Everyone’s On Plan C

I have spent exactly zero minutes near a computer today until now, so I’m not going to do my usual scholarship advice post today, because I don’t have the time to give it the thoughtful response I think you guys all deserve when you come here.

However, I have solemnly sworn to you that I would make a decent blog post here every weekday without fail, so today I’m going to share a brief little something from a presentation I did to some South Dakota college students about a month ago. If you are not absolutely lockdown certain about what to do with your life, this message is for you (and even if you ARE sure…you should read it, too. 🙂


Now, that sounds a little negative. But I don’t mean it that way. I actually mean it in a very positive way. Let me explain.

I was in this roundtable discussion with some other media professionals, and the students asked all of us on the panel to describe our career trajectories. Essentially, how did we get to where we are today? The age of the panelists went from abut 27 to mid-50s.

If I could make this image fly across the screen after you were done reading this, I would.

And here’s the funny thing — no one on the panel was doing what they thought they were going to be doing when they first started out. There was a former news reporter turned videographer. A Tupperware saleslady turned radio executive. Another former news reporter turned owner of an ad agency and publishing company (that’s me). A Division 1 heptathlete turned bank exec.

These are just four examples, but I assure you that we’re representative of every room of professionals I’ve ever been in. Try it out yourself sometime if you’re in a room full of people who have been in the job market for at least 7 or 8 years. Ask everyone to raise his/her hand if they’re currently doing what they wanted to do when they were 18 years old.

Almost no one will raise his/her hand. Everyone, it seems, is on Plan C. And that’s just fine.

Why do I point that out here? Because a giant majority of you who email me or comment on my posts are at a crossroads or dilemma of some kind that will affect your future. Private school vs. public school, scholarships here vs. student loans there, one profession vs. another profession, etc. And believe me, your future WILL be affected by the choices you make, don’t get me wrong. But *how* your future will be affected is something you just don’t know, and can’t even imagine, in most cases.

And I’m not talking about having your plans derailed by life-altering things like car crashes or diseases or hurricanes or unexpected pregnancies or anything like that. We’re all aware of how those things can change your life quickly. I’m just talking about little adjustments in the course of just about EVERYONE’S life (and yes, that means you) that will perhaps lead you on path different from the one you’ve got plotted out for yourself in your mind right now.

And that’s why I bring it up today, because the more you’re aware of how your life and career WILL change, the less likely you are to place large financial bets on certain outcomes. I refer to student loans here, mostly.

If you ever wonder why a lot of not-wealthy parents worry themselves into insomnia when their kids want to take out $80,000 for an undergraduate degree, this is why. They’re already on Plan C themselves, and they know that most people end up on Plan C. My children are still very young, but I can already feel these parents’ pain. It’s one thing to aspire to be, let’s say, a painter, when you’re 18 years old. It’s quite another thing to aspire to be a painter when you’re 18 and take $65,000 in student loans to get a private undergraduate art school degree.

Then, you’re either married to that dream for good (which is a high-stress situation in itself), or you’ve got a very expensive Plan A smoldering in the fireplace that you still have to pay for, $800 per month for 10 years.

Yes, I’m aware that there are some people who know what they want at a young age and then go out and do it. Alison Stinely is one. She won our company’s art scholarship a few years back. She’s become a fine artist already and she isn’t even out of school yet. She’s the exception, though.

Forewarned is forearmed, and now you’re both. If you’re indecisive about your future, that’s OK — that makes you very, very normal.

You’ll figure it out eventually. You’re conflicted now, but the sun’s going to keep coming up and going down every day until you’re not conflicted anymore. This will happen, I guarantee it.

Uncertainty can be uncomfortable, that’s for sure — but look on the bright side. It also means you have options, and not everyone can say that. Look around you — hard, especially at the people you don’t often look closely at, or perhaps ones you often look past.

They’d love to have a second chance, a shot at doing it all over again. But they can’t — it’s your time now. So embrace it, take it slow, and be flexible. Life’s going to make you that way whether you like it or not.

Have a great night! I’m off to bowling with my wife and kids. It’s National Turn Off the TV Week, and I gotta tell ya, it’s been harder on me than my kids. I’ve got the second episode of Treme sitting on the DVR and I’m gonna have to wait ’til Saturday to watch it. That’s hard to swallow. 🙂


65 thoughts on “Everyone’s On Plan C”

  1. A year ago, I was hell-bent on getting a bachelor’s degree/MBA and becoming The Next Tycoon. Now I don’t even know if my Plan B even involves a degree at all. Who knows what Plan C is…I don’t.

  2. There are not enough letters in the alphabet to record the plan that I am on. Yup I started out wanting to be an engineer, ended with a degree in social work. I asked so many people for good advise as if they knew more than me and they didnt. They just coaxed me into a new plan.

  3. I completely agree with you. As you said uncertainty can be uncomfortable, especially because it brings stress and I am definitely the person that you described. I knew for sure that I wanted to become an ER surgeon, but now being a junior in college, I don’t know if I want that anymore. I feel very confused, pressured, with expectations to become a doctor, plan B of becoming a science professor, but I know that plan C is there…somewhere there.

