Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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Pursuing other people's dreams

December 10, 2009General

Julien Smith has a thoughtful post on ambition and passion. The idea is that we often pursue goals set for us by others, instead of digging into our own minds and figuring out what we really want. This has always been an issue. In fact, it was a key theme in the movie I saw last night, An Education. Things grow even more confusing when you wade into social media:

Smith writes:

...Channels are so filled with hype, telling us what we need to care about and where to direct our attention that we can’t help but believe them. The people in this space are charismatic and smart, and everything they say makes sense. But they aren’t you or me.

The confusion comes not only from other people, but also from our younger selves. I think that many of us establish who we are and what we like in our 20s. Then we get jobs that appear to carry us away from those things. (I liked literature, for example, and the closest I could come to it in the work world was journalism.) So much of life is filled with this longing for this unfulfilled identity. And yet the journey itself changes us. If given a chance to do what we might have chosen earlier, would we? Or were we really more comfortable following one path and merely talking about the other?

I'm facing a bit of this issue now. I have a full year of severance and a chance to start something new. So I have to sort through not only what others think I should do (my book editor, for example, my wife, even people reading this post...) but also what I've always thought I wanted to do, whether I still do--and even if I ever did.

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