Where does our motivation and drive come from? I like to think we are pushed by an internal burning desire to succeed. Everyone wants to leave a mark of some kind on this earth. That can be through helping others, running a business, inventing something, or just raising a family.
Sometimes the reason for my drive becomes confused. I start becoming motivated by something other than an internal goal. Of course it’s natural to want to work towards success for superficial reasons. In fact, I would encourage working towards a financially secure future. The dangerous type of drive is the kind that comes from what other people want or expect of you.
It’s easy to get swept up in working towards what other people consider success. The typical dream of being a doctor or lawyer may not work for everyone. In fact, there are a ton of people in those fields who are unhappy with their jobs. It doesn’t take much to get off track.
Let’s say you have a cool opportunity to be a part of a growing startup. The company is still in its early stages so you’re going to be taking a pretty significant pay cut over the next year or so. But you think the company has massive potential, you believe in the cause, and you have a very clear way to create value. Plus if the company does take off, you’ll more than make up for the money you lost by not getting a 9–5.
Chances are, you’re still going to feel the pressure to get a secure job. That pressure turns into artificial drive. When your mom tells you she thinks you should take the 9–5 because it has double the pay, you’re going to start seeing that as the correct thing to do. Mainly because you don’t want her to feel like you disappointed her. You might feel pressure from your friends who are able to live a much more relaxed life. They have a set schedule and far more money to spend on going out and having fun. At the same time, you might be struggling to make ends meet while working your ass off. Even if what you are doing is extremely fulfilling for you, your true desires start to get muddled in other people’s opinions.
You’re going to do something controversial eventually. At some point, you are going to go against your parents. At some point, you may distance yourself from your friends. This is the toughest part of following your own internal drive and desires. But it’s far better than the alternative. The alternative is getting that 9–5 job and going through the motions. Even if you are succeeding, you aren’t doing it for you. You’re living someone else’s life. As Ayn Rand says, you’re living life second hand.
Young professionals are going to be struck by this dilemma. Should you do something secure that people around you approve of? Or should you do what you want, no matter what the risk is? I could wrap this up by saying life is too short to live a boring life or whatever. Yeah, that’s true, but overused. The real truth is that life is too short to live someone else’s. Find out what you want and block everything else out. Being young is an incredible stage in your life. You don’t have all the limits that come with age and a family. If you mess up, the worst that could happen really isn’t too bad. There’s a lot to be said for going after something cool and that you really care about while you’re young.