  4. This was really helpful to read. I am about to graduate from college with my bachelor of arts in communication sciences and disorders on May 8th! I don’t have the most outstanding GPA and GRE score and graduate school is looking a little intimidating. On top of that, I continually change my mind about what I want to do in life on a weekly basis! Its craziness! But I’m glad to know and be reassured that the only thing constant in life is change and I gotta go with the flow! Thanks again 🙂

  5. Thank you for that insightful post! I’ve been reading your emails faithfully since I first signed up and I have to say that your advice has helped a lot. Referring to this post, I’m one of those high school students that is dead-set married to my dream, and that’s international business. I’ve even already figured out where in the world I want to be, what company I want to work for, and even what job title I want to have. Do you have any advice for those of us who have already decided on these things? And do you have some words of encouragement on the best way to get there?

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever commented on this blog, lol!

    Sadly though, yeah, I’m in this very predicament. Since I was little, I’ve wanted to be a vet. Thing is, I HATE math and I’m not totally enthused with science. As a minor, I was looking at English since I like to write, but I’m not certain what I’d do with that…I have absolutely no ideas for a book, journalism seems kinda boring, and the only thing I write are…goodness, dare I say it? Fanficts (cue the snickers, I know they’re there). If nothing else though, those silly stories helped me become a better writer and I can write my random comical silliness with them.

    Thing is, with no idea for a book or anything, a writing career in itself is dangerous and offers little financial security. And being a half-hearted vet student isn’t good either. To top off all of this, I’m talentless. My mediocre writing is the only ‘talent’ I have, lol! So yeah…I think I’m scrambling to try to find my plan…H? ^_^

    Thanks Josh, at least I know I’m not alone, xD

  7. christine delany

    OK, I know exactly what your talking about. I started out a pregnant teen, got married, and wanted to be a phlebotomist. Then, I dug deep and figured out who I was after a divorce and 4 kids later. I ditched the idea, and went back to plan A. I have always wanted to be a nurse. Not any nurse, a CRNA to be exact. So now my four kids are in school and daycare, I have a great Guy who wants to marry me when I graduate. Yes I said graduate! I’m a sophomore at Rogers State University. Class of 2013! I have straight A’s in my classes currently! So do what this Guy says! Find yourself and don’t just limit yourself in the now. We all say we are gonna go back to college…but those who actually do it, are those who should be admired.
    Christine Delany

  8. Mohammedullah Shamsaddin Munir

    Just do what is easiest for you and you’ll be fine…..plans…A,B, or C dont work! Do whatever you are best at and you will always the best at it…painting, cooking, dancing or acting…and NEVER expect to live a life as someones employee. Think only of managing your skills by yourself and maximizing your profits….get rid of the american dream crap—life is short and will be over before you know it! Enjoy, worrisome spirits!

  9. Lady Lightstorm

    The problem is that students grow up too quickly and in public school they don’t concentrate on the skills for the real world. There are too many ‘picnics’ and play days. By the time students have to choose to go to college/university and have to pay for the education, you realize how much you missed out on. Too many courses make you jump through hoops, often taking unnecessary classes, group work etc. They claim it is real life, but when you are on the job, you don’t often have the kid that lets the rest of the group down: parents are footing the bill or they don’t worry about the money spent instead of getting on with life (moving out etc). Education is BIG business. College offers so much help but only offer more ‘practical’ education and university is too theoretical. We should allow students to be kids and not have someone in grade 11 have to decide what to do for life (in order to pick the subjects). In many countries in Europe, post-secondary education is not the money grab it is here…there, those who have talent (good grades, a passion for something etc) they don’t pay that much. I hurt for all of you students who finish school, want to start the rest of their lives and be in such debt. A vehicle, a place of your own, buying stuff for your place etc…life is expensive and hard enough. You all should be given more financial breaks for what you are doing. Being a student is very hard work and you ALL should be reworded for trying to live up to the North American dream. Good luck to you all….as a parent, I appreciate what you are trying to do. So, hang in there….and congrats!!

  10. Tell me about it. started off completing my first year with a fantastic GPA at a well known university for history, aiming to be a history teacher. That summer i scraped that plan. Now, couple years later, a college diploma under my belt, and I’m 6 months away from being a licensed farm equipment mechanic.

  11. When I was eighteen, I thought I should pursue finance so that I could be an investment banker. Now, I’m only two years older, but my life perspective has changed dramatically. I see that entrepreneurship is now the right path for me and seek out a million and one experiences so I can fuse them into ideas and a business that will employ me after graduation. By the way, it took me four jobs in three industries to figure it out, so don’t think it just comes to you! It really doesn’t and if I know myself, my plan may change a million more times.

  12. I am also in agreement with what the posters before me have said. I was all set to go to ASU at the end of my senior year of high school, confident that the scholarships would be rolling in because of my good grades, extracurricular activities and community service, but there was a teensy problem… Scholarships never did come and my parents bad credit didn’t help much either. Now i’m going to community college and can only afford to take two classes at a time. I guess you can say i was forced into my Plan B, but it’s taught me to roll with the punches. Hey look on the bright side i would have $30,000 in loans if i went to ASU, yet since i’m going to pierce i am debt free. That’s definitely something to be happy about.

