Now’s the Time

One of mankind’s larger dilemmas may never be definitively answered. Whipping out a yoga mat, scheduling a spiritually-evoking retreat or scribbling away at scientific equations and algorithms has not yet provided an acceptable answer, applicable to every soul residing on this solid rock of 7 billion.

Whether you happen to be the thoughtful, philosophical type, or the pragmatic, rational researcher, the meaning — indeed the very purpose — of human existence coalesces into an intriguing concept.

We’re now in unfamiliar times. All of us. The notion of work, rise of robots, and ever-changing technology has surpassed our ability to understand. We may reflect for a nanosecond, but many of us continue to believe in the same convictions; rapidity, ease, and immediacy are primary requirements when reviewing our careers.

We’ve managed to whittle down the meaning of life to a handful of bite-sized steps: get an education with a reputable university; wrap up your college experience with enough credits to approach a multinational organization for gainful employment, continue on, get an advanced degree which in turn leads to a higher paid job, continue through the chosen industry and once enough money is salted away, live comfortably in retirement.

As our ‘working life’ lasts longer, so do the mid-career challenges, often regarded as a plateau of sorts, having moved through the ranks and now settled. Do we really feel settled or just settling? It’s common at mid-career (and even earlier) to mull over the ‘meaning and purpose’ questions. These big questions frequently surface when returning to work from a sabbatical, after a fabulous holiday or a career upheaval. Too often the pressures and complexities of retaining a comfortable standard of living erase any self-awareness thinking. If you have a family to support, bills to pay and lifestyle to maintain, a career change may never reach the top of the to-do list, but the question — “what am I doing with my life” — lingers.

Why not fill your not-so-detailed list with possible career alternatives and answer the ‘what’s my purpose’ quandary? That mundane to-do list can easily become the start of your creative capabilities.

Traveling on a bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, I sat next to a young professional with a captivating career story. He had studied finance at the University of Manchester and was now a chef on a private yacht in the South of France. Though there seemed to be no logical connection between his field of study and profession, he went on to explain that he signed on as a deck hand on a yacht to escape the dreary realities of a standard desk job. One day, when the head chef failed to arrive, the captain asked him, “Can you cook?”

A simple prompt allowed him to shrug off his career in finance, and rekindle an earlier passion for the culinary arts.

So what should you be doing next?

From an objective standpoint, it’s best to review it now, whether the time to leave your current job is immediate or not. The Charlie Parker standard of “Now’s The Time” says it best. Your answer will be the core of the next step you decide to take.