3 answers

Should I strive to be competitive at the expense of my own happiness?

Asked Richmond, California

I'm a high school junior that has straight A's and I'm involved in many extracurricular activities. I have a goal to become a rocket engineer because I excel in math, however, I sometimes think that I'd be much happier being a gardener or a janitor. #engineering #environmental-engineering #gardening #rocket-science #astrophysics #math

3 answers

Douglas’s Answer

Updated Easton, Massachusetts
Hi, There are several ways that I could answer this question, here are a couple. First, do you want to be a gardener or janitor because you really do not want to go to college? If that is the case, don't go to college right after high school. Get a full time job in either gardening (landscaping) or as a janitor for a year and see how you like them. After 4 years of college and becoming an engineer, you will probably be starting at about $70,000.00 per year plus significant benefits. As a landscaper or janitor, you might be making $ 25,000 per year. Engineering work is physically less demanding than the other two and far more interesting. If you don't go to college you need to get a job that not everyone can do, if you expect to make a living wage. The two you mention probably are not in that category. Become and engineer and you can have a garden in your backyard and you can do janitorial work keeping your house clean and repaired.. Good luck,

Sven-Oliver’s Answer

Updated Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

As this is not a U.S. specific question, I feel entitled to reply too.

I think you know, you can't go back in time and if you could, the next question would be, how far would you go back in order to start over? Always assuming, you could take all your knowledge and experience with you.

If you don't want to feel sorrow to have chosen the wrong path in the future, then you should consider two things.

1. I see so many people, being almost 40 years old, being unhappy with their profession and recognizing, they did what their parents expected them to do.

2. When choosing my own 'calling' it was helpful to imagine I'm a billionaire who already visited all the interesting places in the world. After having a long sleep and being served breakfast by my butler on my motor yacht, what would I do with the rest of the day? One of my answers was 'Make computers talk to each other.'

Now I'm 50 years old and I still like doing what I do. I'd do it, even if I wouldn't get payed! But: I' like doing what I do. As I like what I do, I'm doing it good. As I'm doing it good, I get paid. Lo and behold! Two problems solved. :-) First, make sure I like what I do, second make a living.

Greetings from Germany.

Sven-Oliver recommends the following next steps:

  • Imagine you are a billionaire already.

Christopher’s Answer

Updated New Jersey, New Jersey

Hi Jada,

hmmm...Being competitive at the expense of your Happiness?...I have heard this often from folks testing their limits in life. My short answer...YES. I could have padded a longer answer but not to consume valuable time with circumlocution.  This question, IMHO, is more about your destination versus your journey. When I read Douglas' fantastic advice to you and reflected on advice I gave my own young people, I made me think. I wanted my own to fully maximize their given talents as those talents do have an expiration date. After you have pushed and maximized your gifts, you will have gained the benefit of two things: (1) you will have learned how (and what it feels like) to apply maximum effort to achieve a goal and (2) afterwards you will have a broader range of options from which to choose in terms of a career. The way it came out to my own kids was as follows.."After you push yourself and your talents as far as they can go you will see that you will ultimately have the option to be engineer/scientist or dig holes....both respectable vocations...but at least you won't be relegated to just one end of that continuum when it's all said and done. Keep pushin' Jada...and you might just enjoy the journey as well. :)

Updated
Agreed. To put it another way: it's very easy to downgrade from a "high-end" career; it's almost impossible to upgrade from a low-end one. Start high, and you'll have the opportunity to try both. Start low, and there's a good chance you'll be stuck there (barring another round of college/grad school, anyway).