What should I do with my life?

It is a journey of lifetime to get to know the single person who has faithfully accompanied us from birth till death. To quote Lao Tzu, "He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened."

On a peaceful late afternoon of 20150728, a 2008-born little girl told me that she wanted to be a teacher and now a police officer when she grows up. A 2013-born little boy told me that he wants to be a bus driver. I love the simplicity of their thought, they just want a single thing at present.

What should I do with my life? Why do I ask this question? My mother candidly shared with me that she never thought of such a question when she was about my age. She was more concerned with providing food and roof for her children.

In what should I do with my life by Po Bronson, most interviewees are from Americas. I wonder about the responses of people of different cultural, social, economical backgrounds, especially those from the East.

You are to live your life following your passions. How to know our real passions and interests?

Remember that passions are results of action, not the causes of action. In so good they can’t ignore you: why skills trump passion in the quest for work you love, Cal Newport argued that what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.

As long as what you do gives you "a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world", that’s good enough.

How to identify our passions in 1, 3, 5, 20 years down the road? Like every prediction, such as weather forecast and stock price prediction, you are unlikely to be 100% accurate, because we do change.

We change because change is an essence of life. We are physically made up of atoms and Sir Richard Feynman highlighted that atoms are jiggling and wiggling.

I have been trying to identify role models whom I can look up to, so that my change is towards a positive direction and towards the direction that my future-self would like to have.

When I was a child, I love reading biographies a lot. I remember crying while reading the story of Nelson Mandela who persistently endured 27 years of imprisonment, for matters that he believes in and had fought for.

I admire genius scientists and inventors. They have transformed the ways we live. Think of internet that connects us with our loved ones globally and makes us smarter than ever.

While it is important to remember that some people are not nice (so that they will not harm our loved ones and ourselves), I still want to naively believe that people are in general kind. I am deeply touched by the kind heart of Mother Teresa and many unsung heroes and heroines like her.

Entrepreneurs who created new products / services and new jobs for people are also highly inspiring. I have met real entrepreneurs, in spite of their physical disabilities, who have made significant changes in the lives of others and their own lives. There is truth in "Help others to help yourselves."

As a professional, I seek inspirations from contemporary role modes. Some of my linkedin connections have garnered inspiring accolades in their careers. I learned from facebook that friends have found the love of their lives, married, upgraded to parents / grandparents / great grandparents of lovely babies, nurtured children, pursued and completed awe-inspiring challenges (such as skydiving, climbing Himalayas, launching startups), travelled or moved to live in interesting places worldwide.

After intense searches over decades, while I respect many people — from humble workers who squeeze out sweat, tears and blood to earn a living, to successful people as deemed by society — I find nobody whose life I want to live like.

That’s ok because you and I are unique. We all have our own story, a unique life story that we must choose to direct ourselves.

Don’t live for anyone’s approval. It is impossible to please everyone, even Jesus could not do so.

I am grateful that I have been able to achieve some of my dreams. As of summer 2015, I have a job with a salary of over twice, if not almost thrice, of what I earned in the previous job (I was worried that I could not find a pursuit that enables me to earn more through more responsibilities and roles; thank you for answering my prayer since 2012).

That’s the good news. The challenge is I have been bailing people out of debt (perhaps, it is psychologically healthier for me to think that it will be a bonus for me to get back the loaned amount, than to expect a repayment) and I will have to help others to ease their burdens. I said Yes already.

Consequently, there is always a desire to do better, to deliver more and to earn a higher income. The fear and worry are also here; feel the fear and do it anyway! Now, I understand what it meant to be a bedrock.

Sometimes, I wonder if I live my life to the fullest. Do I waste away what the universe has been generously giving me? How do we know that we have worked hard enough, yet not quietly and slowly killing ourselves due to overworking and ignoring our health?

