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luciferchrist

Finding Your Purpose / Passion / Career Central Purpose

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Security is my fourth career. After being in and out of three colleges 1967-1971, I decided on a career in transportation and got a job on the receiving dock of a department store. I enrolled in a two-year certificate program at my community college and graduated from that in 1976. I also worked for trucking companies and a taxicab firm. One of my classmates from General Motors recommended that I take a computer class and I did. I liked it and took another. With two classes in programming, in 1978, I got a job at White Sands Missile Range. In 1984, on a database project at General Motors, no one wanted to write the user manual. Having written a couple of magazine articles and two small books, I took that on. In a few years, I did nothing but documentation and training, though programming remained a useful skill.

After the Dot.Com Meltdown, I could no longer bring in $40 per hour. So, I looked about for a new career. I worked in a science museum and was a substitute teacher. I also got a job with a security firm. I rose quickly through the ranks. So, I enrolled in a two-year degree program in criminal justice. I am now completing a four-year degree in criminology and I have been accepted for graduate school.

For me, the attraction is the cat-and-mouse game with the perpetrators, planning ahead of them to avoid problems for my clients. My focus is the protection of property and lives. I have less interest in "law enforcement" per se, laws being range-of-the-moment artifacts of democracy. Keeping people safe and securing their property is my job. I do it because I am good at it. When I graduate, I will move into middle managment, closer to that previous wage structure that I got used to.

Also, my wife has a new bachelor's degree in technology managment to supplement her associate's degrees in computer forensics and network security. Our goal is to open our own detective agency. For me, the degree in criminology (police administration) is often a requirement of government licensing.

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*** Merged topics.   - sN ***

 

 

"A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man’s life. It establishes the hierarchy, the relative importance, of his values, it saves him from pointless inner conflicts, it permits him to enjoy life on a wide scale and to carry that enjoyment into any area open to his mind; whereas a man without a purpose is lost in chaos. He does not know what his values are. He does not know how to judge. He cannot tell what is or is not important to him, and, therefore, he drifts helplessly at the mercy of any chance stimulus or any whim of the moment. He can enjoy nothing. He spends his life searching for some value which he will never find . . . .

The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose—a productive purpose . . . . The man who has no purpose, but has to act, acts to destroy others. That is not the same thing as a productive or creative purpose."
“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964

I was wondering why if you act without a purpose it is to destroy others.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I don't agree with what Ayn seemed to be saying: that people without purpose are intentionally destructive. I believe they can be accidentally destructive.

A person with a purpose creates long-range plans and goals. Those plans usually involve other people. (The effect you can have in isolation is limited. Thomas Edison had a lab workers; Hank Rearden hired men to work in his plant.) If those people have no purpose, you can't know what whim or stimulus will make them move at random. This makes them difficult to count on in an organizational sense. They're working with you one moment, gone the next. Even if they are effective workers while in place, they leave gaps that must be filled when they leave. If they leave at a critical time, that can be very destructive.

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If you don't have a central purpose, i.e, if you are not acting to preserve your life through productive work (which is the only central purpose possible), your actions have no standard by which to judge them. If you don't have an ultimate goal that you are striving towards, you have no reason to practice the virtues. Why form conclusions through reason when you could just listen to what other people are saying without consequence? (Of course, the consequences are inevitable, but who cares if you don't intend to achieve something anyway?) Why be true to your principles? After all, you can have none because you have no need for methodological principles if you are not interested in living a proper life. Why gain values through honest means? Faking reality is not dangerous if you don't want to live to achieve some productive work that ultimately enhances your life. And etc.

You can't hold any virtue if you don't hold the "supreme" value of purpose. For what reason would you practice independence, honesty, justice, etc. if you don't have something specific you want to achieve? In that case, you default on those virtues, which makes you a parasite, liar, evader, etc.

