Carving a Path Through Life

I Made Another Mistake

We did get to work on some cool projects like building this robot.
This one was from earlier than the other one but I want to talk about it because I see so many people do the same thing I did. I became an engineer because I was good at math and I thought it would make me rich. Turns out, it doesn’t work like that. Worst of all, I’ve heard dozens of engineering students say it, “I can’t wait until I’m a rich engineer.” It was even perpetuated by the dean of my college, we all drank the Kool-aide.
It wasn’t exactly wrong, nowadays a lot of the famous billionaires have studied engineering. On top of that, the starting salary for engineers is high compared to other starting salaries.
Here’s the catch, I wasn’t passionate about it. Going into college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I was good at math and I was okay with computers. On top of all that I knew I didn’t want to be poor, who does? I took the advice of those around me and decided to study engineering. I hadn’t done anything engineering related in high school except for a computer science class, which I enjoyed.
I got to play with awesome futuristic toys like this replicator. It’s a 3D printer which was a big deal at the time.
It was great at first, I met a lot of smart kids that were into things I was into, I was challenged by my classes, and I was constantly told how successful I would be when I got the degree. It wasn’t until 2-2.5 years in that I realized I didn’t like what I was doing. The classes were interesting but too technical for me. Not too technical in the sense I didn’t understand them but in the sense I didn’t care to understand them. I felt like everyone around me, friends, family, mentors, etc. expected me to finish my engineering degree. Worst of all, it didn’t make sense for me to quit, if I changed majors I would spend almost twice as much time in school. I didn’t want to do that! I finished the program and got a job that was tangential to what I studied. Then I hated the job.
The two mistakes I made were: I studied something I was only moderately interested in and mostly did it under the wrong motivation. I did it because I was naturally good at it and it paid well. Neither of these is pure motives. Natural talent will only get you so far. This is important because a lot of people rely on natural talent, and if they aren’t naturally good at it, they drop it like a phone call in a dark tunnel. Natural talent is great if you’re interested in improving the skill. If you look at my story, I wasn’t interested in getting better at it. Once classes got technical I lost interest, I wasn’t interested in improving my knowledge about the subject, I was interested in making money.
If you’re in a position to change your major or career path here is what you should do. Relax, it’s going to be okay, you will make mistakes, those mistakes will make you better, don’t be afraid. Cool now that we have that worked out you need to take some time to think about it. If you have to make a decision under pressure it’s not going to go well.
Here’s what you’re looking for, something that you enjoy doing, and something that you are interested in improving on.
Don’t pick something you’re passionate about! Working on your passion is a quick way to make it not be your passion anymore. Not only that, it is a quick way to lose something that you use to relax. If you bake on the weekends to wind down from work, and you start baking for a living, what are you going to do to wind down from baking? It sure as hell ain’t gonna be baking!
Don’t find something that makes you good money either. This is a crummy idea because money isn’t important. This is a finance blog but the money itself isn’t important. What you do with the money is. This is why people who win the lottery go broke in a year and teachers retire early all the time. As long as you are financially intelligent then you will have money.
Stop caring if your degree will make you money! If you’re doing it for that reason you will never make ‘enough’ to be content. If you work on something that you enjoy and desire to get better at then you will be successful. If you combine that with some good old financial intelligence then it doesn’t matter how much you make, you will have enough money.
So my question for you: If you could get free lessons, and become proficient to the level that you knew you could make money at it, what would it be? My answer would be writing, speaking Chinese, and teaching. Let me know what yours are below!
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