What do you want to do?
- Create products?
- Create companies?
- Make money?
- Be famous?
- All of it?
- None the above?
It is such an existential question that it ultimately shapes your life experience. It is tough to answer what you want to do, be it professionally or personally. Some lucky humans are very clear about what they want, but it's a trial and error process for most. As you get older, you tend to think that you don't have the opportunity to do what you want or realize that you have so many other responsibilities and obligations that you conclude giving up that dream. It does not have to be like that.
Knowing what you want to do early is very advantageous. In this exaggerated example, imagine you like programming, and you started doing that at the age of 5 years old. By the time you reach 16, you were probably more knowledgeable and experienced than many Computer Scientist students in their last year of university. Probably, you created many apps. Perhaps, your apps were already making a lot of money. You wouldn't have to worry about money and career compared to your peers.
Another example, you can see that kind of pattern happening with Olympic-level athletes. Most of them started doing their sports as a kid, and they eventually were at their physical peak around the time when most other teens or young adults are struggling of what they have to do with their lives.
Most of you compared yourselves to those lucky ones at some point, and that can provoke negative thoughts and feelings, such as enviousness, regret, and victimization; why is fate so harsh to you! That is where you find yourself trapped into thinking that you don't have more time in life to invest in that skills, degree, hobby, or changing careers. You might even believe that it is too late in your life to invest in your dream. That's bullshit.
Stop comparing yourself to others in those ways. Instead, it's more productive to use other people's life stories and successes as a model that shows possible paths. In the end, you have to customize and adapt those stories into your reality. If you did not start programming at the age of 5, but you realized that you want to be a CS or software engineer at the age of 35, nothing is wrong with that. Yes, there are trade-offs. Should you do that? What is the financial impact on your household? Can you bear the idea that you may have to start from the career ladder?
Those are legit questions with real consequences. But you will be surprised that for most cases, regardless of the challenges of pursuing your dream, that is your best option to pursue it.
I have a friend who I met during my first year of university, and he didn't speak English. I encourage him to study it. I believed he would be able to pick up very fast. But he said that he was older than most people from the cohort and that he was a bit late in the game. Four years later, many of our classmates started getting internships, and most of those positions required English. I remembered he complained that everybody would succeed and he was too late to learn the language. I reminded him that if he started four years ago, he would be completely fluent by then.
My friend's example is self-explanatory about the issue that it is never too late to go for what you want or have to do; let me give you an extreme example.
Imagine that you give:
- 1 point for each year of your life that you end up pursuing or doing what you want
- 0 points for something you don't hate but tolerable
- -1 point for something you hate to do
Now, assume that the life expectancy is about 80 years.
- So, in the luckiest example, if you were born knowing what you want, you would have 80 points.
- In the worst-case scenario, you would get -80.
- For the average, meaning that you have your good, mediocre, and bad years canceling each other, you would have 0 points.
If you use this model and adapt to your current life and age, you will surprise yourself. Let's say that you are 30 years old and your life has been average, meaning you have a score of 0. If you continue like that, you will get 0 at the end. However, if you start pursuing what you want or doing what you like, you will end up with 50 points in the best-case scenario!
The closer to the 80 years of life, the harder it will be to change the average, but for those in an "average" situation, anything you do will change to a more favorable score.
Finally, if you like the idea of sunk cost, everything that happens before today has no value; therefore, they are worth zero. Then, it means again that you should still pursue what you want to do. What are you waiting for?