Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Being Productive in Something You’re Good At

It seems I suck at living my dream. Jon Acuff would be so disappointed in me. Ever since I was 16 I dreamt of “making it big” as a musician, songwriter, and performer.

Now, if you look at the path I took you could point to moments where I chose to ‘pursue my dream’ and I toured for a year with Up With People. But there are other moments where I chose to ‘play it safe’, some would say betray my dream, and I got a degree in computer science.

In the end, I am not working full time in the music business and generally that’s made me sadder than when I watched the whole series of “Friday Night Lights” one winter. So I’ve been reading a lot on how to be happy…including a lot on how to rediscover your dream once it’s been lost.

But then I read this:

Don’t focus in striving to be happy. Rather strive to be productive in something you’re good at. Happiness will come.

This, along with some great perspective from Mike Rowe, is making me think hard about what it means to be working in the career I’m in. (I was just about to write “…the career I’ve chosen”, but I’m not sure I really chose this…it just sort of fell into place. I’m good at math and science, randomly checked “Institute of Technology” on my U of M admission, walked by the IBM booth at the job fair, mentioned I studied computer graphics, and voila, a career is born.)

As I look at what I do at IBM, I’ve been recognized enough to know that I’m good at it. I also know that when I’m in the middle of a design session, time flies by and I come home happy. That makes me think the quote above is true. I can strive to be productive EVERY DAY at something I’m good at…and happiness will come.

I certainly know that when I’m down about my career path I tend to be less productive and I come home sad.

By the way, that career I’m in also allows me to spend the time and money on a recording studio that I can use any evening I want. The fact that I don’t use it enough is not entirely my job’s problem, but how I let my job overtake my emotions. If I’m worn out from a day of non-productivity, then I rarely have the ambition to record. However, if I’ve had a great productive day, I feel energized to do more…and into the studio I go.

Which brings me to the inspiration of this blog title: “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of happiness”.

I’m thinking that “pursuit” sounds a lot like work, which sounds a lot like being productive in something you’re good at.

It doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but I wonder if this is what our founding fathers were really pointing to. If that’s what the American dream was meant to be, then I guess I don’t suck at ‘living the dream’. Maybe I just need to strive to be productive in something, anything, I’m good at. We can’t just expect happiness to fall into our laps. I would argue that if the ‘thing’ that makes us most happy falls into our laps without working for it (pursuing it), it wouldn’t make us happy anyway.

So that’s what my next period of work will experiment with: Strive to be productive, every single day, in something I’m good at. In early tests, this has proven quite fruitful. Even if what I’m productive with isn’t related to my designs or deadline (for example, writing a patent disclosure instead of working on a design), I end up feeling happier.

How about you? Do you feel happier after you’ve been productive in something you’re good at, even though it may not be your dream job?

 

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One thought on “Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Being Productive in Something You’re Good At

  1. I’mcoing to terms with this daily conundrum. Creatives are often making a living doing something they are good at, but don’t have this fire in the belly for. I’ve also learned that more often than not, living the dream squashes the dream. You’ve attained that plateau of having a foot in both camps so to say & that my dear is really living the dream. Security in living with financial security, while having a choice in being completely creative however you so choose. Life is truly sweet & the foundation is strong. Many many blessings in that for sure. Someday, you won’t have to work for the man & can completely immerse yourself in your other love, music, with your beautiful wife right by your side!

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