Those three things–autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward–are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us… Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful.
~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
Writing is a lonely occupation at best. Of course there are stimulating and even happy associations with friends and colleagues, but during the actual work of creation the writer cuts himself off from all others and confronts his subject alone. He moves into a realm where he has never been before — perhaps where no one has ever been. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening.
You are in this profession as a calling, not a business; as a calling which exacts from you at every turn self-sacrifice, devotion, love and tenderness to your fellow-men. Once you get down to a purely business level, your influence is gone and the true light of your life is dimmed. You must work in the missionary spirit, with a breadth of charity that raises you far above the petty jealousies of life.
The young doctor should look about early for an avocation, a pastime, that will take him away from patients, pills, and potions . . . No [person] is really happy or safe without one, and it makes precious little difference what the outside interest may be – botany, beetles or butterflies, roses, tulips, or irises, fishing mountaineering or antiquities – anything will do so long as he straddles a hobby and rides it hard.
But do not get too deeply absorbed [in your work] to the exclusion of all outside interests. Success in life depends as much upon the [person] as on the physician. Mix with your fellow students, mingle with their sports and their pleasures. … You are to be members of a polite as well as of a liberal profession and the more you see of life outside the narrow circle of your work the better equipped you will be for the struggle.
The general advice I give to young people is to follow their passion. That’s a pretty common answer to a question like this, but I really do think people do their best work when they are doing something they really care about and have a genuine interest in. I think of computing and the analytical mindset that it provides as being useful in pursuing a number of career paths.
The advice I give to my students when they are considering making a job decision is to go to the place where they think they will learn the most and make the biggest difference (in a broad sense). A career isn’t just defined by one’s first job, but is really about the kind of impact someone can have in the long term. Finding opportunities to learn as much as possible along the journey helps to create more opportunities for greater impact in the future. Especially given the pace at which computing evolves, it’s important to have a real commitment to life-long learning in this field.
A fellow has to fight something all through life… didn’t somebody once define man as a fighting animal? … and I want to fight disease and pain and ignorance… which are all members one of another. I want to do my share of honest, real work in the world, Anne … add a little to the sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since it began. The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live after me. It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with his obligations to the race.
I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics… Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and science, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.