  13. I find it funny that I read this post now because I can totally see myself when I read it. After 3 years in college, I am on the magic number 3 for my major. Although it is somewhat similar to what I had planned to do when I graduated high school, it isn’t the path I thought I would be following. Life throws you for a loop sometimes though, and you have to either find a way to get around it or just jump through it. Yes, it sounds corny, but that is just the way it is. I laugh when my sister, who is a high school senior, looks at me and tells me she knows what she wants to do, that she won’t be at our hometown community college longer than a year and that she won’t be living at home 3 years from now. I thought the same thing when I started college. I know we are each our own person, and I hope that she learns from the mistakes that I’ve made. I also hope she doesn’t fall into the loop of changing majors 1, 2, 3, maybe more times. Time will tell though. I wish her and anyone else reading this the best of luck! I also encourage you to follow your heart and do what you want to do. Don’t sit back and let others make the choices for you. This is you life! So live it! Good luck! 🙂

  14. Wow, I thought i was the only one in this predicament. Thanks for your post. I’m in Grad school now, I’ve graduated college last year with a degree in French Studies. When I first started college my major was Account, then International Business and French, then i got confused and wanted to do something else, so I’ve tried Pre-med and Nursing, then realized nothing in the medical field is for me, so I went back to business, this time Marketing, i loved it, but i felt like it was not for me so I did Business for International Trade and French, and my last semester, I realized I did not like the Trade part of the Business so I changed my major and graduated with French Studies, because in that last semester it came to me that I wanted to Teach French. Now, I got done with College and don’t even see myself teaching French, and can’t even find a job. I feel like my mind is going insane, so I went back to school. I’m in grad school now getting my Master in Fashion Merchandising which i actually love, but my biggest fear is Finding a job when I’m done in this bad economy….up to this point I have no more plans…i run out of plans…and gonna be stuck with student loans to pay with no jobs…isn’t that something!

    I need help and good advice. Maybe you could help me. I have no more plans.

  15. I know everything about plans changing in life. I started off wanting to be an airman in he Air Force, but I left that dream behind (or so I thought) to seek a degree as a fashion designer. My second year in college I changed my major to illustration. I’m now on my junior year, and am currently transferring to another school, majoring in graphic design with a concentration in illustration. Plus, I still want to go to Military. I stopped fighting the tides, and is just letting the waves carry me.

  16. I never thought that I would ever go back to school. It was just more of the same b.s. in high school and I wanted nothing more to do with it. I have also learned in my short time on this earth already that planning is good, but inflexible planning is disaster. Instead I try to get the skills necessary to be ready for when the opportunity comes along.

    It’s knowing the right doors will be opened at the right time. I just want to step through

  17. Thanks Josh.
    I really needed to read that. Right now I’m just in a place where I know I need to continue studying music because that is my passion, but my focus as to how I want to use my music once I’m out of school is starting to change. I get intimidated at times trying to plan out my future, so it’s good to know that I don’t have to have a set plan yet, nor do I have to plan out every little step from now until I graduate.

  18. He’s completely right.

    Since age 4, I’ve been singing in choirs for schools, churches and independent projects. As soon as I was able to work (16), I was paying for my own vocal lessons, modeling classes, putting together a portfolio and working a part-time job to support these activities – all while still going to high school and being active in student government as well (I was Junior and Senior Class President, and responsible for a bulk of planning and fundraising at my school!). My senior year in high school, I submitted my portfolio (head shots, music demo) to Musicians Institue for their Recording Artist program, and was accepted! I had visited the school three times by then already, and was so excited to live in Hollywood, CA – I was going to start a recording career!

    A few weeks later, however, I found out that my high school counselor had not submitted all the paperwork they had requested by the deadlines. Had I known of these deadlines, of course, I would have done it myself, but he had assured me it was taken care of. I, then 17, had no credit – and my legal guardian had horrible credit – so student loans weren’t an option (at least I was able to get my $300 enrollment deposit back!). I must have cried for weeks. I had good grades, and everything right at my fingertips – then POOF. Gone.

    The last thing I wanted to do was to attend our community college. At the time, I thought anyone going there just wasn’t able to get into a better, more prestigious school – or that they were just messing around so they could mooch off their parents and wouldn’t have to get a job. I decided to major in music at the community college level, and am so glad that I did! I was and still am pleasantly surprised at the caliber of talent and wealth of knowledge possessed by the instructors and students there. But after three years there, even after learning how to sightread better than I ever could, after widening my vocal range by two more octaves and gaining an understanding and appreciation for art, literature, and various languages, I couldn’t help but feel my heart heavy with the thought of, “…is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?”

    I know that I could have gotten more out of my education, but I’ve also had to work full-time in the hospitality industry to support myself. Maybe if I never had to work so much, I would have been able to get involved in the clubs – play more roles in musicals and attend more performances. Maybe I would have made some really close friends like how I saw others doing! But even if I did… did trying to master these art songs make me happy? What makes me happy, anyways?!

    I did a lot of thinking. I asked my friends and family members what they thought, and it turns out most were just as lost as me! A lot of them told me about their Plan A’s and B’s. I started typing everything out – what do I like? What do I not like? When and where am I happiest? Who do I want to work with? Do I care how much money I earn? Do I need to have my own car? The combination of volunteer work at summer camps I did when I was in high school, my community college career as a music major, and my three year career in hospitality all helped me to compile this list – and each of these things taught me a lot about myself.