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I wonder how this applies to people who have not yet discovered what they want out of life. On one hand Ayn Rand seems to be saying that a man without a purpose is immoral, but on the other hand... consider this quote from another thread:

"You asked me if I have any suggestions to give you about the choice of a career. That, as you probably know, is something that no other person can suggest to you. I can only tell you this: don't expect any outside circumstance or observation to give you a desire for a particular career. That desire comes from your own convictions about life, its purpose, what you want to do with it, and in what form you want to express it. When you say, "I want something that can mean to me what your writing means to you"—it seems to imply that you hope to find it just by looking around and waiting to have your interest aroused. You will never find it that way. What you should do is ask yourself what do you consider the most important thing in life, and why? When you have thought that out carefully, the work that you want to do will suggest itself, and also the desire to do it. But you certainly don't have to hurry. When you say, "Why is it taking me so long to find it?" you are really a little too impatient. I think I understand your impatience, and it is natural that you should feel it, but at the age of 16 your choice of a career for life does not really have to be set. There are no rules about this—some men make a choice earlier, some much later, and any age is proper for any particular person. If you have not made your choice, it merely means that you are not quite clear enough about your basic convictions. Since you seem to have an unusual mind, it might take you longer than it would another, simpler person. So I suggest that you think about it, but do not worry too much."

Here she seems to be saying that not having a purpose set is fine, and that it may take whatever time it takes to discover it. I don't think she considers this to be immoral or depraved.

I'm pretty sure i'm missing something here and that she is talking about two different things, but i'm not sure what it is...

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Doing the work required to select a purpose is itself a purposeful action. Ayn Rand does not expect people to select a purpose ab nihilo--that would be irrational. Early in your life your purpose is to learn and think so that you acquire the requisite knowledge to select a purpose. If you pursue that, you are purposeful even if you have not decided on a particular, personal central purpose yet. If you abandon your search, however, you become purposeless and destructive.

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*** Mod's note: Merged topics - sN ***

 

 

I realize that, ideally, one would choose his career based solely on what he wants to do. But suppose you're in a compromised situation, such as miserable long-term economic outlook like the one we are currently facing, and your ideal career choice is a risky or bad bet in terms of the job outlook. Should you go with your first choice, or pick something else which offers a better chance of getting a job?

EDIT: Just to connect this scenario to the actual situation, suppose that your first choice isn't necessarily the love of your life, but is just the best thing you've found so far.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Yes, of course that's fine. Even Howard Roark worked in the mines to make a living. His dream-career was temporarily out of reach but he couldn't just die, so he did something else. In such a situation, staying alive is your first priority.

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Yes, of course that's fine. Even Howard Roark worked in the mines to make a living. His dream-career was temporarily out of reach but he couldn't just die, so he did something else. In such a situation, staying alive is your first priority.

There's a distinction between a career and a job. Roark's career was always architect -- it's just that sometimes his job wasn't. He never stopped working towards being a successful architect. When he was in the quarry, he was saving money to let him reopen his architecture office at some future date. That said, Roark's career was never blocked by the threat of force in the way that many careers are today. (I would think very carefully about entering medicine as a career today, for example.) You have to think long-term about what will make you happy, within the realm of the possible.

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I realize that, ideally, one would choose his career based solely on what he wants to do. But suppose you're in a compromised situation, such as miserable long-term economic outlook like the one we are currently facing, and your ideal career choice is a risky or bad bet in terms of the job outlook. Should you go with your first choice, or pick something else which offers a better chance of getting a job?

Soooooooooooo much context is required that there really is no way of knowing. Only an individual could really depending on their circumstances. Still, aiming for job security isn't really life-fulfilling. If you thought things were going to be beyond bad, it would *probably* be better in the long-run to just do something really radical like becoming a revolutionary, but of course, even that depends on your circumstances. To use a fictional example from We The Living, it was preferable for Kira to simply attempt fleeing Russia rather than put up with everything and struggle to make a living. It's a sort of question that can only be answered given a lot of background knowledge about a person.

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Every man must live for himself, and as such must do what is necessary to support that life. If that means you need to work at a supermarket for a while, then so be it.

However, if there is something you a really keen to do, even if it is a not-so-profitable industry such as Art, it would be good to remember that working at something completely unrelated doesn't mean you wont be able to continue improving your skills in the preferred area until you reach the point that it can become a sustainable occupation.

For example, say you wanted to become a musician. Well, working as... a secretary/janitor/whatever... doesn't mean you can't come home and practice and generally keep working towards that outcome. You can still meet other musicians, take lessons etc etc. until you reach that cusp point where you have a choice as to you next move.

