What if there were only a set number of experiences we could learn from in order to find a career and life with sustained happiness? And what if we analysed our path to get there as a series of connected experiences: some immediate and obvious in their reward, and others only with reflection could we realise that the compounding experiences lead to an obvious and grand reward? Our goal would then be to optimise each experience we have, in order to gain the maximum benefit, while minimizing any potential regret.
It’s probably apparent that the mindset I’ve gained from studying Engineering at Waterloo has caused me to constantly think about everything as an optimisation problem - for the time or money that I am given, how can I make the best of it?
A year ago I found myself in a position at an exciting technology company which on paper I thought looked pretty solid; but I found I wasn’t learning at the rate I expected. Each day that I wasn’t being challenged, my happiness was incrementally declining and I felt I was consuming my theoretical ‘set number of experiences’ I had in order to achieve my goals. So when planning my next move, I decided to instead focus on one of those stand-alone experiences that would immediately bring me out of a rut, but also contribute massively to the bigger picture: my ‘sustained happiness’ goal. I needed something that would contribute to a more well-rounded approach to problem solving, an increase in creativity, and a few interesting stories to remember and tell along the way. For me, the only thing that sounded this good and I knew could deliver, is traveling outside of your comfort zone.
So with a great deal of thought but very little planning, my wife, brother, sister-in-law, and I bought and fixed up an RV and in two weeks we were on the road to tour Mexico and the United States. We spent three months climbing, hiking, and seeing the sights of some of the most beautiful nature areas in North America.
Even with hitting a snag involving a major mobility hindering knee injury along route, I can tell you this was and likely will be one of the best experiences of my life. It was predictable in its contribution towards maximizing happiness, and I knew it would be something I would never regret. And after finishing up and landing my next job for a major travel company in a new country, I can say it also unpredictably aligned with heading towards that ‘sustained happiness’ goal I started out trying to solve. So if you don’t like something, change it. Though our experiences aren’t exactly limited in quantity, we shouldn’t sit around accepting a potentially sub-optimal situation. And if you’re not confident in thinking a change will work out, then take with you a phrase a gentleman told me years ago while travelling: “Think you can, and you’ll try. Believe you can, and you will.”
If you want to hear more about the many ups and downs we faced, check out the travel blog we kept up while on tour: https://believeyoucanyouwill.wordpress.com/