In summer 2015, It is saddening to learn that a kind, idealistic, talented, good-looking young man passed away in the early 2015, due to kidney failure at the age of only 28. He once complimented me for doing well academically, having a campus-wide leadership position and working part-time as an undergraduate student. That year, I often slept at 3 am after night meetings and woke up at 8 am to attend classes. Not a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

To know what things (career / vocation / lifestyle / people) are worth pursuing, you must love not only the results, but also the process.

We are living in an increasingly dynamic age. It is okay if you cannot stay in a single career of your choice, you can have a portfolio of career.

What sacrifices are you willing to make? If you have started living far away from your parents since early teens and seeing them once yearly, in the pursuit of a better education and future opportunities, will you exchange it for the comfort of being a loved child at home?

What legacies would you like to leave?

♡ I hope people will cherish education and lifelong learning because they positively changed my life and those around me.

♡ I love visuals greatly. Think of photographs, paintings, sketches, movie and documentaries. Perhaps, that’s how my brain thinks. I am pursuing Project 36524, to create an inspiring visual daily for a century.

♡ I hope people would be more courageous to explore the world because an often-perceived as gentle (if not timid) person like me, has always discovered joy from our beautiful mother earth: especially her delicious food and people.

Why do you work so hard? We spend a large proportion of our lives working. Often, we define ourselves through our career and roles. Never lose hope that you will be a success. Do not be afraid to make a career change, even that’s mean starting again from 0.

How to know when to hang on there? Find something that moves our heart, so that the inevitable pains are bearable.

Life is a series of experiments, make it colorful ones. To quote Po Bronson, "a calling is not something you know, it’s something you grow into, through trials and mistakes."

Create your own bucket list. Prioritize what matters to you.

While there is nothing wrong with being successful and having fame and fortune, I learned that some people (I hope these exclude you and me) cannot handle them and lose moral compass, as highlighted by Dr Richard Teo Keng Siang (1972 – 2012).

The more human beings have, we tend to want more. Perhaps, that’s how we are designed or else no civilization. Yet, excessive wants are unhealthy. That’s why I prioritize gratitude as one of my chief values. Look up and look down.

It’s okay if we still suffer from envy and greed, as long as we work on nurturing gratitude in our daily lives. This is a balancing act, akin to how cells in our body strive to balance between death and growth. Too much death is related to degeneration and ageing; excessive growth is a characteristic of cancer.

The balancing act also applies to loving ourselves and others.

Do not let your tremendous ability and infinite choices paralyse you. Be decisive. Just do it! If things do not work, try another ones.

While Richard emphasized that "Don’t let society tell you how to live. Don’t let the media tell you what you’re supposed to do," we are living in our society that constantly influences us. Not easy!

To provide our parents and children with the best healthcare and education, respectively, we need $. Money is not everything, but many things require money. Child delivery and funerals also require money. I hope I will die in outer space after creating many beautiful visuals and living at least over a century, serving others. Hence, nobody will be obliged to arrange for my funeral.

What should I do with my life? How to live a fulfilling life?

Perhaps, these are questions that we use our entire lifetime to answer, a step-by-step every day. Answer responsibly to whatever life throws us.

Live everyday happily, even though you have not figured out what you should do specifically with your life, as long as you know the big picture of your life purpose. Do your best in whatever opportunities the universe gives you. Only when you look back in the future, into your previous years, you will be able to connect the dots.

Live your own story, filled with love for yourself and others. Bring smiles to others. Dream big, do things with grit and practice gratitude.

All the best!

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3 comments

  1. […] that some people are not nice (so that they will not harm our loved ones and ourselves), though I still want to naively believe that people are in general […]

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  2. […] The Little Prince has been described as "more fact than fiction; an autobiography with a childlike framework." Can you write a similar autobiography with a childlike framework for yourself? Lesson: write and live our own life story. […]

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  3. […] Don’t be so naive and innocent. In the real-world, it is not always people are inherently good (人性本善), though perhaps most people are in general kind. […]

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