Monday, January 2, 2012

Driven To Try

Robert later recalled that he still had 'very great misgivings about myself on all fronts, but I clearly was going to do theoretical physics if I could...I felt completely relieved of the responsibility to go back into a laboratory. I hadn't been good; I hadn't done anybody any good, and I hadn't had any fun whatever; and here was something I felt just driven to try.'

Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus, (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 55.
Robert Oppenheimer had an interesting life. He seemed to be destined for a life in the sciences - in particular with the study of physics. In his pursuit of knowledge & career he came across a dilemma when he realized that laboratory research (experimental physics) was not as fun as theoretical physics. His life hit a major wall at this point, and he suffered from depression, frustration, and high anxiety over where it was heading. As a result, he decided upon a path in pursuit of that which filled his cup as opposed to the standard one of working in a lab and doing that pro-typical "fit" for work in physics in his era. There were no guarantees in this choice - in fact he realized there were serious potential pitfalls to it. However, the alternative was to do something which wasn't fun, he did not feel particularly good at, and wasn't really beneficial to anyone in his mind. Even a crash & burn seemed a better option than simply sticking with the standard route. He was simply 'driven to try' that which excited him most.

How many people take a serious look at their lives and ask the questions of how much fun they are having, how good they are at what they are doing, and how beneficial it is to those around them? I truly believe people need to get more self-focused when choosing a job and vocation. To what benefit is it to give up dreams to simply choose the easiest, most comfortable, or most standard path? What has happened to our 'driven to try' mentality in this country?

I resonate so deeply with Oppenheimer's thoughts as I faced a similar crisis in my own life. I had hit a wall working for the church in which I found myself not having fun, not succeeding (at least on the definition of the leadership - which quite frankly is the only definition that matters in a job), and really not helping anyone. The option was to do something new - even though that meant a year of living with my inlaws & the real potential of not landing a job (one job opening had over 50 highly qualified people submit applications). Talk about having misgivings!! The funny thing is when I told my boss I was done - I felt completely relieved. I walked away from security to pursue that which was personally most exciting. And the reward on all 3 fronts (fun, performance, and giving to others) has been clearly seen, felt, and heard.

So what are we waiting on? Its time for a self-examination to see what we should do from here. Because the world is not bettered by people simply doing jobs for the sake of work. The world needs people that are driven to try in order to pursue their own self-interest that then rewards the environments around them.


Ryan said...

This was my favorite sentence, mainly for it's plainness... "Robert Oppenheimer had an interesting life." And then you told me nothing related to it. Glad you are back to posting.

Landon said...

Good point. I didn't like it either - really just wanted to get back into writing though. I am just going to stick to history related nuggets for better or for worse. Hopefully most of them are worthwhile.

bigdave said...

And the world has lost a potential leader of the nth degree!

bigdave said...

And the world has lost a potential leader of the nth degree!