When I was a freshman in college I majored in economics. Now I definitely wasn’t passionate about finance or economics back then – I decided to pick this major simply because it was one of the few career paths that my parents approved of.
You can make a lot of money working on Wall-Street. Now – when school started, I distinctly remember going to economics class and falling asleep every single time. It also turns out that I would snore – so the people around me would complain and after a couple of weeks I stopped going to class– because I was just embarrassing myself.
Instead, I ended up studying on my own. It wasn’t easy – I struggled with my levels of motivation – I would procrastinate – I would end up cramming for a couple of days before each test – just so I could barely pass. And at the end of my freshman year – I realized that I simply had no motivation whatsoever to continuing studying this subject – so I dropped the major. And I eventually dropped out of school all together. Fast forward to March of 2020 – the stocks markets around the world fell by over 20% in the span of a week because of the pandemic, and I found myself in a rather interesting position.
See I never cared much about investing so I was sitting on cash that I’ve saved up from working on this business for the past 5 years and I realized that I should figure out what to do with this money. Because as many great investors say – when there’s blood on the street, it’s the best time to buy. I ended up spending 3 to 4 hours every single day just devouring all the finance and economics material that I could get my hands on. I remember binge listening to an 8 hour book on the history of money in one sitting. And what’s funny, is that this was basically the same material that I was studying back in college. But – this time around, I was able to do it effortlessly.
My motivation was so high – that I didn’t even have to try.
How is this possible?
Well it all comes down to a concept that I’ve recently been digging into, called Wu Wei. Wu Wei is an ancient Chinese philosophy which directly translates into “the art of doing nothing”. Or The Art Of Non Forcing Now this doesn’t actually mean that you should do nothing – Wu Wei is more about aligning your life in a way so that things feel effortless.
A common analogy that’s made: is that most people try to row their boats in order to get places, but someone who has mastered the art of Wu Wei would figure out how to setup a sail and then use the wind to push them while they take a nap. They end up getting to the same destination, faster, all with just a tenth of the effort. You see – I was able to spend thousands of hours over the course of the last year and a half, studying economics effortlessly, because I had the Wu Wei wind on my side. I became interested in this subject on my own.
It wasn’t something that my parents or society pressured me to do. I simply realized that if I did not understand what was happening in the economic so my , if I did not make the right investments, I would lose a large majority of the wealth that I’ve accumulated over the years. This fear sparked a curiosity. And that curiosity became my wind – and next thing you know – I wanted to sit down in bed and binge listen to 8 hour textbooks.
Now how does this apply to YOUR life?
Well – here’s the harsh truth. If you genuinely don’t like what you’re studying…then honestly…you shouldn’t study it. I really don’t see the point of spending decades of your life pursuing a career that you dislike– just to make your parents happy.
First of all – your chances of success are going to be lower, cause you’re competing against people who actually like this subject. Which means they’ll study and practice effortlessly. They’ll have the Wu Wei Wind on their side while you don’t. And secondly your overall sense of happiness in life is going to be much lower because you’re going to feel trapped doing something you genuinely don’t enjoy. My advice to you – is to find a career that you are at least somewhat interested in. Like on a scale of 1 to 10, you need to beat least at a 6.
Once you find this, you can then use the following idea to maximize and capture the wind.
Capturing the wind
I’ve been thinking about a new idea – that’s still in it’s experimental stages. And it’s the idea that we can capture the Wu Wei wind by structuring our life to align with our current personality. There is a test called the Big 5 personality test, which is widely considered as one of the most accurate personality tests available. Yes, I know personality tests aren’t 100%accurate – and yes I know that personalities can be changes over time. But I still believe that it’s useful when it comes to figuring out what types of things would feel more natural for you.
For example, I personally rank lower than average for one of the Big 5 Personality traits called Neuroticism which basically means I can handle negative emotions fairly well. So using fear to spark curiosity to push the sails of my boat would actually be a good idea. I used the idea of losing wealth to scare myself into being curious. On the other hand if you rank high on Neuroticism, meaning that you don’t work so well with negative emotions – It might be a much better idea for you to do visualization exercises about a positive future so that you can experience pleasant emotions and use that as the wind for your boat.
Here’s another example: Let’s say you score higher than average for extroversion, which basically means that you enjoy socializing with large groups of people. In this case, if you were to form a study group, you might find more motivation because the task of studying all of a sudden becomes more enjoyable. You’re having fun with your friends while getting work done. Here’s yet another example, let’s say you’re someone who scores high in openness meaning that you enjoy being creative and trying out new things. In this case you should not pursue a career that involves doing the same thing every single day. It would be more natural for you to pursue something that allows you to come up with creative solutions. So instead of studying to be an accountant you might find it more natural to become a software developer which has a lot more opportunity for creativity. On the other hand if you rank low for openness then pursuing a more repetitive job like being an accountant might feel more natural for you.
And one final example: If you’re someone who scores lower than average for conscientiousness– meaning that you really don’t care about being organized, then maybe you shouldn’t try to force yourself to schedule out your entire day. You could simply keep a short daily to-do list where you jot down the major things you need to get done. I believe aligning our life with what’s natural for us can lead to work that starts to feel more effortless – which ultimately leads to more action.