I think one of the ongoing conversations for everyone except for maybe young parents (let’s be honest… young parents don’t have time to think), is WHAT DO I DO WITH MY LIFE?… I don’t think my opinion on this stuff as any better than anyone else’s, but I just thought I’d share what I’ve learned as well as some of my own personal experiences.
Most people like to frame the conversation in terms of 2 camps: practicality vs. passion.
In camp 1,the “practical” camp: you have the folks who give you lots of functional/useful advice. They’ll find out what you’re good at and what you like doing, then connect it with career options that they happen to be aware of. It’s like the world is one big puzzle and everyone just needs to fit into the right place. I’d say that most of the world operates on this idea, because it makes sense. And at the end of the day, don’t we just want a world that makes sense? Do something you do well and make a career out of it. Boom Bang DONE. The formula is pretty simple.
This is the way I made decisions for most of my life too. I realized I was reasonably skilled at computer science, so I studied computer engineering in college. I have always enjoyed helping people…. so I wanted to be a doctor (I still tutor potential medical students in my non-music making time now).
1. The heart matters. Sure we live in a physical world, but emotional well-being matters to a well-lived life just as much as anything else. Many of the least happy people that I know also happen to be the most visibly successful. That isn’t a coincidence.
2. Staying purely in this camp means you usually avoid risk, and so it’s generally not that exciting. Many of the greatest things in life also are accompanied by the greatest risk.
3. There isn’t usually a lot of room for exploration in this camp….. whereas sometimes being aimless and doing a little wandering is just what we need to both learn about the world we live in as well as learn about ourselves more.
In camp 2,you have the thrill seekers, the people who make an effort to base all their decisions on “where their heart leads.” The people who support this attitude will generally say that so long as you follow your passion you will succeed… in “having lived life”.. (regardless of how financially successful you end up being). Whether that leads to being in a remote village in the middle of nowhere, as the CEO of a web startup, or somewhere imbetween, it doesn’t really matter….. so long as you stay true to where your internal truth takes you.
More recently I’ve been making a lot more decisions based on trying to “listen to my heart.” My decision to pursue my fiancee Rachel…. my decision to try to pursue music full time… it goes against a lot of my natural way of thinking to make decisions this way, but it has come with a lot of freedom alongside it 🙂
1. It’s pretty naive to truly believe that this is the one and only proper “true way to live life.” This style of living doesn’t really make sense for 90% of the world, where trying to survive is the only real priority. In truth, even in the richest countries, this style of life only really exists for a select few.
2. You can’t follow your passion (at least career-wise) if it doesn’t also align with something you are at least reasonably skilled at (or can someday be skilled at). This was something I personally struggled with a lot because I struggle to recognize myself as a gifted musician.
As I’ve thought about this topic a lot lately, I’ve come to my own sort of conclusion. I don’t think life is about doing just what is practical, and I don’t think life is about simply following your heart. One is life draining and the other just blows with the wind. I think the best option lies in the middle, and I like to call it:
DO WHAT YOU SHOULD DO.
What does it mean to do what you should do?
- It means listening intently to your heart and recognizing when you’re doing something that goes against or aligns with the core of who you are. There are a lot of things to do out there…. be willing to try different things and to be humble enough to recognize when something is or isn’t working.
- It means being aware of the context of your life in recognizing limitations. Many of us are working towards dreams when we should be focusing on something practical, meanwhile some of us focus so much on the practical we ignore the reality that we have unique opportunities in front of us.
- It means being humble enough to recognize that we are all part of a bigger picture, and that what you do influences not only you but the community around you also.
Which brings me to my own life. I know everyone’s circumstances are different, but hopefully you can learn from my own experiences 🙂
Choosing music was not a practical option for me. I still haven’t really figured out how I’m going to sustain a career doing this. But choosing music was not purely a passion option for me either… I love music, but I know a lot of people who are probably more passionate than I. I wish I could say it was either practical or that I was the most passionate musician on the planet….. but neither is true if I’m being honest.
But these are some of the reasons I believe I SHOULD do music:
- Very few Asian Americans are making an attempt to do it. Since moving to LA I’ve met some… but it still numbers probably in the low thousands.. maybe even the hundreds…some of us have to be willing to take a risk and try, even with the possibility that it will fail terribly.
- I may not be the most talented musician, but I was blessed with overwhelming musical opportunity in my life (raised playing the piano, in church choir, taught myself guitar, took drum lessons, etc.)…. I got to record my first album at 18 years old.
- I love music enough to be willing to work at it every day. Everyday I work at some element of it…. whether it’s improving my recording/mixing skills, my knowledge of the business, promoting myself on youtube, networking with musicians, my website, my guitar chops…. etc.
- I’m blessed with a family and community who is supportive of me doing this. THAT IS HUGE. HUGE. HUGE. i’m all for proving to the world who you are and underdog stories, but if it comes at the cost of alienating the ones you love, it’s…. rarely … if ever worth it. Thank you friends and family 🙂
- I know I should, and I’ve known for a long time… but it took me a long time to face my fears and try. I think if you want to live the best life you can, you have to choose the path that requires being faithful and persevering to something in spite of your insecurities and fears. Honestly, I am insecure about what I’m doing pretty much everyday, but I’m gonna keep at it :)…