When you’re trying to figure out what to be in life, people generally say that you should do something that you enjoy and that you’re good at. It’s important to do both, because if you do only one or the other you’re just setting yourself up for either a shitty career or an unhappy life. The other thing that people say is that once you find that thing that you’re good and love to do, the thing you can see yourself doing for the majority of your life, you should strive to be the best in that career. You should achieve the highest level that career offers.
So the obvious example is that if you like cooking, and are good at cooking, go be a chef. But don’t just go be a chef, work to own your own restaurant. You should strive to be the next Guy Fieri. Just don’t actually become the next Guy Fieri. With one Guy Fieri out there, the world already has way too many.. Seriously, I’ve never seen someone try so hard to look like a douche.
Fieri hatin’ aside, in theory this is sage advice. Why wouldn’t you want to be successful in your career? Why shouldn’t you strive to be at the top of your industry? Well, this notion of striving to be the best often conflicts with the first part of that advice. See, this weird thing happens when you rise through the ranks of a career. You do less and less of the physical thing you started out in. Take me. I went to school for science. In the science world, if you’re going to be at the top of the game, your goal would be to own a company. Or at least be the head of a department or lab. But how would you define being a scientist? I’d submit that you’d define it as wearing a white lab coat and goggles and doing experiments. Yeah, yeah, that’s a gross generalization, but you get my point. Physically testing ideas to figure out more about the world.
But the higher up you go in science, the less of the actual experimenting you do. You end up becoming a manager, making sure other people are doing the experiments and checking reports for results. I mean sure, you’re compiling data and writing papers and such, but the majority of your work revolves around essentially running a business. Especially if you’re going the corporate route and end up literally running the business. You become a businessman who used to be a scientist.
Or take the chef example. How much actual cooking do executive chefs do? Ya know, the ones who have their names on the restaurant. I mean sure, they probably work with their teams to develop new menu items and things like that, but on a day-to-day the majority of what they do is business in nature. They have companies to oversee, employees to manage, hair tips to frost and minutes to win it. That, quite frankly, kinda sucks.
Maybe the sage advice needs to be revised. Maybe it should be something like “Find the thing you love and are good at, and then figure out how to be the best at that at the level you’re happiest.” So yeah, you may not be making the shit-tons of money the head of a company makes. But assuming you’re making enough to live the life you want, you can actually do the thing you love. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have drive to succeed or settle for what’s comfortable. You should always be striving to improve, always be pushing yourself to be better at the things you do. But if you’re truly happy with what you’re doing on a day-to-day, I don’t think you should feel like you have to advance. That because you’re not actively looking for that higher title you’re failing. Because at the end of the day, you’ll be way happier just doing the thing you love.