When people ask me about what do I want to do “when I grow up”, where my career is headed, or what do I want to achieve, it surprises me that I cannot answer these questions to their – or even my own – satisfaction. It’s not that I don’t have a direction, just that maybe I don’t have a goal that is as clear as the Sun on the sky, I didn’t lay out goalposts 5-10-20 years in the future that I want to reach.

Slide image from Ignite Taipei 3

Fair question, cc-by Chia-da Hsu

On the other hand, I have no problem telling them about the projects I’m working on, and indeed, these days there are more and more things to tell. I can tell them how with a few friends we got Ignite Taipei going last year, an event that became such a melting pot of creativity and connections between different ideas and people.

I can tell them how I was hungry for more chatting, once without holding back on the detailed discussion about tech, so booked a restaurant to have a Geek Dinner, which was a full house and going to do it again soon.

Or I can tell them about putting up a global movie festival, Future Shorts, just next week, mainly because I wanted to see those movies and I know a lot of my friends would be interested as well (and maybe some others as well).

Maybe would even tell them about the art exhibition, the photowalk, the cafe interviews I’m planning in the future….

Of course some people just asked me in return, how do you have so much time? Others, so how about your daytime work? These really puzzled me. I’m a scientific researcher at the top research institute in Taiwan, why do I can’t stop spending my time and effort on these many other things?

For many people this might not be a new thing, for me it certainly was a revelation: a person is not just one job – instead everything that he or she does is the person. Maybe the right question is to ask is what do all these side projects mean? In the day job one often does not have too many different choices, but in their side projects their interest shine as clear as nowhere else. That’s where I can make choices completely free, and pursue those ones that come naturally. The key to where I’m headed is most likely hidden within those projects, and if anything, I should be doing more of them not less. What I start will guide me to actually understand: what is it that I have started? And that’s something that I can finally build on.

I guess from now on if I ever see someone bored, or killing time waiting for something to happen to their lives, I will try to get them to start something. Start anything. They will know afterwards much better what were they waiting for.
And if you have a side project, I’d love to see and hear about it.

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