

My epiphany came when Brooks suggested that, rather than head out and find your passion, that you go find a problem worth solving. In his words, "Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling."

This sentence was like the spank that gives a newborn its first breath. Life so clearly not about dreaming something but it's about fixing something. Well duh. It's not only undergrads that can use this little pearl of wisdom. There's a whole class of MBA's trying to reconcile selling out to corporate America with making some meaningful difference in the world. For them, hell for me, the answer is the same. It's not about you. 

Last summer a senior exec sat across the lunch table from me and offered a few simple words of advice: "Transform everything you touch." I think his message was very much the same. You work is about finding solutions. It's about transforming problems into innovation and ideas. Don't fret about finding a calling. Just go find a problem. Commit to a problem you care about and then work like hell to fix it. Transform it into something amazing.

It's a big world. I'm headed out on Friday not just to find an adventure but to find a problem.

But first I need to solve the problem of how to fit all this crap into one suitcase.

Moving Up, Living Down,

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