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What’s Best In Life?

Okay... So that's a very broad question... But I can answer one piece of it.

Most of us (me included) don't know what we want. Before you say, "No *expletive deleted* Sherlock!" Allow me to dig a little bit deeper.

It occurred to me that I'm not doing what I want to do. This occurs to me on a regular basis, but yesterday was extra special. You see, I was riding the train home and sitting next to someone that was putting off a putrid body odor. Before everyone knocks my lack of compunction, let me tell you that this was far beyond your standard human being stink. I’m not talking someone who walked 2 miles to the train station on a humid 95 degree day without underarm deodorant. I’m talking about the kind of stink that lingers over a two-week old dead body lying in a rainforest.

Now that I have sufficiently gotten your attention (and perhaps offended the Hell out of you), allow me to continue…

Sitting for 1.5 hours smelling death in a small, hot train car can make you come to some realizations in life. For one, I realized that I don’t ever want to do that again!

During this time, I found myself pondering the immortal words of Conan (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), when he was asked, “What’s best in life?” Without missing a beat, Conan replied, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.” Now there’s a guy who knows what he wants!

The more that I think about Conan’s statement, the more I understand my lack of a statement on “what’s best in life?”

I know what my dream day would be like… I would wake up and eat a good (nutritious) breakfast

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. Following that, I would write for about 2 hours straight (uninterrupted). After that, I would spend some playtime with Kristine and kids. Next, I would go play 18-holes of golf with Kristine. After golf, I would hit the music theory and guitar for about 2 hours. After guitar, I would get some more kid playtime in. I’d squeeze some form of physical fitness in at this point in the day. Finally, I would wind down with the kids and Kristine watching TV or goofing off. Before turning off the light for the night, I’d get some reading in.

That day would obviously be altered to fit in other activities / hobbies, etc. Also, from time-to-time, there would be a two-week vacation to somewhere exotic.

Funny thing about my list… I don’t see work listed. Try as I might, I can’t seem to squeeze it in there. Some of you might argue that my writing (if done on a professional level) would be considered my work. I guess that’s true, but writing is something that I am passionate about. I don’t normally associate passion and work. Viola! Therein lies the problem… In order to make my life more meaningful, I need to be passionate about what I do for a living!

The problem grows when you consider that balancing things you are passionate about and work is nearly impossible. So, I have decided to dedicate some time and effort to figure this out… If and when I figure something out, I will probably write an instructional manual and publish it.

For now, I will continue to ride the smelly train to and from work.

Please feel free to comment with what you feel is best in life!

Signed, a passionate man who is still seeking his passion!

Posted by Vaughn Ripley

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. This is a great line of thought, and one that I believe many of us struggle with in the modern era. How can we enjoy our work?

    I say modern era because in times past, people did not have many options. You had connections and ability to do a narrow set of things, and you did them because you had to in order to survive and provide for your family. But now, we have many options, and those options seem to broaden every few years. We can choose our line of education, choose our line of work, choose our place of work, even choose to leave for any of thousands of new jobs we can consider with just a few clicks and keystrokes. I know many people who feel trapped, that they can only do certain types of jobs that they hate because they need to make $N per year, but they forget we also choose our lifestyle. We can always scale it way back and probably get by on a fraction of what we currently earn.

    I often ponder this question of enjoying work, and I search for intersections of things I enjoy with the skills people will pay me to do. My most successful intersection has been with designing new stuff and engineering. Engineering is a rather dull discipline most of the time. In practice, the engineer spends most of this time documenting, measuring and analyzing things. But sometimes you get to design new stuff – new products, new processes. I have sought to place myself into roles involving new product development as that gives me an intersection of a marketable skill and my boyhood love of playing with lego. Even in a product development type role, I get perhaps 20% of my time doing fun stuff, but that makes the other 80% far more bearable… a necessary evil to support my ‘lego’ habit and to make sure it will last into perpetuity.

    I would also wonder if your 15+ year line of work in computers is just because you happen to have fallen into it, or if there is something innate to it which you enjoy and attracted you in the first place. For me, I went into engineering because I enjoy the sciences, but I enjoy it in a practical sense of application as opposed to discovery. I also realized there were careers in engineering while physics has been pretty well figured out for all but the smartest thinkers. I happened to have fallen into an excellent first job, but since have been shaping my career and choices to intersect more with things I enjoy.

  2. I too have comtemplated this question for some time. I start to think that I know what I want and then I go for it and I get what (I think) I want. Then, it’s just not good enough for me. I am constantly searching. Things that most people would be proud of (like higher education, promotion at work, etc. etc.) I have always easily had but then I start searching again. While some are struggling to just get a job right now…I am fairly secure in my position and I am still searching for more.

    I feel like what I do is not good enough and I wonder if it is not good enough for me or if it’s not good enough for everyone else? Do we really live life for us or to appease others? Why do we envy what others have/do when what we have/have done is wonderful too?

    My day would be similar to yours. I would wake up and have a great breakfast, walk to the lake and feed the ducks (I am still trying to get paid to do this), kayak a bit, and cuddle with my favorite person in the world, maybe hit a movie, and spend the evening cooking and baking yummy treats. And then read a little, discuss what I read, and fall asleep with my best friend. Simplicity.

    How do we squeeze in simplicty everyday?

  3. At least he was just on the train and not in the cubicle next to you all day!

  4. OK, this is an easy one. Drive to my office and work – laugh at me, Roy, Carl, Jon, Alicia, Paul, or Charlotte – whichever of us has done the most bone headed thing that day – and drive home after work – no train – no smelly people (except maybe you when you come back from your workout at the gym) – and, if you plan ahead, enough, you can prepare a good, nutritious lunch in our kitchen, followed by a not-so-nutritious ice cream from the cafeteria! Geez – do I have to do all the heavy lifting in the thinking department?

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