Oddly enough, it's the time of the year for looking ahead. Not just because it's spring and Nature is replenishing itself in grand style, but because we're nearing the end of another school year, seeing another round of commencements and watching another group of starry-eyed, hopeful young people anticipate their futures.
Over the last few weeks, as part of this never-ending cycle, I've participated - along with a host of others - in Career Days sponsored by various schools.The idea is that students get to hear first-hand from people in all kinds of careers so they are exposed to possibilities. It's a great exercise for the students, but it's probably an even greater one for those of us who represent our careers. We revisit our own choices, describe the requirements, explain what we do - have you tried that lately? - and, as best we can, give an honest picture of real-life work.
Having done this many times over the years, I know one question that will certainly be asked: How much money do you make?
This is perfectly natural. And it does not mean that today's young people are only interested in the material rewards of work. In fact, I've met more of them this year who want to go into teaching than I've seen over several years past. Truth told, we all work for the rewards of work, one of which is indeed money. Work, after all, is about making a living.
It's also about having a life. Work is so much a part of us that the decision about what we do for a living is crucial to our quality of life at every level. Do we like our work? Do we look forward to it? Do we like it enough to enjoy it, even when it isn't fun? Or at least enough to get us to the fun part again? Do we care enough about it to do our best? And then a little more? Is it worth doing? Do we have a sense of accomplishment?
These days, more than ever, no career choice is necessarily made for a lifetime. We're told - given the rapid changes in the workplace, in the marketplace, in technology, in society's needs and demands - that we must prepare for a lifetime of learning.
Recently I witnessed a well-deserved recognition for a 96-year-old gentleman, a scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist still going strong in his laboratory. He reminded us all that he remembered things most of the rest of us couldn't have even had a chance to know: Horse-and-buggy days without electricity or plumbing, the turn of a century, an association with Albert Einstein.
His most important message was this: He still works everyday, because he loves it and because he still has dreams of another scientific breakthrough that will benefit humankind.