To summarize, it doesn't matter so much what job you do at the moment, so long as you know where you want to go and keep working towards that ends as much as you can. Think of it like chess... Every move you make is ultimately towards checkmating the opposition, but you can't just jump straight to that end. Sometimes you have to take out a few pawns and bishops first. Surviving long enough to achieve your ends, is obviously important as well.

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But suppose you're in a compromised situation, such as miserable long-term economic outlook like the one we are currently facing, and your ideal career choice is a risky or bad bet in terms of the job outlook. Should you go with your first choice, or pick something else which offers a better chance of getting a job?

Common sense alone will tell you that you need to make money. If you can't turn a profit with your career, you'll have to find some way to do it. That said, if you're not totally miserable and you can support yourself, and your job serves some legitimate purpose, I'd say that is as moral as it gets.

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I realize that, ideally, one would choose his career based solely on what he wants to do. But suppose you're in a compromised situation, such as miserable long-term economic outlook like the one we are currently facing, and your ideal career choice is a risky or bad bet in terms of the job outlook. Should you go with your first choice, or pick something else which offers a better chance of getting a job?

EDIT: Just to connect this scenario to the actual situation, suppose that your first choice isn't necessarily the love of your life, but is just the best thing you've found so far.

Several considerations are worth mentioning:

It takes time to develop proficiency in any field. If you've already made some steps in that direction, and you still think it's possible, by all means consider trying to take another one.

Be very careful with the criterion of "what you want to do". Anything you might want to do is a concrete action. What is the more abstract purpose? What other roads might head in that direction? Don't settle for just one road. Have a backup road. At the very least, develop the ability to identify multiple, alternative paths towards achieving your values.

If you have to switch tracks, make use of what you already know and build on what you already have.

If you're afraid of risk but can't quantify it, that just means you haven't researched the work sufficiently. Risk can be measured. Learn from others on similar tracks. And learn from errors. Try to figure out what they could have done differently to succeed. Remind yourself that failure presupposes the existence of an alternative course of action, if only you find the right one.

Most importantly, don't let the outcome be your only source of happiness. Then you'll feel like you're working joylessly in the hope of something that always seems just out of reach. And the day you get the specific outcome you desire, you might find that the single, brief moment of happiness you get wasn't worth it.

Draw happiness from the fact that you are choosing to pursue your values, whatever form that pursuit might take.

The goal is happiness. Productive work is the means.

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*** Mod's note: Merged topics. - sN ***

 

 

Is language learning a proper purpose? While learning languages is very enjoyable and rewarding, is it productive?

 

My premise is: a suitable purpose must involve productive achievement. 

 

I want to achieve happiness and self-esteem and I know I need to be productive in order to do that.

 

My self-esteem has been declining recently because I cannot find a purpose for my life. I have many hobbies but none of them are really productive.

 

So, is language learning productive? Do I have to physically create something in order to achieve pride and self-esteem? 

Edited by softwareNerd
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While learning languages is very enjoyable and rewarding, is it productive?

 

That's half the battle right there- finding work that is enjoyable and rewarding!

 

So, is language learning productive? Do I have to physically create something in order to achieve pride and self-esteem? 

 

It all depends on what you do with that knowledge (or how you apply it). You can learn 5,000 languages, but if you don't do anything fufilling with that knowledge, you'll have wasted your time. Think about what languages will be valuable to you in the future, and what you can do once you learn those languages. Are you interested in becoming a UN or military interpreter or translator? Or an "analytical linguist," whatever that is? :) Start exploring the different jobs that will be available to you in the future with the skillsets you're now building, and see if any of them interest you. If so- go for it!

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Productivity isn't really a commandment to build and make in the tangible sense. All it really means is that it is virtuous to be an active thinker, since it brings about the things that are good in life. Being busy all the time is not the point of productivity. Active use of your mind is productivity, trying to achieve values, that can be rightfully called productivity. The opposite would be sitting around apathetic, hoping values will fall into your lap. One way to be productive is to further a career, but other values worth achieving for you may be travel to foreign countries, learning to paint, understanding why Socrates philosophized as he did, etc. There really is no particular limit. Perhaps your hobbies are plenty productive, but relaxation time is great, too, in the sense it maintains your well-being anyway. Thinking is often productive too, even if you're not making something like a building. Intellectual endeavors are just as legitimate as concrete ones - it's just a matter of what kinds of values you want to pursue, and which values you discover on the way.

