On figuring out what you want to be when you Grow Up

On figuring out what you want to be when you Grow Up

What do you want to be when you Grow Up?

When I was a little kid, this question made me almost as excited as hearing the ice-cream truck around the corner. I felt like I was staring into Pandora’s Box, opening up a world of curiosity. In my mind, I could be an Astronaut during the week and a Broadway singer over the weekend (and a Professor when I retired, of course). Man, was I racking up an airline bill or what.

And the craziest part? No one ever told me No.

But, as a Grown Up this question makes me scared as hell. No is everywhere. It makes me want to go back to the days when I answered “The President” with such conviction, people believed me.

Because, who really knows what they want to be when they Grow Up?

…And even if you do, who is brave enough to do it?


Besides my own anxiety, I have a couple of inherent problems with this question. Give these points some thought:

  • Why do we ask what do you want to be, instead of who?
  • Why are we so obsessed with the title or status or perception of what job we end up becoming, rather than the actual person we’ve become?
  • And, who says that one jobone careerone narrow-minded view on our “calling” is right?

Not me.

I spent enough time staring out the window of my office feeling like I was in prison instead of downtown Manhattan. I decided that enough was enough. So what if I loved saving the planet and writing and solving math problems and talking to people and being inspired? Couldn’t I do all of that, every day?

Most of the people who disagreed with me were jaded from the realities of Adulthood. They believed that “work was work,” and “You better get used to it, kid.”

Well, I wouldn’t accept No for an answer. And now, I am on a swerving road to get There.

So, I’ve come up with a roadmap of ideas to help others navigate this tricky seemingly-simple-but-weirdly-deep question:

Who do you want to be when you Grow Up?


1. Think Big

At one point or another, you need to answer these big, existential questions. I know, I know, these are not the types of thoughts you want to have during your 48-off hours (if you’re lucky). Tacos and beers and football always sound like a better option.

But, I encourage you — Think Big! Think Crazy! Spend some time alone. And honestly, don’t think about You as a job. Think about You as a person.

What are your superpowers?

Do you want people to know you as the go-to data analyzer who can solve any big problem? Or the creative thinker who can always come up with a new idea in any situation?

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the details. We can wrap our minds around being in a certain role, and grinding through our day-to-day. But, what do you dream of doing every day? And what are you really really good at?

(I know some of you are answering: Eating. Watching Netflix. Sleeping.)

But, don’t worry about reality yet — your first step needs to be as big and fun and crazy as possible.

2. Think Small

What are the things that you do every single day — by choice?

If you don’t know, then keep a notebook for 3 days on your daily activities. Here, no action is too small. Record your habits upon waking up, getting to work, during work, when you’re pretending-to-eat-your-lunch-at-your-desk-to-do-work-but-really-doing-something-else, when you’re most energized. What are you doing?

Then, think about what they have in common. Do you find yourself happiest when you’re at Fly Wheel, or Cross Fit? Maybe competition drives you. Do you love being in meetings where you’re brainstorming? Maybe it’s strategy.

When you start to understand the little things that you do almost subconsciously, you start to understand You.

3. Think about Who can help you get there

Once you’re able to start to draw conclusions about your unique skill set, and what makes you most passionate, you can start moving.

For me, I realized that everything I was drawn to was making the world better. I found that the topic was most important to me, not the actual work. If I knew I was working towards say, improving the environment, I would send out as many Outlook invites as needed.

So, I started to expand my network. I knew what I wanted, and I needed to find people who were doing that thing, so I could do it too. I looked up my favorite organizations on Linkedin, and reached out to people that might talk to me (crazy).

But hey, it worked!

Don’t be afraid of reaching out to someone that’s currently in the place you want to be. If you look up to someone, tell them. Ask them how they got there. Start to put together your own roadmap by weaving together other’s.

Once you find your niche, it will seep through all of your conversations. People want to help people who care.


So, who will you be when you Grow Up?

Start there, and your road will start to pave itself.


What’s your road? How did you get there, or how are you struggling? I want to hear your stories!

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