Let’s imagine for a second.
You’re out at some networking event, and you’re forced to talk to people you know absolutely nothing about. Yes, emphasis on forced. Aside from having a choice to actually be there to network, the following is a fact of meeting random people at random places: you’re forced to engage in mundane conversation.
It makes introverts want to tuck their knees into their chest and weep in the corner, and even gets the best of seasoned extroverts who somehow find socializing in public settings invigorating (side note: someone explain this to me).
“Not again, man..” you silently tell yourself as you frantically try to jumpstart the conversation that was killed just a second ago by some boring schmuck sipping a whiskey sour. Let’s be honest; small talk doesn’t contribute to the curing of diseases or help solve world peace. Asking someone where he or she lives or what they do for a living will not make the two of you win a joint Nobel Peace Prize for contributions towards humanity.
So it’s a safe bet that no one likes awkward silence as you both struggle. But ask a few people (hell, even your own friends) what they enjoy doing when they’re not at work, and chances are you’ll get a fairly similar response: a long pause.
Wait a minute! Can it be that everyone has so many hobbies to fill their free time, they don’t know what to say first? Or that they’re trying to break down their complicated endeavors in their head before explaining it to the general masses?
The short answer: nope. The long answer: nope.
That’s hardly the case unfortunately, and brings me to my point: no one knows what to do with their free time anymore. This dangerous line between life’s daily routine and life’s unrestricted time leads to an entire generation of untapped potential, who choose to waste their well-deserved talent on absolute shit.
Why is it then that young people have such a hard time connecting with anything? After all, it’s been drilled into our heads that the biggest career achievement you can “unlock” in this game of life is pursuing your passions relentlessly. And more importantly, not settling into a mediocre and unfulfilling career. “This isn’t your parent’s generation”, they (someone your parents’ age) claim. Long gone are the days where you had to put in your time, earn a living, and raise a family from a fairly young age. Times have shifted now, and it’s no longer about just earning a paycheck for your family, but about living out your dreams.
It’s been glamorized, beaten, and twisted just about every which way that this is the ultimate redemption. Yet chances are, 80 percent of your friends are doing a job they define as second rate – or in other words, it’s their “it pays the bills” job. Why is that? Why, in a time of ultimate choice (just look at online dating as an example), are Generation Y and Millenials finding themselves stuck in a career rut, just to go home, sleep it off, and start the cycle again tomorrow?
It starts in that precious few hours of free time between getting home and going to bed. A generation of untapped potential and ultimate choice leads to one realization: we are lazy and don’t want to work hard. Entering college, we’re all given the same warning: “you’ll have so much free time Billy, be warned that unless you structure your time wisely, it’ll pass before a blink of an eye!” So there you go, cocky and confident that you’ll be fine. Because after all, college right?
And so after a semester or two blaze right on by, what’s that get you? Their warnings were right. We didn’t realize that being successful requires dedication and hard work, but most importantly structure. Your grades won’t suddenly become 4.0’s if you don’t make it a point to study. You won’t cream tests consistently by sporadically retaining stuff at your leisure. Common sense, right? Somehow, college wasn’t enough of a rude awakening.
Now, equate that free time you had in college to the time you have when you’re not working. The same idea applies: in a spot of ultimate freedom, the chance to do whatever you want, most people choose to do absolutely nothing. There is no structure, there is no work to figure out what tickles your fancy, there is no step forward. Exploring interests and passions take a backseat as you zone out over the TV.
And when ultimately asked by someone what you enjoy doing outside of work, you say you watch TV, hang out with friends, or go to the gym.
Sorry, but this isn’t good enough.
Unless you’re the five to ten percent who find meaning in their work as it relates to their interests, you’re on a path towards screwing yourself over. Why is the answer always the same then? Is it the comfort and relaxation over the idea of doing nothing? Is it the idea that you want to zone out and not have to “think” after spending all day at work? Unfortunately for you, complacency is just one variable in the equation of an unfulfilled life.
Growing up, I’d cringe whenever an older relative showed me the latest coins in their collection. I’d think, how in the flying fuck is this interesting? But now I’m realizing that even though it still sounds boring to me (keyword: me), these people dedicated their time towards something that brought them immense pleasure, and meant escaping from the daily bullshit being thrown their way. A chance to forget about time, forget about the corporate meetings you have to run at work tomorrow, forget about the personal problems that plague them from time to time. It’s in these moments that you discover what truly makes you tick. I like to simply call that a passion. Plus, that coin collection was probably worth a pretty penny, no pun intended.
How do you find stuff?
There is no master plan, or any plan, in this article about how to find your passions.
The reality is, you find it by doing. You find it by trying, by exploring, by thinking. Reading another self-help article online won’t bring you any closer to your answers. The hope, realistically, is that it at least gets you thinking.
No one says that taking control of your life is easy. Relaxing and doing absolutely nothing has its place in your routine. The cautionary tale here is to not let it become the norm or overwhelming majority of your free time. Plus, in discovering your passions, an added bonus is a chance to make it a side-hustle, and even a full-time job if you’re a) good at it b) love it c) can make money off of it.
If nothing else, make it a point to find fulfilling ways to occupy your time, so at least the next time your date asks you what you enjoy outside of work, you actually have a real answer.