We spend 12 to 16 years of our lives learning without any sense of what the reality when we finally get to acting will be like. We create an expectation that people will be able to plan their lives, and somehow know what they want to do before they have tried doing it.
This structure doesn’t work. Without the context of real things you have tried to do, there is no frame to hang all of the facts of learning.
Act first, as the basis for everything. As you push on the universe, it will push back, and from that pushing back you can then learn. From those learnings you can plan another action, but until you have encountered reality you cannot really plan for it. Does it hurt when the universe pushes back? Of course! But those are truly growing pains.
If you want to learn something, don’t study it, go out and try to do it. Think you want to become a web developer? Build a website. Not sure if you want to? Build a website. By the end you’ll have a pretty good idea if you want to become a web developer or not.
Now that you’ve spent some time pushing against the universe, you’ll be bruised. You’ll have experienced failure. You’ll have an intuitive sense for what is easy, what is hard, and where you need to learn. Good. Now learn! Reflect! Ask questions! To say that acting is first does not mean that time spent learning is useless, now that you have the framework of experience to hang things on, your learning will be doubly valuable.
With the context of failure and the perspective of learning, now you have some chance of planning. You may look at your experience and say, ‘That was great, I want more!’, or ‘That was terrible, I need to try something else’, but regardless you now will be able to base your planning on something real rather than the dream of what might be.
Your first time, you may still not be able to plan very far ahead. You may be able to say “Yes, I want more of that, I need to look at what a career path looks like and get myself into the right job or courses”. Or you may just be able to say “Not that! Something new, what else calls me?”. Whatever it is, plan as far as your vision can take you but don’t obsess, it is time to jump back into action.
Every time you go through this loop, your vision will extend a little further. Your sight will start to go out beyond the next road and the long term goal will become a little clearer.
But please, lets stop this idea that college (or high school for that matter) students should be able to predict their future paths up to retirement. And lets stop the idea that you need to plan out all of your next steps before you can take them. You cannot steer a ship unless it is moving, you cannot predict your life without living it, and you won’t know what the universe is like until you try to put a dent in it and feel the pain of it pushing back.