    Now, I am transferring to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ next semester as a Parks & Recreation Management major! I remembered how much fun I had as a volunteer at summer camps, and as a camper myself! I want to make a positive difference, and to teach others about the wonders of nature – and what we can do to protect and preserve it. While it’s nice to have things, buying things does not make me happy. Spending time with loved ones, being outside and helping others does. I was not happy when I was memorizing certain folk songs – I am happy to sing what I want, when I want! And to learn about music on my own terms, at my own pace.

    And sure – I may think I have it all figured out now (don’t we always?), but that can always change. What I DO know, though, is we need to make the most of the plan we’re on (if any – it’s ok to not have a plan, too), and to learn from the plans that didn’t work for us. What’s college for if not for learning about one’s self (besides of course the higher salary, and learning of skills)?!

  19. thumbs up josh!

    you showed agreat deal of advice, you are right in your say that, in life one should always plan and in one’s plan, one should never take anything of it for granted-atleast think of how things might change but after all.
    one can always have as many plans as possible A, B, C, …………………………..Z, BUT one should always put major first, not forgeting end of the list of plan.in my case, am arefugee, had graduated high school in 2006 and currently doing nothing because in my plan i found a gap that i could not fill, but then my plans are in a long list only waiting the gap to get filled,
    for sure plan Z is going to work for me then if not plan C.
    plan so as not fail in life.

  20. I think the article is great. I do, disagree, however, that Ashley’s case is a rare case. When people put on mental blinders and focus in on what they want to do with everything they have success is inevitable. Ashley knew what she wanted to do and was going to do it without a doubt, she even went so far as to apply for scholarships to pursue art, rather than seeking loans. I think that even if you aren’t sure about what you want to do you can be sure start to be sure about yourself and that will result in you finding what it is that you want to do 🙂

  21. Wow, Found this to be very reassuring as I am semi-freaking out semi-having a mental breakdown over having to choose my majors and minors and decide my future. Makes me feel like I’m rolling dice and gambling with my life…I know I shouldn’t rush but I want my future to be secure and ideally non-horrific…so I just kinda panic…it’s true about the whole paths thing but I’m ok with my financial aid situation as I have a full ride on scholarships I just don’t want to waste it because I can’t make up my mind..It’s like I love writing but I don’t know if english is the way to go as I FEEL LIKE IM A JACK OF ALL TRADES!!!! Arg. FML.

  22. I agree with all of the above. I had the whole plan, I was going to be a physical therapist. Received a full scholarship to a school that had the major and everything. Then after my freshmen year, I married my high school sweetheart. Despite being told I could never have children by a crock doctor, exactly a month later, during the last day of finals, I found I was pregnant. Left school, lost scholarship, back to square one. Returned to school, changed major to education, decided I wanted to teach or become a guidance counselor. Had baby #2, going to school part-time while working for a non-profit. Got a job as a school treasurer in an elementary school. Loved the kids, hated school system. Decided education was not for me, but recognized that I loved working for a non-profit, the thing I had been doing all along. Finished a degree on-line from the school where I started 10 years ago in Interdiscplinary Studies with a minor in Elementary Education, beating my personal goal of obtaining my bachelors before the age of 30 by exactly 9 days!!!! I am still working for a non-profit as a volunteer coordinator and I love it. I want to one day form my own non-profit…on to plan F, G??? Plans are ever changing just like life.

  23. Wow, crazy coincidence that I read this post right after I made my switch to Plan C! I’ve always wanted to write books since I was three-years-old. I decided not to pursue a Creative Writing degree because people told me it led to the same place as Art History…nowhere. Stuck with going to college (so my parents wouldn’t be disappointed) but no career plan in mind, I went after Economics and Accounting because that’s “where the jobs are” according to my mother. It took me two years of school and one business calculus class to make me realize I HATE business. After a bit of soul searching and a closer look at the degree programs SHSU offers, I decided to pursue my second crazy dream…acting! I changed my major to Theatre this semester, and for the first time in two years I actually feel RIGHT about being here! And who knows, maybe one day my muse will strike me with an amazing story idea o write after all!

  24. Counselor Buddy

    I believe I went through Plans A, B, and C while in undergraduate school due to my wide areas of interest and indecisiveness. Plans E and F came as I mulled what area of grad school to focus on, and I would venture to say my current plan (F?) will not be my last.

    I think this post gives an important lesson for students ready to embark on college. The first year or two of college will require such a variety of classes, and a high number of students will change their majors during that first year. Be open to where the journey takes you. Life doesn’t usually follow a written plan, and that’s a good thing.

  25. I’m finishing my last semester as undergraduate in May, after 7 years of school off and on. I started off wanting to be an English major, switched to fashion, got into a very impacted competitive program and acquired an internship with Banana Republic, hated it, dropped out, and applied to another school to major in education. I’m now finishing up my major in education and am most likely not going enter into the teaching field as a classroom teacher. I had an entire plan worked out to enter into a credential program right after I graduated and then go straight into teaching, but now I’m not interested in committing myself to a group of students. My point being that even in college you can end up from Plan A to Plan C. I’m actually very happy I ended up where I am and feel like I figured out more about myself in college than a lot of people who graduated within four years did. Now the hard part of figuring out what to do post-college is coming up, I don’t even have a Plan A figured out for that.

