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Thread: I was going to change the world

  1. #1

    Default I was going to change the world

    What follows is a career related entry in my journal:

    I was going to change the world.

    “Change the world.” When I was 8, I knew what that meant. It was, to me, to be like Einstein or Edison. Those were my two examples...and I was going to be like one of them.

    As I grew older, I started to find a lot more examples:George Washington Carver, Buckminster Fuller, Gordon Moore, Richard Feynman, Max Born, James Watson, Francis Crick, and many many others. The list of examples grew to too big to ever list out manually,and included people from fields far different form my original list of Einstein, and Edison. It included people like Gandhi, Socrates, Aristotle, Jean Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Paine, and many others.

    This plethora of examples only served to encourage me. It seemed like anyone from any walk of life could become greatly influential in the world. I thought, “well, if so many others have done it, why couldn't I.”

    What was even more encouraging was the amazing number of people in my chosen field (computing, chosen at age15) who had been making great contributions...Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Wall, James Gosling, and that young upstart Linus Torvalds. Linus was especially encouraging because all he had done was to write an operating system at age 22, and I knew someone personally who did it at age 15 (my future roommate), and he wasn't THAT much more capable than me.

    So what happened?

    Life? The real world?...well I suppose I can summarize what actually happened.

    I got an internship and finally a job at a Fortune 500 company and saw it as a platform for great things. Even in the orientation to the company, we were told to “do something wonderful.” (I am paraphrasing). I worked incredibly hard the first 4 or 5 years I was there. I wanted to learn everything that I could, and thought that eventually I would be eventually be inventing great products that would go to market and have a shot at changing the world.

    The last couple years of hard work were rather forced from my perspective. I had become increasingly disillusioned. This company doesn't want innovation, it left no time for that. It had no avenues for that. No lowly engineer with only a B.Sc. and 5 years experience was ever going to get a shot at a product idea. Even if there was a shot, the lowly engineer would be left to fend for himself in all the areas he was not good at:recruitment, marketing, other technical areas, etc. The innovation was left only to the business types...and they are not known for innovation.

    So now, here I am. Lost. I have little idea what it means to me to change the world, and even less of an idea of how I would do it. I am floundering. Not wastefully floundering... I have gotten a M.Sc., and have change roles in my group, started searching for new opportunities, and am going back to school to hopefully get a 3rd B.Sc., to platform into a Ph.D. program. Nevertheless, that passion, that the vision of “changing the world” gave me is almost gone...and nothing else has taken its place.

    Anyone have a similar story they could share?
    Anyone have a very different story they could share?

    I think it would be interesting to collect peoples career arcs (so far). We could collect stories of disillusionment and hope regarding peoples careers. I think we can all learn from them.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #2
    Welcome to Sunnyside Array Mondo's Avatar
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    Mar 2008


    I've wanted to be a super inventor or profound writer ever since I was a little kid- now I'm planning to get my CPA license or to go to law school instead.
    This may be surprising from an ENTP- but being a CPA seems more appealing to me right now than being a corporate lawyer.

    In college, it just turned out that my math classes were more interesting than engineering classes too..
    MBTI Type: iNTj
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  3. #3


    If I was going to sum up my career it would be that I'd always believed that I could do anything, but I've never found anything that I wanted to do.

    As a child I never dreamed of becoming anything when I grew up, and I never had any heroes that I really aspired to be like. The closest thing I have to something like this is in third grade. Each student was asked if they would be President one day. I was the only student in the class that checked the box, "Yes I will be President one day." However I didn't really want to be President, as much as I thought I could get elected if I tried.

    I've always been interested in a wide variety of subjects. Coming out of high school Physics was what I was most interested in the time, but since they didn't have a Physics program at the university I went to I majored in Math instead. Later I transferred to another university that had a sucky Physics program, so I stuck with Math and got a BA in that.

    Let me just pause right here and say that it wasn't a big deal for me to choose Math over Physics, because I find them both interesting and I never really wanted to be anything when I grew up anyway. Actually it would be more accurate to say that I never wanted to grow up at all. I remember seeing people skipping grades in high school or rushing through college, and I would think, "Sure I could do that, but why? Have you people seen what adults do on a typical weekday? Why would anyone rush to do such a thing?"
    I guess you could say that I was disillusioned with my career long before it ever started.

    Anyway once I got my BA I had no career in mind, so I went to grad school instead because I had really liked school so far. I planned on getting a PhD which meant I would basically stay in school my whole life. However, it turned out that I really didn't like grad school for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason though was that I hate just focusing on one subject at a time (in this case Math). I'm at my happiest when I'm learning several different kinds of things at once (which would describe my undergrad experience). So once I actually got into grad school a PhD didn't seem appealing at all. I got my MS and got out.

    After that I still didn't know what type of job I wanted. I taught at a university for several years, and now I'm working as an actuary. I don't particularly like either job, but I know there are plenty of other jobs out there I would dislike even more. My plan at this point is to try and retire early (or possibly semi-retire). After that I might start a business. I actually have a lot of business ideas, but the hard part is finding one that will hold my enthusiasm.

