How to Answer “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”

September 13, 2013
Year On TeamDirection Finding

Guest post by Vincent Nguyen

This is a guest post by Vincent Nguyen, author of Vincent helps people build confidence in themselves and challenges people to think unconventionally. Learn how to be confident and charismatic with his upcoming free eBook.

You probably hear and hate this question.

You know if you open your mouth and talk about your unconventional ideas you will get a frown, a raised eyebrow, and an immediate objection. “You’ll change your mind when you get older,” they’ll say. It sounds as if you just told them you never want kids or something.

You’ll hear the usual rant about how the economy is worse than ever and how you can’t possibly do well without a college degree. You know, the usual arguments that come from people who think college is the only path to success.

I finally figured out how to answer when people ask what you want to be. The best part is that it works for people who don’t know too. If you have zero ideas about where you want to go in life, this will still satisfy them. It may even give you some direction if that’s what you need.

Instead of telling them about how you’re going to be an entrepreneur or how you dislike college, talk to them about the sort of lifestyle you want.

This gives you something to think about before the next time you’re asked about your future. If you can figure out the sort of lifestyle you’d like then you can start working backwards and narrowing down possible options. It may even help you figure out your long-term goals.

I personally can’t ever imagine myself sitting in a 9-5 job with walls surrounding me with less than one foot away. I’m after flexibility in everything I do, whether it’s work hours, where I’m working from, or doing things I actually enjoy.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Jimbo?”

“Truthfully, sir... I haven’t figured it out yet. I do know the lifestyle I want though. Not the 9-5 standard job that most people have. I want to be able to work when I want, from wherever I want, and I want to do something I feel passionate about.

Usually, they’ll then ask if you want to be an entrepreneur. If you do, say yes. If you don’t, say no.

Even if you say no, they won’t push on because it’s clear you’ve given it more thought than others. People are worried when someone is directionless. At least you’ve got a general idea even if it’s vague.

No more pressure from people who don’t understand your “crazy” thinking. No more hostility from concerned folks who dislike hearing uncertainty.

Start thinking in terms of lifestyle.

How do you find yours? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where do I want to work? Remotely? An office? Maybe both?
  2. Do I want to work for myself?
  3. Do I want to be able to travel a lot?
  4. What would my daily work schedule look like? Would it be flexible?
  5. Do I want to be interacting with others often?
  6. What would others think of how I live?
  7. What sort of connections do I need to get my foot in the door or just get started in general?
  8. Who do I know that is living an admirable life? Am I going to be able to connect with this person?
  9. Is my family going to be connected to my life on a regular basis?
  10. Where will I live?

The 10 questions above should get you started on thinking about the lifestyle you want.

Going back to the sample lifestyle I gave way back in the middle of this article, I probably wouldn’t be a high school teacher. Neither would I be working in a lab. Living as a freelancer or entrepreneur? That’s much more likely.

You start crossing options out and maybe you’ll learn a bit about yourself.

Do they teach you to think like this in school? Nope.

Whatever you want to be when you grow up, Year On wants to help you get there. To learn a little more about who we are and what we do, click here.

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