Because of the work we do at Praxis, I get the good fortune of speaking with thousands of young adults all over the country each year.
Most of them are at the stage in their journey where they’re still uncertain about who they are – and perhaps more importantly – who they want to become.
It can be a confusing time. I certainly know I was confused at that stage in my life.
But it doesn’t have to be as confusing or stressful as many of us make it.
When we’re just starting out, we still lack a ton of important context about the world around us. So it’s highly unlikely we’ll correctly choose “the one thing” we want to spend the rest of our lives doing.
First off, because the idea that there is “one perfect path” is mostly a myth.
Second, because we just don’t know what we don’t know.
Those can be tough things to come to grips with. Both are true.
It’s tough to decide what you want to do and who you want to become against a backdrop of limited knowledge about what’s possible.
I believe this is at the heart of many decisions to default to college. Because it’s almost as scary to not have a plan as it is to admit you don’t know what you’re doing.
I mean no disrespect when I say this. But at 18 years old, most people don’t have enough context to lock themselves into a decision that will cost them years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Without context, it’s difficult to imagine all the possible paths you could go down.
To no fault of their own, many young adults lack context simply because they lack experience.
So one of the first hurdles to overcome is to gain context about the world around you.
How can you do this? Simple. Try stuff.
In particular, try stuff that allows you to explore in the direction you’re hoping to advance.
Gaining context means enriching your perspective about the topic you’re interested in. You may imagine a path as suitable or exciting. But with a little context, you may quickly discover that a path is not all it’s cracked up to be.
For instance, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Then I spent half a year as a legal aid for a law firm. Which made me quickly realize being a lawyer wasn’t all I thought it was.
The missing context enriched my perspective.
You are likely interested in many things. It can feel stressful to pick just one. You don’t want to feel limited – or one dimensional. I get it.
But often, one of the best things you can do to gain context and clarity about the path forward, is to choose one dimension of yourself to cultivate.
As you cultivate one interest, it can enrich your life – by giving you a craft to master, by helping you build momentum and gain experience, and by lead to surprising opportunities.
For instance, when I quit my law firm job, I went all-in on photography. I didn’t know where it would lead. But it was the most interesting thing I had going at the time. Eventually, I landed a job as a photographer. While working that job, I met the founder of Praxis, who later introduced me to another entrepreneur who ended up offering me a job.
What may look like a series of happy accidents was actually the byproduct of cultivating one interest, and allowing it to lead the way. Leaning into one interest (photography) didn’t mean I gave up all the other interests I had.
Following one dominant interest gave me a path forward, that ultimately led to new, exciting opportunities I could not have anticipated.
This same context clues can help you discover your path forward, too.
Discovering Your Thing
You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. It takes time, context, effort, and courage to discover your thing – or the multiple “things” you’re interested in that can define how you build your life and career.
If you’re not sure what you want to do – or who you want to become – then take inventory of your interests. Ask yourself how you could explore those interests more deeply. Look for opportunities to gain context.
You don’t have to default to a boring or unfulfilling path just because you’re not sure how things will work out.
There are tons of exciting options out there waiting to be discovered.
(And it just so happens that our apprenticeship program at Praxis can help you start your own discovery process.)