    You see, I am capable of doing anything I want. I just don't want to do anything.
    My wife and I made a game to teach kids about nutrition. Please try our game and vote for us to win. (Voting period: July 14 - August 14)

  4. #4
    HAHHAHHAH! Array INTJ123's Avatar
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    Jun 2009


    you are an employee, you are working for others and their interests, not yours, if their interests don't involve changing the world(at least the way you envisioned it), then that's too bad for you, either try to find somewhere to work that shares your vision, or do it yourself. This is a work life balance issue I guess.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Array Scott N Denver's Avatar
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    Apr 2009


    Well, I don't know about "changing the world" per se, but I feel like some of the work I did definitely contributed to very important things, and other work contributed but not as much as I thought.

    If we are reminiscing about college and learning, I'll say I went in for math woith the possibility of math/physics double. Ended up with the double, had a tough time with analysis [intermediate and real], topology scared the crap out of me, and I went on for grad school in physics instead of math. Got the MS, came kinda close to the PhD. Wasn't what I hoped for/wanted it to be. Should have gone for EE, Mat Sci, or applied mathematics.

    So what degrees do posters here have, and in what majors/areas?

    I will say, the work I do and did I do feel "impacts the bigger world", or if you prefer "changes the world" [too a small extent]. However, I feel like social interactions have more impact than my work or at least can....

  6. #6
    Senior Member Array Kangol's Avatar
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    May 2009


    I have some relevant beliefs to the topic:

    1) Those who go down in history, in general, are lucky, skillful, and tenacious. A lot of people tend to dismiss their apparent failures to a lack of luck, thinking "If only I were at the right place at the right time", but there is truth the notion that luck favors the prepared mind. Optimizing one's situations for opportune moments, and, once attained, taking advantage of those moments, is the age-old paradigm for success.

    2) Many people we recognize as great figures of influence in history did not receive such recognition in their lifetime. Still, they achieved great things, and so one ought to believe in their own potential to meet such great heights even if they may not see it.

    3) There is no age at which people achieve great success.

    4) The only failures recognized scientifically are when protocols are not conducted properly and erroneous conclusions are made. Therefore, the prudent scientist works diligently, thinks critically, and when one question is answered, will move onto the next.

  7. #7
    Protocol Droid Array Athenian200's Avatar
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    Jul 2007


    You remind me of myself, except with A LOT more fire and ambition.

    I've always had a vision for how I wanted the world to be as well... but the difference is, I never had the energy to even try. You tried, and the world only drained you until you were as tired as I already am instinctively, as if I already realized the futility you just described on some level (I even said to a teacher when I was 7, "it seems that [bureaucracy] makes people do things that don't work very well.") Depressing, on one hand.

    On the other... perhaps you were aiming in the wrong place. It seems that your new work as a teacher might help this in more ways than your previous work, which was really more about accomplishing things than impacting the world.

    If even one more kid passes the class or develops a greater interest in a subject because they had a competent teacher rather than a lousy one... you will have changed the world, if only on a minor scale. See, that's the thing I accepted a while back... it's almost impossible to change the whole world with a single innovation, but there are two things you can do. You can try to improve the life of one person at a time, and you can improve yourself. You may not change the world, but you'll influence it in the direction you'd like it to go.

    And just think... for all the people who are renowned for their contributions, how many nameless people's smaller inventions and contributions do we probably depend on everyday? Does a failure to be recognized make the work any less meaningful?

  8. #8
    Junior Member Array Novascientia's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    “At a 1914 dinner Gates declared, ‘Who has not felt the throbbing desire to be useful to the whole wide world? The discoveries of this institute have already reached the depths of Africa with their healing ministrations….You announce a discovery here. Before night your discovery will be flashed around the world. In 30 days it will be in every medical college on earth.’ "

    ~From The Great Influenza, which is the summer reading for my AP Language class.

    I can relate to the drive to "change the world". It's why I know I want to go into science. Because I want to change the world, but not be known for it.

    Just reading through that book (which is more about the history of science than anything), I found so many names of scientists who I never had heard of...but who had done great things, and saved many people's lives.

  9. #9
    it's tea time! Array Walking Tourist's Avatar
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    Nov 2008


    I have never wanted to change the world. I have always felt that was too big of a job for one little person. But I went into journalism because I wanted to tell the stories of other people who did feel compelled to change the world.
    Unfortunately, due to years of newspapers closing and other economic issues, I have not even been very successful at narrating the world being changed.
    In the process of trying to narrate other people's attempts to change the world, I discovered that I was a participant in the world and not just an observer with a camera and a notepad. I learned that, if the world was to be changed for the better, rather than just changed (which could involve deterioration, rather than improvement), I had to change myself first. If I wanted peace in the world, then I had to learn how to live nonviolence. I learned that change comes from within and that all of us, whether we are journalists or teachers or artists or scientists, can effect change in the world if we approach it with a spirit of nonviolence.
    I'm a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle and here is my spout. Every time I steam up, I give a shout. Just tip me over and pour me out.

  10. #10
    Permabanned Array
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    May 2007
    5w6 sp/sx


    i had dreams of being a hollywood film director as a kid. i've always loved movies, but then my family sorta discouraged me, citing that it was an unrealistic and fruitless dream.

    i also had dreams of being a roller coaster designer or amusement park engineer, but unfortunately, my math skills never pared with my teeming imagination.

    with all of my misfortunes from dreaming big, i figured it's best that i simply try to settle by making a difference in the lives of others. so maybe i'll become a mass-murderer.

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