Our What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do series continues today and tomorrow, and because I have about 4-6 more to post, I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy kicking back and reading them all over the next few days. I thought that with all the female input we’ve had in this series that I was being very inconsiderate of the male readers of this blog (I know you’re out there guys), so I decided to ask a man to sit down with us for a bit and discuss this whole idea of finding your calling and such. My guy of choice is my husband and since I’ve never introduced him to you before, I guess it’s time after over two years of blogging here daily.
Today I’d like you to meet my husband Thorsten Becker (silent H), he’s 35 years old, and spent the first 28 years of his life in Hannover, Germany where he was born and raised. Then he met me through an article I wrote online back in 1998 and he relocated to Boston in 2001 where we were married. I asked him (more or less) the same questions as the ladies who participated in this series so far and here’s what he has to say….
What do you do for a living?
I’m a Senior Data Architect by day (full-time) and a Photographer, Writer, Composer, and Freelance Voice-Over Talent (in German) by night and any hours in between.
How do you think a person can find their spot in the world of design — you know, your true calling?
Every single human being has certain talents, things we’re really good at. It’s always more than one talent so it’s good to keep an open mind to the multitude of abilities you have. The problem is though that external influences most often make us unaware of our potential. It usually starts in school where certain children are considered unfocused, easily distracted and generally disinterested. They are disciplined in various forms to make them ‘fit’ into the general populace of the classroom environment. This continues at home where parents are either oblivious to their child’s skills, talents and interests or are pushing in the wrong direction due to latent grudges for missed opportunities in their own life. Many children learn to go into suppression mode and do what they’re told is the right thing to do without ever finding out what they really would want to do. They than either end up going to college to study subjects they think are good to learn but ultimately have no affinity for or learning a trade that they were told is in high demand, again with no real personal connection. Often later in life suppressed personal skills, talents and ideals come back to the forefront when questions arise as to the meaning of one’s current career/life path/meaning.
How can one who has lost their direction find this path?
Contemplating on the statements above leads to learning to listen to your inner voice. The one person that knows you best is you (that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what is best for you though, at least not all the time). Listen to yourself, talk out loud what you think and feel, communicate with yourself, watch your own behavior, look at what you generally gravitate towards. Talents are things that come easy to you. Do you find yourself writing music/songs in your head? Do you like to re-arrange furniture, enjoy combining colors, are always drawing little figures when being on the phone, even watching certain shows on TV? Stop and ask yourself why. No better way to get started than asking why — why is this, why is that, why do I like it? There is always a reason, nothing just suddenly happens. You most likely find that you’ve been doing certain things since you were a child. These, “I always liked doing this!” moments are important, as well as the, “Well, it’s so easy everyone can do this, it’s nothing special” comments you make to yourself. Stop and think. Is it really just so easy for anyone to do or is it natural for you? If something comes natural it’s your talent, plain and simple. Everything you have to struggle with and for and make sense to understand is not your talent, it is unnatural for you and therefor out of character. You can still learn it and take something away from it but it’s not your talent, not your nature, not your calling. Pursuing it will make you struggle and feel unsatisfied.
Okay, so one needs to listen to themselves and get a hold on what it is that they enjoy doing and what their talents are. What next?
Once you start listening to yourself start trusting yourself. Not overly confidential, that leads to problems, but rationally. What you say makes sense. Now start digging deeper and connect the dots. You’ll find that the things you enjoy the most and the things you gravitate towards are connected. There is always a reason. Keep following this path of reason and it will lead you to the core, to the center of who you are, what makes you you (good and bad, warts and all). Embrace your core, cherish it, groom it and grow it. Stay open to suggestions from the outside but don’t let yourself be easily swayed to new opinions, especially not about yourself. Once you know who you are stay true to yourself. This will help you find a satisfying calling as well as have meaningful and rewarding relationships.
Do you feel balanced in your life as a professional engineer full-time while pursuing your creative passions part-time? How did you get there?
Yes, I do. The principal way how I found myself is described above. The practical way has been through many different jobs (from sales rep at book stores to IT Support to teaching to programming and beyond) as well as learning learning learning. I am always out to learn something new. I take things from the outside and make them part of my inside. I am not a fan of anything particular but rather am curious about things that are a close reflection of what I feel and see inside. I then take bits and pieces and add them to my world. This in turn inspires me to visualize my inner world, to go out and find environments and landscapes that resemble what I envision, photograph them and then work them into a piece of another world. While doing so I see stories unfold that I then add to the finished picture. Other times I hear music in my head, sit down and translate it into a composition and then feel inspired to write a story. I like to use the multitude of interests I have to create something that’s my own.
Add any other thoughts that you think may help others.
Take a personality test. Take many different ones, Myers Briggs, Right Brain vs Left Brain Test, etc. They are fun and often very interesting. You’ll most likely notice certain patterns emerging indicating that you are either left brained or right brained. Left brained means you are logical, analytical, objective. Right brained means you are intuitive, holistic, subjective. You may find each trait in you but usually one part dominates. If you are left brained you are more prone to go for technical and operational professions, if you are right brained you tend more towards creative, artistic professions. One will come natural while the other is much more forced, less satisfying. This will be a good starting point to do your own self analysis.
What about if you are both in equal parts?
You may find that you are equally brained or whole-brained. I am afflicted by this. I am referring to as an affliction as it has led to much confusion in the past for the people around me as to what I want from life. I find myself going in and out of interests, jumping between highly rational concepts of mathematics, astronomy and physics and more creative, conceptual interests like composing, drawing, sketching and art (with respect to careers, not just hobbies). The solution? I work mostly from home doing a highly technical job with a lot of creative freedom while being able to work on little personal projects in parallel. I can balance both sides at any given time making it easier for me to have a ‘normal’ job (left brained, as is favored and taught in school) while also paying heed to my right brain activities.
Thanks Thorsten for stopping in today, we appreciate having you here!