The four P’s of finding your life’s work

2 minute read

I really like what I do. But it took me a lot of trial and error to figure out I wanted to be in academia. That is, over the years I've held all kinds of jobs ranging from menial labor to pharmacist intern to middle management at an environmental consulting firm. While I am none of those things now, the perspectives those opportunities provided me were invaluable in terms of helping me figure out what I want to do with myself. As a result I've developed some criteria for figuring out what aspects of a job are most important to me: Passion, Pay, Positive, and Proclivity.

So what do I mean by this? Well, I need to be passionate about some aspect of what I'm doing. In other words, there has to be some underlying driver that motivates me to want to work hard to succeed. Somebody has to be willing to pay me to do it. If I'm not getting paid, then I have to either figure out how to get paid by some other means, or accept that what I'm doing is more of a hobby than a profession - which is fine, but I find it is helpful to be realistic. The position has to provide some net positive benefit to society. This doesn't mean that the job itself provides that benefit, but perhaps affords me the time or energy to volunteer or pursue some other aspect of my life that is generally seen as beneficial to the community. However, I personally like it more if the job itself provides the benefit. And then I have to have some kind proclivity or natural attraction or talent for the occupation. That is, there are lots of jobs out there that I would just suck at, and wouldn't want to put the time and effort into improving my skills, so its better if I just avoid them all together. But there are also lots of things I'm probably not good at initially, but am willing to put in the 10,000 hours to become better. I'd like to say there are things I'm just naturally good at, but relatively speaking, I think that would be an overstatement.

I just think that if we're going to spend up to 1/3 of our life sleeping and another good proportion of it working, we should find something that we really want to do or that we can feel good about, because it provides us the opportunity to contribute to society in our own small way.