  26. Expect there will be a Plan E and F too! Bad employers sometimes drive us away from the profession we thought we loved and would follow. An economy driven by government mandates and laws are also moving many of us out of our favorite profession. For others new things catch our interest and we find a new passion that becomes our work and income source. Be willing to flow and try something new. Build a $10,000 emergency fund so you have the freedom of flexibility and a safety net.

  27. I have an admission in Southern Nazarene University Oklahoma. The college has given me some scholarship on the basis of Sat score, but that is not sufficient, so I could not join there. If I get the scholarship I may be able to join there in Fall. Now I have also applied to University of Winnipeg and waiting to find scholarship so that I can oin there in September. My deep desire is to get best education and experience in Psychology and counselling so that I can help those who can not cope in life and help them face the world. Do you think you can help me? I am an Indian and I dont really see any scholarships available for Indians. If there is any let me know. I will be grateful. Thank you

  28. I am currently waivering between sticking with an engineering degree or jumping ship and going for business managment. I’ll be 22 in about two weeks and I haven’t even transfered to a university yet. I feel as though time is getting away from me and it doesn’t help that I am struggling to pass Calculus 1. 🙁 I am hard pressed to start over so late in the game, even though I feel as if i haven’t even started.

  29. This string of posts initiated by Josh are wonderful (1-derful and may be 7-derful). They offer great life lessons.
    I feel serious pain in my heart whenever the thought of abandoning my life plans comes into my heart. I also feel serious pains because of delay realizations of life goals. I am confronted with the threat of failure. Now I want to take a foreign master degree. Preferrably American or British or Canadian. By the way I am a Nigerian. I have had a couple of admissions that I had to forfeit because I could not pay. The cost is higher than my current financial capacity. I have been seeking scholarships but none is forth coming. Can anyone out there help me? I am ready to take a loan and pay latter. This is because I believe there are three things that can help me to break the cycle of poverty: Information, skills and funds. “if you think education is expensive try ignorance”. Anonymous.


  30. I think that Judge Josh’s point is absolutely correct- but is there a point where we sink to mediocrity because something gets too hard, or life gets tough. Do we give up the dream we had ever since we were young and regret it later? I guess what I’m saying is, even though statistics show that people change their careers six or seven times in their lifetime, does it mean we have to? If there is something that we want to do and always have dreamed of it shouldn’t we go after it full fledged- even if it means a lot of sacrifice?

  31. In ninth grade I wanted to be a lawyer. In tenth, a pharmacist (my first chem class derailed that dream). Then I wanted to be a CPA. I took an accounting class in high school and I was -very- good at it. Only I hated it– with a passion. I vaguely considered econmics, but decided the business department wasn’t for me.

    So, after much debate, I chose nursing, with the idea of getting my doctor in nursing. Only to realize that, I only chose it because I was focused too much on finances. I was miserable the entire semester, just thinking about the future. So, I began to look at what I was passionate about.

    I’m now a happy history education major.

  32. I disagree that things happen for people who know what they want to do and are focused. I have always known what I wanted to do. I have been drawing since I was three. I was accepted to one of the best art schools in the country on merit scholarship, and took advanced coursework. I graduated having accomplished a great deal for myself. However, it took me 10 years to finish because I was married and had two babies during that time. I was told by my teachers that the schools where I lived were not a good fit for me for grad school, but because I could not leave, I wasn’t able to apply anywhere else. (my husband owns a house here…try convincing the man you love to sell his house so you can move to NY to become an artist.) So, knowing the fit was bad I applied for 2 cycles and was rejected by all schools both times. I decided that maybe I needed to expand my focus and applied for a masters in Art History. I got in on the first try toboth schools I applied to. Sometimes you don’t have any control over the outcome, or the decisions that affect you were made so far in advance that you couldn’t have known. The best thing you can do is to say, I will find a way to do something I love. It is alright to not have an MFA, I can teach art just as well with the MA, just in a different way.

  33. This is an interesting article. I actually looked into it when I read the article’s title. This is going to help me a bit, thanks for sharing Josh. 🙂

  34. I agree whith u guys but I want say one thing, just do what you heart tell you because you live once so dont let others make the choices of your live .

  35. looking for a bursary or scholarship. Am doing my degree in biomedical technology in south africa which an supposed to finish by november…i need some top up funds (US$5000) for accomodation fees. Anybody wishing to help can do so and can really appreciate

  36. Thanks Josh, this is something I needed to read. Also, the comments have been awesome – thanks to all who have contributed!

    I have recently found myself in a rut, lacking a plan for my life and subconsciously settling for “standard” job career: something that will be challenging for me, helpful for others, and generally useful for the functioning of the international system of governance and business. Without even realizing it, I had thrown all ideas about my personal happiness to the wayside.

    I do not plan to abandon my international relations major or completely change my course, but the comments I’ve been reading have sparked something inside of me that must have died slowly over the months of searching for a productive and profitable career path. There’s so much pressure to have it figured out, to land that internship, to do that individual research project, and to have a seamless resume that knocks the socks off of the job recruiters. None of those things are necessarily bad, but when they are done simply to make ourselves into some sort of “job-getting machine,” I really think the most important thing is forgotten: happiness.

