Announcing the 100 People project

Can’t decide what to do in life? Yeah, me neither. This one’s for us.

When I was young, I wanted desperately to be a journalist. I lived in rural Indonesia for a time, where I enrolled in distance education and completed the year’s schoolwork in a week. After that, there was nothing to do but read books and watch the only english tv channel, BBC World News, every hour.

I wanted to be Lyse Doucet, I practiced her closing line in the mirror enough times that it’s still burned in my brain a decade later.

I have worn many hats between then and now. I was a journalist for a time, an engineer, a tech startup founder. I’ve been confused for about a decade about what I want to do with my life.

I know I’m not the only one who’s felt this way.

As kids, we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. Our answers changed every so often: astronaut! teacher! police officer! adventurer!

As we grew older, for better or worse, we might’ve felt the need to conform to the professions that promised a successful life at low risk. I know I became an engineer, and I felt afraid I might’ve chosen this option for the wrong reasons.

What I want is to do valuable work and lead a good life. 
And I get to define what “valuable” and “good” mean to me.

This has the potential to be an incredibly liberating, life-changing exercise. It’s also completely overwhelming.

It comes with three challenges:

  1. It’s not easy to look beyond the options we “should” choose from.
  2. It’s even harder to believe that we have the ability to do what we choose.
  3. It’s nerve-racking to think we might make the wrong choice.

In theory, any child, teen, or adult going through a quarter-life crisis, ought to believe they can be whoever they want to be. Regardless of their race, age, gender, geographical location.

If they want to work in service of others, they can do so through any vocation: research, law, science, tech, art, wildlife conservation.

I realise this sounds idealistic, even eye-roll inducing in its simplicity.

But there are a million ways to add value to our world, by anybody, in any field of work.

If you’ve ever felt the way I have — confused, overwhelmed, struggling to figure out what to do in your career and life, this might help:

I am announcing the 100 People project.

The purpose of this is to show that there are many ways to do valuable work in literally any profession. The aim is to give people a look at what working in these professions is actually like.

I want to hear from lawyers, advertisers, wildlife conservationists, educators, journalists, businesspersons, scientists, people in any vocation.

All that matters is that they’re actively solving real, hard problems in the world, and don’t have their stories told quite so often.

I want to learn about the nuances and challenges of what they do. What is hard about their work and what makes them keep doing it anyway? What were the highest highs like, what were the barriers that seemed insurmountable?

I want to showcase the diversity that exists among people who do valuable work. They’re likely men and women from all racial backgrounds, working anywhere in the world. If I can do that, maybe it’ll strengthen your belief and mine that no matter what our story has been so far, we can write the next chapters as we please.

I would consider the project a success if it turns out to be a collection I wanted so desperately to read before I became an engineer and in the many moments of doubt thereafter. If you find it valuable as you try to define what you want out of your career and life, that would be simply amazing.

In the meanwhile, if you’d like to be informed when the interviews are released, feel free to sign up below:

Psst: this is an interview in the series with Olympic medalist Mary Kom.