What To Do…Thorsten Becker

April 17, 2008

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.

What To Do...Thorsten Becker
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!


  • Reply Ez April 17, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing such incredible insight and inspiration with us Thorsten (and Holly). I’ll be bookmarking this post for sure!

    Have a lovely upcoming weekend together!

  • Reply dottie April 17, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    i think that the idea of being whole-brained is a common frustration. i’ve found that taking personality tests will end up telling me – you could do x & y equally well. i’ve struggled with it since i was a little kid – imagine going to college debating musical theater or marketing. now, with a professional marketing position (that allows me to dabble in graphic design) i spend most of my free time blogging about design, designing on my own, creating tutorials for diy projects & sewing. at times i feel privileged, others i feel frustrated & scattered.

  • Reply Anonymous April 18, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I found Thorsten’s advice fascinating! How wonderful that he manuvered his career to cover “both his brains” and find fulfillment in the process. Holly, I so appreciate these stories of the journey of finding your way. Each step, good or bad, leads one to finding the right path (or paths). I believe most of us either are or have wondered about that path. Thanks SO much for tackling this!

  • Reply Julie April 18, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    That was a great read. I needed that. Thank-you. Wow. At 35! I am older, but getting wiser. It has taken longer for me.

  • Reply Ginger April 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    “Take a personality test. Take many different ones, Myers Briggs”. This really is brilliant advice. Myers Briggs gave me a renewed sense of self appreciation, which can often be the first casualty in the battle to pursue a creative and authentic life. i would highly recommend it. The most comprehensive descriptions of types (after you have done the test) is http://www.personalitypage.com. Enjoy!

  • Reply Jillian April 18, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I really appreciate Thorsten’s perspective as I have found out that I am middle brained. When I try to focus too much on creative pursuits, I find myself wishing for a more technical or mathematical challenge. And the opposite as well. I have also been very confused career-wise, and it helps to know that others go through the same confusion. I loved this entire interview, and it really resonated with me. Great advice. Thanks, Holly!

  • Reply Thorsten April 18, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you for the nice comments, I really appreciate it : )

    Holly pointed out to me that it is interesting to have a guy’s perspective on a, for the most part, female centric Blog. I thought about this for a moment and like to add something else: We often pride ourselves of living in a society with equal rights. However, equal values are still far off for the most part. See as a woman you may be offered the same education and jobs as men but your contribution is often viewed as less valuable than that of an equally (or even lesser) qualified man. Women may find themselves stuck in a rut much more often than men because they have been told to take advantage of their rights, without being told how much value some of these rights actually offer (personal as well as society oriented). While men measure themselves and other men by their skills and abilities women focus much more on their emotional values reflected in their level of confidence and outer appearance. In that regard it may be helpful to look at how much value you feel you have at your current job and what you feel your own values are and how much value you attribute to yourself. If you would rather work with children and teach them art (or be a painter, or be a singer/songwriter, etc.) but you currently work as a project manager you may be fighting an inner battle over your own value and values which prevents you from doing something you strongly feel would be more valuable, even though it may pay less (another unfortunate part of our society, income = personal value; couldn’t be more untrue, though of course we all have to pay bills).

  • Reply Michele April 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Many thanks Thorsten for putting the idea of whole-brained out there. I always just assumed I should be one or the other (side) and this concept has shifted my perspective. Your comments, as well as Holly’s other interviews, have helped clear some of the haze on the path to finding my true calling. Holly, totally enjoy following your blog and appreciate all the interesting information and decadent images you share with us!

  • Reply Courtney April 24, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I find this to be one of the most insightful and thought-provoking interviews in this series. Thank you Thorsten. And Holly, this whole series is such a great idea. Thanks for pursuing it so thoroughly, and for sharing your husband with us too!

  • Reply Poppy51 January 12, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    thanks for all those great advice ! They are really true, it’s not easy to find our place but it helps to know how other people found their ! thanks !

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