We all want to be many different things in our lives. And we become many different things during our lives. I’ve come to believe that there are three things we must be in life. And this essay’s about that.
As a third-grader I wanted to be a paleontologist so I could dig up dinosaur fossils. As a 12 year-old I wanted to become a marine biologist so I could study up-close the whales I watched from the cliffs of my hometown. As a teenager I wanted to become an engineer so I could turn mathematical equations and drawings into buildings. And as a young adult I wanted to become a historian so I could better understand humankind’s behaviour on this planet.
In short, I’ve wanted to be a scientist, a philosopher, and an engineer at different times in my life.
I don’t have a Career in any of those fields. I stopped pursuing a Career through the Academic Bubble World six years ago. My day job’s a good ways removed from any of those fields, and that’s OK. I work in warehousing because six years ago I decided I wanted to be happy.
Leaving the Academic Bubble World and Career pursuit behind has taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve learned that I don’t need a university degree to be the things that I want to be. I’ve learned that I can become smarter, wiser, and more skilled while pursuing my interests free of classrooms and textbooks.
More importantly, I find myself applying the principles of science, philosophy, and engineering to an even greater subject. I find myself consciously experimenting with different practices and habits in an effort to become a more proper human. I find myself consciously pondering and seeking a deeper significance in existence. And I find myself consciously designing a world that I want to live in.
I find myself becoming the scientist, philosopher, and engineer of my life.
Scientists, philosophers, and engineers share many traits. But let’s examine what each of them does in the general sense, first.
A scientist studies the natural world. Adhering to a method aimed at promoting objectivity and preventing personal bias, they examine naturally-occurring phenomena through a combination of experimentation and observation. Through their study of the natural world, a scientist strives to make discoveries that improve technologies aimed at improving everyday human existence. Scientists strive to better understand the natural world so as to make our existence in that natural world better.
A philosopher ponders the human world. They examine the moral, ethical, and practical challenges of human existence through a combination of observation, contemplation, and reflection. Through their study of human conduct, a philosopher strives to identify systems, values, and practices that people can use to more successfully grapple with the challenges of everyday life. Philosophers strive to better understand the human world so as to make our everyday conduct in that human world better.
An engineer creates physical structures to exist within the natural world. Adhering to a process aimed at promoting functionality and safety, they design structures and oversee their physical construction. Through their design work, engineers strive to create physical spaces in which people can conduct their everyday business with greater safety and ease. Engineers strive to provide functional and practical solutions for living a human life in both a human and natural world.
In a general sense, scientists, philosophers, and engineers do very different things in very different ways. Yet science, philosophy, and engineering are not islands of expertise isolated from one another by swirling seas of information and activity. There is significant overlap between those three disciplines.
Science, philosophy, and engineering are founded upon principles of exploration, mindfulness, and proactivity. Those three disciplines are fuelled by curiosity, imagination, and desire. They’re defined by questioning, thinking, and doing.
The scientist, philosopher, and engineer looks for solutions to specific problems and unanswered questions. They wonder what causes a thing to be, a phenomenon to emerge, and certain circumstances to present certain challenges. They know that a question is the ideal starting point. After all, discovery always follows the question mark.
The scientist, philosopher, and engineer uses experimentation and imagination to find logical answers and design practical solutions to those questions and problems. They test different methods, ideas, and materials. They fine-tune their approaches through observation and reflection. They accept that problem-solving often involves being wrong more often than they’re right. They understand that finding solutions to a problem requires persistence, patience, and an open mind.
Now you may be asking yourself, ‘So what? What do science, philosophy, and engineering really have to do with me?’
Those three things have a direct relevance in our everyday lives. Scientists, philosophers, and engineers experiment, ponder, and observe phenomena in order to design, adapt, and apply practical solutions to the challenges and mysteries of everyday life. And yet, we also struggle with that heavy work every day. And, though we often don’t realize it, we grapple with those challenges and mysteries using many of the same tools employed by scientists, philosophers, and engineers.
We all confront problems with questions. We wonder how we can be better at our jobs, how we can get in better shape, and how we can build better relationships with other people. We all harbour a desire to improve our place in this world.
We all test different methods. We try different techniques for improving our work performance, for becoming healthier through exercise and eating, and being more cooperative and kinder with others. We all take imperfect action in our efforts to improve ourselves.
We all make observations and fine-tune our methods. We’re on the lookout for what helps us work more productively, feel and look better, and become a person who others want to connect with. We all design solutions that work for us through trial and error.
Scientists, philosophers, and engineers do the same things. So while you may not work in a lab, a book-filled office, or at a drafting table, you’re taking tools from the same toolbox that they use.
And you don’t need a PhD in science, philosophy, or engineering to use the tools available in that toolbox. You can be the scientist, philosopher, and engineer of your own life without quitting your day job.
All you need to do is look at your life in a slightly different way.
All you need to do is look at your life in a slightly different way.
You are your own experiment. You are your own mystery. And you are your own development project. Your life is yours to test, ponder, and design as you see fit. It’s your responsibility to take actions that make it work for you. Nobody else can do that. You have to.
You have no choice. Life doesn’t take breaks. Nor can you, most of the time. But I’ll say more on the discipline of taking breaks in #76. And no, I haven’t lost count. #75 is pegged for another subject. And that’s happening for a reason.
In addition to never taking breaks, your life is always changing. It requires constant attention, adaptation, and work. New questions will always emerge. New mysteries will always appear. New solutions will always need designing. Finding yourself is the job that lasts a lifetime.
You will never fully know you. You will never perfect you. You will never create a perfect world for you. And that’s OK. You can still strive to know yourself better. You can still strive to make yourself better. And you can still strive to create a better world for yourself.
Be the scientist, philosopher, and engineer of your own life. Because curiosity inspires thinking and imagination. And thinking and imagining inspire doing and creating. And when you’re doing and creating you’re living life in its purest form.
You must live this way as often as you can. For life is a war against death, and to live is to fight that battle daily. And life is a war you can never hope to win, for nothing can save you from death in the end. And though you’ll never win that war, being three things can help you win many battles along the way.
For there’s always victory to be had in that long defeat.