Studying language may not result in a physical creation, but it makes all sorts of new values possible or more easier to attain. Traveling in foreign countries is a great way to  use language. Or there is studying linguistics: language background only helps. You don't even need to go to that degree. If you like languages, just study them. You might not discover what you want to do with your knowledge until later. You can't predict the future, so you probably don't even need to justify learning languages.

Personally, I do not like assigning a "purpose" to values other than to further my life. There certainly are values that help achieve an end, but from my own experience, a lot more is uncertain. So, you want to learn some languages? Great, tell us about that! If you start studying a language and become good at it, that will bring pride and self-esteem.

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I have many hobbies but none of them are really productive.

 

You might consider assessing any skills you have acquired while enjoying your hobbies and utilizing them in a productive venture. I'd also consider experimenting with creating a minimal committment microbusiness based on the purpose of helping others. Some simple useful task you can do, or product you can make for others which they can't do of make for themselves and are willing to pay you. 

 

For example: After a lot of searching on the internet, I came across a man with a microbusiness who makes and sells a useful part that no one else does. He can provide something for me that I can't provide for myself, and so I'm totally happy to pay him to make it and sell it to me. People from all over the US buy what he produces. And he doesn't even advertize. People avidly seek him out because he produces something of value to others.

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I'd say productivity in an Objectivist context has to have a physical element. The idea that productivity is a virtue comes from the fact that, in a general sense, human survival depends on physical results. Knowledge by itself is pointless. Now, in a division of labor society, some can do the less physical aspects and let others take it from there - for instance, discovering knowledge, publishing it (the physical aspect), then letting others find ways to use it. I'd say one criteria for a productive purpose is: can this activity support my life in the environment I live in. This is my understanding of how Ayn Rand became a writer: Imagining fictional stories was a great pleasure to her. She decided to become a writer when she found out that is basically what a writer does. So she found an activity she enjoyed then a way to support her life that integrated this activity. So in your case, if you really enjoy learning languages, you just have to find an activity that both integrates learning languages and provides some product or service.

 

Do I have to physically create something in order to achieve pride and self-esteem? 

I'd say you have to be capable of achieving values that are both personally meaningful and supportive of your life.

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Productivity isn't really a commandment to build and make in the tangible sense.

That's true. Producing a useful service can be just as wealth producing as producing a product... but it is impossible to secure economic independence without producing something of value to others.

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That's true. Producing a useful service can be just as wealth producing as producing a product... but it is impossible to secure economic independence without producing something of value to others.

Put an individual on an island where raising and/or hunting/fishing their own food, building/finding their own shelter, etc., is possible, would not be considered 'economic independence'?

Even in a situation such as this, some form of language (albeit primitive) or conceptual grasp of what need be done, relating cause (planting seeds, netting fish, spearing animals) to effect (sustainance of food) would need to be performed.

Edited by dream_weaver

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*** Mod's note: Merged topics. - sN ***

 

In "Letters of Ayn Rand", Ayn Rand gives this advice to a young person who is trying to discover what career he should choose:

 

"What you should do is ask yourself what do you consider the most important thing in life, and why? When you have thought that out carefully, the work that you want to do will suggest itself, and also the desire to do it."

 

What, exactly, does she mean by this question? I could see people interpreting it in different ways.

 

One person might say, "The most important thing in life is to be rational." In this interpretation, the person would be responding with an ACTION TO TAKE in life, which he considers the most important thing to do.

 

Another person might say, "The most important thing in life is happiness." In this interpretation, the person would be responding with a REWARD of life, which he considers the most important reward to achieve.

 

Still, another person might say, "The most important thing in life is my life." In this interpretation, the person would be responding with his HIGHEST VALUE.

 

So, what does she mean by the question? I would like to know because I am trying to choose my own purpose in life. 

Edited by softwareNerd
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