Thumb b Bruno Bušić Friday, August 28, 2015

Mythical beings are hard to catch, being imaginary and all. However, in contrast to what we've been told, fulfilling and engaging workplace is not. Not today at least. I'll guide you through the history of "work", how it evolved and how can YOU evolve with it.

"I know kung fu..."

... after 10 seconds of uploading the said skill using a USB port is something you can only see in movies (for now). You and I have to work hard on our skills, daily. But that's just the thing, if you found something you truly enjoy doing, you don't want a shortcut, you want to do it. And that's all it takes, isn't it? We can all immediately think of people we know that are passionate about whatever they do, and they are doing it damn good, for sure.

We are faced with two problems here. First one is not being aware how things work around you. People are being told how to think and what to do, how things work, but we live in an ever-changing world. Someone from yesterday can't tell you what to do tomorrow, tomorrow is unpredictable. What you can do is get as much knowledge about the world and about yourself, and make a choice that is best for you. That brings us to the second problem.

What is your passion? A lot of people don't know the answer, and you reading this probably don't know for sure either. Nobody encouraged you to search for one, you just went through the education system like through an assembly line with nothing of value to you being assembled. The key is to dive into anything, as many times as you can. I was not very fond of most of my high school subjects and chose the college based on what seemed furthest away from what definitely did not interest me. But everything changed. It's hard not to be exposed to many awesome things in this digital world, and so MOOCs reignited my curiosity about biology, genetics, astronomy, programming... And I started learning again. And I got good at it. And I've found my passion. 

Cursed is the ground because of you

Let's back up. To tackle the first problem, we need to know how work came about and how it evolved. In the days of the old, we thought of work explicitly as a way of receiving money. Nowadays we don't only require money, but a good working environment as well. We want to be challenged, engaged, and to find meaning in what we do. It's surprising considering the first mentions of work are described in the holy books as gods punishment inflicted upon us. Later on, Aristotle helped society a bit with public schools, but they were made for exclusively rich people, and the rest (of us) are still unable to get any education and are slaves to work. St. Augusting brings back the original sin punishment idea - work is miserable, although society up until then didn't get very far from it, really.

Renaissance jumpstarts the era where famous painters, sculptors and architects did something unimaginable by then, and they did it, ironically, through Church. It was a birth of your own skills having value and being able to "sell" them to the highest bidder. And a lot of money it was for the renaissance ninja turtles, but what's more important - they did it because it was fulfilling for them. Their works would be glorified. Martin Luther takes the cake with a proposal that all work is sacred to (catholic) god, and some mundane low-level jobs might be more in favor of him then workings of the Church. "God" gave each of us a set of skills to help each other out. Love thy neighbor.

This is important because a lot of people believed and still believe in the "divine". Religious books and church rules are important guidelines in their lives. If you're a scientist, it's the truth equivalent of a published and heavily reviewed paper on, for example, positive effects of body exercise.

Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert give birth to "Encyclopédie" which gives amazing width and detail on different work branches. A century later Karl Marx published Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Capitalism is attacked because work is boring and meaningless. Communism is not trying to get rid of work, but to make it more enjoyable.

Lifting the curse

A big shift happens, rich people are not portrayed anymore by just -being- rich, but with hard work behind it. It started to be embarrassing to slack. Society is suddenly trying to match workplaces with specific types of people these workplaces "belong" to. It's about this time Mayer-Briggs test appeared. Check out this Apple commercial, too. But it's not all so dandy, things are still in transition. It's still very common to have no work at all or having a job nobody wants to do.

What's important to know here is that we have little control over these things, being passive and not working on yourself because education system sucks or salaries are not high enough is plain stupid. Crossing the border will not help you either, no sasquatches there.

We live in exciting and exponential times, great things are happening. It is now more than ever that people are able to create their own destiny. Simply understanding and accepting this is a huge step forward, it will solve the first problem - it will open you up to the possibilities. The following will solve the second one!

1. Nosce te ipsum

As the saying goes, get to know yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Take a piece of paper (a whole pack of them even) and write down everything you know how to do, you wish to learn, your hobbies, anything you remember doing with ease, anything you made with your own hands, etc. Never mind what is financially sensible and what is not - write it all down. Now remove the clutter. You're left with the elite, your army of unique skills that you know how to do and enjoy doing. For the lot of you that think that this is obvious to do and silly to even mention - people on average don't do it at all. They go for the career their parents chose for them, a college their friends chose for themselves, jobs that will give them highest probability of employment or highest salary. Know yourself and choose something for yourself.


This is how Bamboo Lab started - a couple of friends came together, wrote down everything they knew and loved to do, talked about it, drank some beer, and formed the core idea. Bamboo was born, and our dream careers along with it. You will always end up with what you want if you shape it yourself. 

2. Take your time

If it takes you your whole young life to find someone to stay with for the rest of it, it's not weird at all to spend a couple of years figuring out your career. You wouldn't just pick a house from the newspapers and buy it, would you? You would like to see it first, walk through the rooms, sense the vibe. It's a big decision after all, and so is a career. Before the industrial revolution, there were about two thousand trades you could pick and choose from. But today there are half a million of different options. It's perfectly understandable to be stressed out choosing your lifetime career. The paradox of choice is a common enemy.


As I said, I was a late knowledge bloomer, never knowing what I'm interested in. It was a couple of years into the college that I started to get into all the things that I successfully bypassed up until then. There was one key event during my college, and that has to be joining a student organization. A whole world opened up for me, quite literally, I spent the next three summers abroad doing traineeships in Norway, Belgium, and Poland. This shaped me in ways I can't even start to explain.


3. Try, try, try

You don't know what you love and what you're good at until you try it hands on. Use up your time during high school and college to explore. You will never have as much free time on your hands. Join a student organization, volunteer, be an intern. It's amazing how uninformed the students are about their options during college. A lot of companies offer internship positions for students; they always need young perspective people, and there is no better way of saying "I'm the one you're looking for." than applying for it.

There are plenty of student organizations through which you can acquire soft skills you would not be exposed to normally. You might even start to be found of accounting or organizing events, even if you are studying something completely different. There is nothing stopping you switching to something else. At least you are aware of it.


There is not a better practical suggestion from me than to learn from the best schools and teachers you possibly can. Everything is out there, you only need access to the Internet. Missing some computer science knowledge? Check out Stanford online lectures. Want to develop some web apps? There's CodeSchool or Codecademy for you. Interested in space, biology, management, psychology... Art of Medieval Europe? Try it out on Coursera or Khan Academy, and on many many more.

As mentioned, joining a student organization can boost you up immensely. Try IAESTE, AIESEC, Erasmus programs, IEEE...

Everybody is extraordinary

We had two problems needing solution. First one being "Can I do it?", and the second one "How do I do it?". Information age took care of both answers. There are now more possibilities and ways of success than ever before, we are increasingly interconnected and new workplaces keep branching out all the time. Make your own workplace if you will! Knowledge is under your fingers, all of the facts on pretty much everything are in your pocket. Use them well.

Amazing career is not something you have to deserve or something that is reserved for the extraordinary. Everybody is extraordinary. All you have to do is stay curious, find your passion, and go for it full speed. You don't need permission, just guts. You will find out that sasquatch is nothing more but a little kitten. 

"The greatest satisfaction you can obtain from life is your pleasure in producing, in your own individual way, something of value to your fellowmen. That is creative living!

When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob?

For you, life can be a succession of glorious adventures. Or it can be a monotonous bore.

Take your choice!"

- Neil Gaiman

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