    I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I’m going to do a lot more thinking now. Those who have posted are right; life is too short to waste it doing things we don’t like. It’s not easy to find that “perfect career,” that position that makes us feel content and right at home. Pay is less significant than I would like to think, and there is no generic formula for “happiness.” Naturally, the process of finding ourselves is rough. Nobody said it would be easy. Well, if they did, they lied ;).

    This is coming from somebody who is still a sophomore in college, with interests in international security, applied quantitative finance, international government, economic theory, foreign language (Spanish now, hopefully Arabic next), climbing, running, cycling, hiking, traveling, worshiping God…right now I’m trying to figure out what I’ve got to give up (if I even do have to give anything up), or what new thing is hiding around the corner. I don’t know where life will take me, but I can truthfully say that I will be doing some serious soul-searching soon. I’ve got my trust in God to lead me as I follow Him, but I think that He wants me to do my part in this thing called life.

  37. I know exactly what your talking about, I am a current city university junior and i turned down the big private universities and even great state universities for something close to home and more importantly, cheap. For as long as I can remember I wanted to become a high school math teacher… but now knee deep in math credits and one secondary education class left to take, i’m completely abandoning that dream and opting for the bigger paycheck as a corporate or financial analyst. Its not that I dont love teaching, but after doing a semester of student teaching (practicum) I just dont see myself really doing that for the long haul.. I’m on plan B.. but who knows what plan C will bring….

  38. If you learn how to make animated gifs, you could flash the “More You Know” logo at the end of the article.

  39. Bridget Duncan

    I totally know what you mean about everybody being on Plan C. My parents and I are kind of included in that. I have wanted to be a teacher since like 6th grade, but I’ve never been sure about what I want to teach, and knowing that is essential for knowing what to major in in college. What pissed me off is that when I chose to go to a community college so I could figure things out, as a freashman I went to a counselor and he talked to me like I should already know exactly what I wanted to and what college I wanted to tranfser to. I was like, “Hello, if I already knew that, why would I be here?”
    For a while I thought that since I was really good at math in high school, I could major in Math to be a math teacher. When I took Calculus 2, that changed my mind, I am definitely not majoring in math. But I still haven’t decided what I want to teach.
    It was so hard for me to figure out what university I wanted to transfer to, but I finally decided to go to UC Davis which had a good option for my major. I am now a senior at UC Davis, still unsure what I want to teach, but I’m majoring in Human Development so that even if I don’t become a teacher the things that I learn will be usefull to me as a parent.
    I find it easier and safer to leave my options open so that I won’t have to change my plan a million times. I think a big part about figuring out what you want to do with your life is experience. How do you know you don’t want to be a doctor if you’ve never been to a hospital? Usually people change thier carreer plans after experienceing something that gives them a peek into a carreer that they just never even thought about.

  40. I’m currently on Plan A but I’m thinking more in terms of Plan B. Plan A is to get my degree in vocal performance. Plan B is to become a baker. Yes, I’m aware of the likelihood of me living in a box. This is something I’ve thought about before, but it’s nice to read it from someone whose job it is to do this.

  41. You could say I’m on Plan C now. I took a few years in community college to feel my way around before making a total commitment to a major. My Plan C is like my original repressed Plan A.

    I always sort of knew I wanted to be an artist but was pressured out of it by parents who thought I’d be starving waiting for gallery show openings. However, I want to be a commercial artist / pro illustrator. I also have a passion for the sciences so originally I wanted to go into Physics, then Nuclear Engineering (which I still have a burning passion for in some aspects) but could never foresee myself being satisfied with such things for the next 40 years of my life… After taking more art classes in community college I came full circle back to a fine arts major and finally at the age of 22 realized that it brings me the utmost joy!

    So here I am at my Plan C that was my Plan A from a young age… and so far it’s working out fabulously school-wise. Hopefully professionally it will be just as fruitful. The best part about art is, unless you really want to, your options are somewhat flexible if you’ve taken the time to make your talents flourish. You can draw comic books, paint trad. animation backgrounds, texture 3D models, illustrate book covers/cd covers/childrens books/anatomy books, sculpt miniatures, sculpt toys… freelance or contract. It doesn’t matter, there’s a world of work there!

  42. I will tell the other poster’s and soon to be posters that life really does change. I’m not really into comments, but this one I had to put my thoughts down. I was in high school when I thought about being a vet for cats and dogs. Well that changed when I met an adviser for that field and he shot me down like a lightening bolt hitting your house. ‘ I didn’t have the grades nor memory to do that type of work.’ I cried for two days, but I did not give up. With an encouragement from my family I went to a community college and got my GPA up but I had lost something very dear to me. My wanting to be a vet. However, my love for the sciences did not change so while I was at the community college I changed my degree from engineer to nurse to an artist. I love the arts and being creative, but I just couldn’t find jobs. So now five years later, at Meredith college, I have talked to many people and my family about what I want to do. My love for animals over rule mostly everything, so I am taking Biology courses in order to further my education so I can work with animals. So I know for right now I am back on Plan A with a little twist in the plan. But ask me this again in the next say three years and see where I am. Again life is like a fork it doesn’t matter which fork you take it depends on the destination.

