Photo of a lightbulb

This past week, I have been attending the Design It; Build it conference here in Edinburgh. At the end of the first day, Christopher Murphy gave a super inspiring talk about taking calculated risks when starting your own business or pursuing a personal project.

To show us that he knows what he's talking about, he threw up a slide showing a sampling of projects that he has done over the years. He then quickly talked us through 12 small projects he has done. Not every one of these projects turned into a long-term commitment, but each of them was successful. (Incidentally, he also has a new book out called Start! on this very subject. I have a copy. Also he put up with me cornering him later and asking him lots of half-baked questions, so kudos.)

I went home that night full of enthusiasm for pursuing my dreams. The problem was that I had no clue what those dreams were. I was so motivated, but what was it that I actually wanted to do?

The next day, I was discussing this problem with my colleague. Suddenly, a giant lightbulb went off above my head. I remembered the slide that Christopher had showed us.

12 projects.
Not one.

All this time I had been thinking about as having to find that one thing that I was really passionate about. In this, I think I had been influenced by other people I know (including some pretty amazing members of my own family) who had found that one thing and pursued it successfully. But for me, maybe that idea of having "one true calling" just didn't exist.

Weirdly, I already knew that this was true when applied to other areas of my life such as relationships. I don't believe in the idea promoted by fairy tales and pre-teen romances where you fall in love with someone at first sight, get married, and then live happily ever after. I'm pretty sure that the idea of having a "one true love" is a myth. And yet, I somehow expected that this process would happen to me in my professional life.

Instead, maybe a better way of thinking about it is just to do whatever I felt passionate about in that moment. As they say on the betting shops: When the fun stops, stop. Despite the possible dubiousness of basing life decisions on an anti-gambling slogan, I actually think this is an excellent model for thinking about your career. Give your idea a chance, and if it doesn't work out, move on to something else. At least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn't let it pass you by.

tl;dr - After experiencing a life changing moment, I finally got off my ass and created a website for myself.

Update: in a previous version of this post, I misremembered details of the projects Christopher showed us. I've now corrected this information.

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