I recently stumbled across the music video for Twisted Sister’s song, “I Wanna Rock”. It had been quite some time since I had seen it and watching the preamble to the song where the teacher asks one of the students, “What do you wanna do with your life?” took me back to my youth when I was asking myself the same thing. As I speak with teammates who are navigating the adventure ahead, I find that nearly every conversation converges at some point with that very same question. Much like the kid in the video, I am certain that we all wanna rock, but that’s not all we want to do. But defining what we want to do seems to be far more challenging than any of us thought it might be. As we consider opportunity ahead of us, it seems that we are all able to quickly identify things we don’t want to do, but specifics on what we do want to do prove elusive for many, myself included.
There are three questions that people tend to ask when trying to help someone else navigate their professional future.
- What do you want to do?
- Where do you want to live?
- How long do you want to work?
The first two questions are ones we all expect to hear, but the third one is something very few ponder. For me, I know that I want to be useful for the remainder of my life, but do I want to “work”? How do we define “work” anyway? (But that entire logic chain is a separate discussion.) Where do we want to live? The answer to that has more to do with people we want to be around, climate we prefer, activities we enjoy, or a job that we simply must have. The answers are varied, highly tangible, and non-negotiable for many.
So, what do we want to do? Though many of us have thought long and hard about this, most fail in our quest to articulate a specific role we want to play (which I believe is the real intent of the question.) Based on many conversations with others and much personal reflection, I believe that many of us would be willing to play a variety of roles provided we are able to do the following (in priority order).
- Do good – Make an impact – Contribute meaningfully to the world around us
- Be happy – Have fun – Grow!
- Make money
- Work with great people who we truly enjoy being around
For me, I don’t need to lead a team, but I must be part of a team. I firmly believe that who we work with is as important as the work we do. I also believe that respect, admiration, trust, and even love for our teammates is far more important than the scope of our role on that team. To some, and sometimes even myself, this sounds like a copout. But the truth is, it’s my reality. Hire me as a senior team lead or the junior team contributor. Ask me to do anything, from sales to product management, and I’d give it a shot. I don’t mean to sound flippant and I most certainly am not desperate. I firmly believe that through continued research and networking I will grow a specific affinity for roles I want to play within a team. But even when that does happen, I think that it will be #5 on the list above. Regardless, as I have personally experienced repeatedly to date, achieving 1 through 4 provides for a life that rocks. And no different than the student in the video, we all wanna rock!
- What are you doing with your life?
- What do you want to do with your life?
- How similar is your prioritized list?