  43. Thank you for this insightful post. I find it comforting to know that I am not the only one that has no idea what to do, and if i’m actually going into what is best for me. I have applied for 4 completely different programs/degrees at 3 different schools for starting in the fall because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I have applied for Baking and Pastry Arts, Dental Assisting, Bachelor of Nursing, and a Bachelor of Science… so yeah. I guess there isn’t really much I can do now about it except study my butt off for the next two weeks in hopes of doing awesome on my diploma exams.

  44. Finding what you want to do with the rest of your life is like shopping for the pair of perfect dress shoes. Some feel okay; but, a little constricting. Other pairs may be too loose and offer too much freedom. While other options are just plain silly and nothing more than a trend that will fizzle and die as quickly as it came into style.
    I was asked at the age of 6 what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said a butterfly.
    At the age of 10, when I realized only caterpillars have the option of being a butterfly, I decided I wanted to write books and live in a castle.
    I have to say, at the age of 34, I may have figured out what I want to be when I grow up and I am only beginning. I say this because I started a family first, snubbed my nose at school because, let’s face it I am a natural genius that learns by osmosis and knows all, right?
    YEAH RIGHT! No Way!! (Try telling 18 year old me that though). I tried out several career options from food service, to retail, clerical to credit admin, banking to IT help desk work. I decided that finance, business, tech work and sales were the pits and decided to go full force with a Psych degree. Impulsive decision at best; but a good one made for once in the cyclone which is my life. Call it proactive, if you will, as a way for me to figure out what screws I might be missing in my own head.
    I’m only kidding.
    In life, it’s all about trial and error. Not in a way that is extreme and open to a lifestyle of haphazard behavior that seems to border on a blurred line of certain legalities; but, finding out that you are and what you really want out of life. I see many people are not doing what they had intended at high school graduation. That was the day when the parents and every goofy relative you have under the sun were snapping pics and making those embarrassing videos with the whole “what are you going to do with your life?”
    Some said college, got a degree in something and went on to work in a field that is completely left of what they specialized in. Biology major became a credit card sales manager. Journalism major was a head teller at a Wells Fargo Bank in Las Vegas and the other went to vet school, had one year left and decided it wasn’t for him. Well, that one ended tragically. He chose the road most taken in Vegas. He became a sports book addict who ended up losing his job, his wife and disappeared into the Nevada desert somewhere.
    For me, when asked “what do you want to do with your life?” at the age of 18, I said, “I have no idea”. I really didn’t. I knew I wanted a psych degree; but, I did not know why and I did not know what I would ever do with such a thing. Sometimes I kick myself for waiting so long. But, better late than never, I guess.
    I would have to say that my plans never had a letter assigned to them giving them some sort of priority or a level should one thing not work out. My whole life played out like a chaotic kaleidoscope with impulsive actions and loosely made plans coming together in some kind of psychopathic colorful collage with no rhyme or reason behind it. Great ideas of an insomniac usually lack logic or some sort of rationale behind them; but, seem so attractive at 4 am when the TV is showing me how to beat belly fat in as little as 30 days. So I ended up changing jobs, residences, STATES, and a slew of who knows what else, only to find that I am no further in life then where I actually started at the tender age of 18. Not to mention divorce can suck the life out of a person as if some weird singularity event had just occurred and you are now the prisoner of a black hole with no promise of escape. There is always a way to get out of that dark and abysmal place of disappointment in life. It just doesn’t seem so for a while.
    So in an evening of self doubt and reflection, I discovered that in all of these years since high school, I hadn’t really done much to further myself. I had been standing in the same place, changing jobs and hoping for advancement only to find a glass ceiling to those of us renegades that chose to occupy the village of no college degree.
    Though it is not impossible for a non degreed person to advance in a company, the chances are significantly stacked against that non degreed person when the doe -eyed -degree- carrying -air -head- with -absolutely- NO -experience to speak of, walks in and gets the job you had been vying for and have been training for over a course of a year or so only to find out that education supercedes experience.
    So, here I am with two years completed in college and entering my third year studying just exactly what I love and looking into the future at opportunities that were never meant to be mine in the past, or so I thought.
    Am I happy or content now? No. Well, maybe. Time will tell if this hard work will pay off and I have a bit of an inclination that my chance in the career world of just about anything is better with the degree then not. Maybe not a chef job, okay Psych degrees do have their limitations 🙂
    So, if your epiphany came at 18, than you are probably farther ahead than I am. But if you are like me and the calling to academia came later in life, it’s quite alright. Even if your epiphany resulted in a change of jobs from stock broker to large animal vet, good for you.
    Why? Because if you are going to spend 9 or more hours a day doing something and being with people that are NOT your family or household members, make it something YOU love. No one should ever have to be miserable. Besides, most of us have to work until we are almost 80 to get social security benefits, and that is a long ways away. Life should be what YOU make it and in service to you. Achieve your goal, go for your dreams, build your life; after all it is you that has to live your life not anyone else.
    As Ayn Rand says in her objectivism philosophy (Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, fantastic eye opening reads!) that it is a terrible disservice to yourself to live, work and achieve goals in an effort to please everyone BUT you.
    So for those of us who still want to be butterflies: I think science would have to take a huge leap into a some creepy areas of genetic engineering that resemble a bad Sci Fi network movie( well, almost all of Sci Fi Network movies are bad, LOL)to make that ever happen. So I guess there’s no morphing for us anytime soon. We should just stick to college and live as humans.

