The Ultimate Pivot

One of my favorite political/economics bloggers, Will Wilkinson, is pivoting his career. He’s decided to pursue his passion and is going back to school to become a fiction writer.

Will has written a short, but nicely profound piece on why he is doing this.   You should read it here:  A Whole Other Country.

He says:

“I think the most important thing I took away from all that time with my nose in happiness research and behavioral econ is that we overestimate the value of what we already have and so underestimate the upside of taking a chance, leaving something behind, and making a big change.”

Part of the overestimation is due to a deep need to assure ourselves we’re making and have made good choices.  Confronting any sort of unhappiness in our life almost always leads to an understanding of mistakes we’ve made in the past.  Thus, we’ll just as soon convince ourselves that we truly are happy with the status quo.  It often takes a lot of confidence, or a really big push to change our life direction.

Next, Wilkinson says:

“Most of us end up where we are through a sort of drift. Sometimes that works out splendidly.”

And sometimes it doesn’t.

I can relate to Will’s change due to my own career change in the late 90’s.  After graduating from the UW, I became a management consultant.  It was exactly the job I had (finally) decided I wanted to do. The first few years of consulting for Andersen (both consulting and Arthur) were pretty fun – it was the most meritocratic organization I’ve ever been in and I was learning a ton.   However, over the years I grew tired and less enthralled with consulting, even though I was making a bunch of money.  I loved the technical problem solving.  Hated the sales process.  And it was mostly sales.

Lucky for me, the internet boom happened.  I decided to leave behind the very dependable consulting cash and jump into programming web sites.   Since this change, I’ve never made as much money programming as I did during some of my months consulting back in 1998.  Whoa.  That’s a significant pay cut.

But here’s the deal.  I’ve had hundreds (thousands?) of mornings where I jump out of bed, excited about what I’m doing.  I often have a hard time distinguishing between what is work and what is a hobby.  That’s how much I love thinking up, designing, building, and testing software.

I wish Will Wilkinson the best of luck in his new vocation and I hope many other people can have the guts (or get a nudge) to pursue their passions instead of continuing with the drift.  Trust me, life is better on this side of the fence.

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