After you ask a person their name, what’s the second question you usually ask?
If you’re in college, it’s “What is your major?” If you’re out of college, it’s “What do you do for work?”
It’s a nice segway into what will hopefully be an interesting conversation … but is it really?
Insight / Lesson #5: Your Major/Job is Not Who You Are
At many colleges, it is required that you take a few semesters of one foreign language. My university is no exception.
Nearing the end of my first full year back in college, I’ve already met many interesting people in my classes and on-campus, especially in my Japanese classes.
While I haven’t met anyone else that is majoring in Japanese like I am, I have met people majoring in Bioengineering, Psychology, Biomechanics … and even more subjects that make my head spin.
Whenever I ask someone what their major is, they blurt it out like a fact they memorized for a test. No emotion. No excitement. Just regurgitation.
OK … so when I ask them why they decided to take Japanese for their foreign language requirement, their tone completely changes.
They talk about a trip to Japan they took as a kid that they still remember; or the Japanese food they love to cook; or the anime that changed their life; or the beautiful sound of the language itself; or the fact that they are half Japanese but can’t read or write the language … the list goes on.
It seems like a logical default to ask someone about the thing that takes up the majority of their time and focus.
What’s your major? What do you do for work?
But how many people have you met that don’t like their job? Or are majoring in a subject because their family wants them to? Or simply picked that major or that job just so they would have something to focus on?
Even entrepreneurs tend to have more than one thing going on at any given time. Maybe they have 2 different businesses in development at once. Or they work a full-time job to keep the bills paid while they slowly grow the business that makes them excited to wake up in the morning.
For many of us, what we spend the MOST time doing is NOT what we want our life to be about.
Our most excitement-inducing passions are often sequestered in the space in our calendar that has nothing to do with directly making money or providing for someone else.
We do it for us. We do it for our curiosity. We do it to keep from suffocating under the pressure of the modern world.
So when I meet someone new, I no longer ask them what their major is or what they do for work.
What do I ask instead?
Why did you take this class? (or, if they aren’t in school with me) What are you most excited about right now?
I’m not sure about you, but the things that excite me the most are NOT things that I make money from.
Maybe that is WHY I enjoy them – no pressure to perform, or live up to a standard that is “worthy” of payment.
You do not have to be defined by how you make money or what the majority of your degree is about.
Some people will try to lump you into a category because it is easier for them – don’t worry about them; you don’t need people like that in your life.
Ask other people about what excites them and watch them light up, often talking about a subject you never imagined they would be interested in.
That is how we get to know each other. That is how we truly connect. That is how we lighten up the suffocating pressure of our modern world – together.