  45. Hey Josh! I just wanted to thank you for all of your advice. May God continue to bless your mind with goodwill and favor. Have a great day!

  46. First time I’m commenting on this and man I feel like I’m in plan C or something….I’m about to graduate with a BA in Communications and I have no idea what I want to do. I thought I wanted to do journalism and then found that it just wasn’t for me and I keep flip flopping with an old passion of mine, art, though I’m not sure if I want to do anything job related with it since I’ve been out of practice for a couple of years. I can also totally relate to Ayamuri’s post. I wanted to be a vet for the longest time but I detest math and I also love to write but I don’t think I’m the best at it. Thanks for the article though! My mom has been telling me the same thing for a year, but still the future makes me nervous, especially with the current economy. Still, I’m hoping I find some middle ground sometime soon.

  47. I’m working on the back-bone of my plan B, so when I go to tackle plan A I’ll have something to support me when the going gets rough. 😛 I want to be a 2D Animator, but the industry for that is shrinking more and more, or at least evolving in 3D. (I want to learn both!) So I’m taking a digital graphics and communications to develop my technical skills in order to get into all sorts of places like advertising and printing. Also helps me work on my social skills, since I muck up while talking a little too often. 😛

    Though if you add everything up, it’s almost 10k for the DGC course, 20k for a Classical Animation diploma at Vancouver Film School, plus 16k for a 3D Character Animation (again VFS). Not to mention I don’t *live* in Vancouver, so the price to actually move there and survive on top of full time classes is virtually impossible.

    Totally not interested in going the cheap way with AI. I don’t like their curriculum at all. 😐

    If all else fails I’ll work at a cafe and do freelance art on the side. 😛 My favorite things combined? Hell yeah!

  48. Man!! You know, while back I was sure that I’ll join med school in my homecountry and then get on with life and become a doc/surgeon.
    Iended up in South Africa, then I’m back to Morocco now but I was admitted to schools in the US and Canada..Which was something I never even thought of occuring. Life takes you wherever it wants..Sit tight and enjoy the ride..

  49. You are so right I even imagine those who have stuck to what they planned to pursue must be absolutely bored.

    I am now 42 years. I changed course from my desire to be a hotelier after secondary school when I suddenly decided I would pursue Maths and Physics, influenced by my class teacher who hated boys so much.

    Upon graduating from university, I again changed career by being enrolled as a Postgraduate in Computer science. I later worked as an IT professional for a number of years before gradually getting interested in Finance. I thought ICT professionals did not have a lot of Decision making to do but always depended on Finance professionals.

    Down the line, I have run a restaurant in Nairobi successfully, my dream job of youth, but abandoned the same to consultant work in management and finance. This what I do presently.

    I do not even know what I will be when I turn 50.

    Great document

  50. Thanks for your mail. I liked it and i wish you still have good news for me especially on how a scholarship for studies can be realistic to me. I appreciate what you’re doing but i still need you to assure me of getting a scholarship for my studies at masters level. Wish you good time. Bye!

  51. I’m 43 years old and on about Plan F. And I thought I had enough money for my program in January, but my student loan was cut over $3000, so I may have to go to a food bank to finish my course, because I’m out of money in March. I’m applying for everything in sight now.

  52. I agree 100%. What I am finding out is what ever plan, one is on, you must enjoy the journey. That makes the PLANS all worth it. (except paying back the $$$$) Didn’t know bout natioal tv week!? Must not have watched much tv….:) Brenda

  53. IM ON MY PLAN A RIGHT NOW. I know what i want to do and im going to college for it. I just dont know where it will take me. But im glad that ive decided to take it slow, so i endup not wishing for a second chance.
    Thank you for this post, i just wish more of my friends tried to have plans for life

    kelsey kay

  54. I’m not even sure how I got signed up to recieve your e-mails, but I’m glad that I did.
    Your advice, while on occasion broken-record-esque, is still nerve calming and an interesting read.
    Reminds me to slow down and enjoy all of this; we only get to do it once.

  55. Josh,
    Much thanks, that was really helpful! I think I’m definitelly on plan B, but its all good…and God is good! We take the steps…and He leads!
    Blessings many!

  56. I have grown crazy looking for this book, the only place I can find it is Amazon, but I’m a computer person and wanted to take advantage of the email you sent saying the ebook was only 10 bucks. HELP PLEASE

  57. I very much enjoyed your article. I was a Comparative Literature Major in college and currently I am a foreclosure prevention counselor. I also was a massage therapist for a few years. You never know where life is going to take you and it pays to be flexible. Now I’m entering a doctorate program in psychology this fall. It’s been an interesting journey so far.

  58. I thought I was the only one with this problem. I knew exactly what I wanted about a year ago and now I don’t know . I am scared to make the decision because I am afraid I will get into it and then start to hate it.

  59. Natnael Ashenafi

    I know everything about plans changing in life.i remember one day my plane seems wrong.in this day i lost our home door key at a birthday party and i started to think some thing to do then i got an idea about it this was to break the door and to tell my father that thefts were in our home and i really do it then my father believes me but after months later i told him the truth and i excused him……and if you were i me what will you going to do????

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