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Edward Huang
Edward Huang

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The Mindset Shift that Transform My Long-Term Outlook

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Instead of "How can I do to fit my lifestyle for this job?" ask yourself, "How can this job help me reach my goal?"

It's no secret that we're pushed to the limit. We often feel rushed and overwhelmed, so we keep our heads down and focus on the next thing and the next without having a moment to evaluate if the next opportunity we are striving for leads us to our long-term goal.

As I turned 29 this week, I evaluated my life and considered whether I was a step closer to my long-term vision.

I realized that every opportunity I took has been in "how I can do my job" instead of "How can my job do for me?".

We often tunnel vision on what is in front of us and forget about the reasons for getting into such a career, to begin with.

Can you recall the reason why you chose a major in college? I bet everyone has carefully handpicked and questioned themselves about the "Why" of choosing such a major.

I remember taking at least three personality tests offered in the counseling office and college before I chose a major. I ask myself what I want to do and why I want to do it. I changed majors twice throughout college. I was initially a Chemical Engineer mainly because of my love of chemistry and math. My counselor told me to pursue the major you want to dive deep into and be interested in. Don't worry about the future lifestyle that you would embody from that major because a major isn't an equivalent career.

I dreamed about working in a tech company and one of the tall, big buildings in a city. I was naive to think that choosing any major can lead me to the work environment and job I want.

I realized that opportunities for chemical engineer graduates are mostly in the energy industry, and entering the energy industry requires going to the Midwest.

I recall I had a 1:1 with my chemical engineering professor, asking him if I could work in one of the technology companies as a system engineer, and he said, "The chances are very low. If you want to work at one of the technology companies, you can go attend a master's degree or switch to computer science."

There are 50+ majors in the university, and each major you choose will shape your work environment and lifestyle.

Major is the first important decision that you make in your soon-to-be adult life because your whole life will be shaped by it.

I contemplated whether or not to switch majors to computer science. Computer science was a new field that was about to gain popularity. I started to work backward from the job environment and lifestyle I wanted (big city, skyscraper, diverse demographics) and identified two potential majors: business finance and computer science.

I chose Business finance because I was born into an entrepreneurial family. My mom and dad are entrepreneurs, and I have seen and heard them talk about business and economics since I was ten. Therefore, I subconsciously thought I would eventually follow their path to pursue entrepreneurship.

Computer science was another option. After seeing the number of opportunities and companies that came to our career fair, I realized that this major and this industry will take over other more popular fields and majors, such as pre-med or physics. Furthermore, the fact that my chemical engineering professor mentioned computer science was another hint that it matches the criteria for my desired future work environment and lifestyle.

I discussed this with my dad over the phone. He was in China doing business during that time. His first question is, "What do you envision in your work environment?"

"I hope to work at a company in the big city."

"When you attended the career fair earlier, what are the majority of the companies that come to recruit talent?"

"Technology Companies, such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook."

It was 2014 when the technology company was popular, but it wasn't obvious that it would disrupt all industries.

"Okay, "my dad said, "You should choose Computer Science because this new field will grow exponentially. You will have the desired lifestyle, and you will have many more opportunities than majoring in business. You can always learn business outside the university."

The next day, I went to the counselor's office and switched my major to Computer Science; the rest was history.

I wasn't aware I was trying to fit my career into my lifestyle instead of vice versa. I remember vividly that Chemical engineer was stable and had a clear career roadmap. Working in the energy industry, such as petroleum, was one of the fields that paid the most. Yet, I chose to work at a tech company because that job description fit my desired lifestyle during that time.

Being oblivious to the reason for the decisions' has portended adjusting my lifestyle to fit the job. For instance, I focused immensely on getting the first internship and said yes to anything offered. I went for an internship at IBM in Poughkeepsie, Upstate New York. It was in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't having the same experience as other friends who interned in the Bay Area. However, I prioritized to make my lifestyle fit into that position. That experience was enlightening, and I valued every person I met in Poughkeepsie.

As I grew older, I realized I kept pushing back on the ideal lifestyle and accentuating my career progression.

Too often, we focus too much on what is in front of us, and the road we paved has diverged from our vision. You don't realize that you have changed your lifestyle to fit your career until you look back and think, "How did my life go in the other direction than I was intended to?"

