On Careers and Scarface

I had a great conversation with my friend Maryam (@ahm026) a few weeks ago. Despite it being (or perhaps because it was) way too late at night we stumbled onto questioning the very definition of a career.

My starting point was that a career is a thoroughly selfish act, and does not necessarily map to doing good in the world. She saw a career more as a responsibility, mainly to your family, thereby doing good implicitly.

I’ve thought about this a heap, trying really hard to ignore Maryam’s point, and have come to a conclusion. If you’re the type of person who wants to make a difference in the world, manufacturing a career is self defeating and stems from a fallacy of correlation.

When one looks into successful careers, like a make-a-difference-to-the-world success, they are often messy and certainly not the result of a well thought out plan. Careers are defined in hindsight. When one does something important, people look back and interrogate the person’s history, labelling it their “career”.Just because successful people had a career, doesn’t mean a career makes you a success.

You can have a career and not make a difference, but if you make a difference you will have a career.

Thus my philosophy. Ignore absolutely the norms of the “career”. At every decision point question whether your decision actually brings you closer to the change you desire to make, or just progresses your status along the shared delusion people call “a career path”.

Focus instead on the difference you’d like to create, the career will follow. As Scarface didn’t say, “First you find a cause, then you make the difference, then you get the career.” Scarface went on to not say “A career is like a connect the dots puzzle. As you progress from one predefined career decision to another you’ll look back on it afterward to see an image you didn’t design. Just draw the thing yourself, dingus.”

Scarface definitely didn’t say “Woobahbah, I’m a big fat Scarface”.