When you flip the question to How does this job help me achieve X goals? You always put your vision first and your job second.

There are a couple of benefits to this way of thinking.

You Isolate Your Identity from The Job

A lot of us have identified ourselves to our occupation.

After all, one of the first questions that you tend to exchange conversation with new acquaintances is, "What do you do?"

Seeing a person's profession as a defining detail of who they are feels natural. It can be a clue to their values, interests, or background. Nonetheless, many of us have tied our self-worth to our job.

And this has caused nefarious in our mental health. Any success or failure you experience in your job will directly affect your self-worth.

A couple of months ago, thousands of tech workers became lost in their identity crisis due to big tech layoffs. Yet, your job is less likely to be lifelong.

Thinking of a job as a mechanism to reach your goal will divorce your identity from your job.

You started to evaluate what's essential and what you can gain from this job.

You no longer get upset when passed on for this promotion cycle.

You no longer feel dissatisfied when you don't find yourself in the perfect job.

You Take the Steering Wheel of Your Career

Just like multiple income streams, you can have multiple careers in your life.

You start to prioritize what lifestyle and accomplishment you want to acquire within the next 5 to 10 years and work backward to find the job to reach that lifestyle.

For instance, if you are a software engineer who eventually wants to start a consulting business, you can strategize by prioritizing technical skills in the first 3 - 5 years of your career and find a more client-facing role.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You must trust your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down and has made all the difference in my life." - Steve Jobs.

Don't get too hung up on the job title. Focus on acquiring the skillset that equipped you to reach your desired lifestyle and gain an unfair advantage.

You Think More Long Term

Everyone knows that long-term thinking is critical to future success. However, acquiring a long-term thinking strategy is profoundly difficult.

One reason is that we are wired in our lives to think short-term.

For instance, we are wired to learn to get good grades at school. Although learning new knowledge, such as Math, should be a life-long journey, many students will cramp everything before the finals and forget everything the following year.

Many cultures in our corporate structure operate on a shorter timeframe than they do. For example, corporate culture rewards those projects and individuals who can instantly create short-term wins. Therefore, the Product will prioritize launching a feature that will boost customer engagement quickly to get an instant win. In doing so, they told the engineer to build that feature with a ridiculous timeline. Engineers build the feature with lots of tech debt to accommodate the timeline. That feature received good feedback on its initial launch, which led to the promotion of the individual working on the projects. Consequently, other teams began to operate in a similar fashion where they wanted to get instant gratification.

Short-term thinking is also glorified in the investment industry, where people who can win quickly are honored. For instance, a lot of investment happened in cryptocurrency a couple of years ago because people are in love with the get-rich-quick scheme instead of the long-term wealth.

"If you want to be successful tomorrow, it's impossible. If you want to be successful a year later, it's impossible. But if you want to win ten years later, you have a chance." - Jack Ma.

Working backward from your vision helps you take a moment to breathe and make the necessary strategy for long-term growth. We need to orient ourselves to see the big picture to gain that superpower of unfair advantages.


Your reflections on how to approach your career and lifestyle choices offer valuable insights into making more intentional and fulfilling decisions. By shifting your perspective from "how can I fit my lifestyle into this job" to "how can this job help me reach my goals," you gain several important benefits:

  1. Identity Separation: Detaching your self-worth from your job title can significantly improve your mental health. You become more resilient to setbacks and job-related stress when you view your job as a means to achieve your goals rather than your entire identity.

  2. Career Flexibility: Recognizing that you can have multiple careers in your lifetime allows you to prioritize your desired lifestyle and accomplishments. You can strategically develop skills and experiences that align with your long-term vision, making transitioning into new roles or industries easier.

  3. Long-Term Thinking: Embracing a long-term perspective is challenging in prioritizing short-term gains. However, by reverse-engineering your path from your ultimate vision, you can make more thoughtful decisions and avoid getting caught up in instant gratification.

Overall, this shift in mindset empowers you to take control of your career and lifestyle choices, leading to a more purposeful and fulfilling life. It encourages you to focus on acquiring the skills and experiences that will enable you to reach your desired lifestyle and gain a competitive edge in your chosen field. By orienting yourself toward your long-term goals, you can navigate your career with intention and adapt to the ever-changing work landscape.

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