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Finding the “growth job” that comes before your “dream job”

“Just think what a wonderful job this would be for me!  I’ll be mad with joy if something should come of that.”

-Albert Einstein, on the opportunity to become a patent clerk

Your spirit is like a battery. Taking adderall is like plugging that battery into a dirty power source. Now that you’ve quit and unplugged yourself from that false power, you’re facing the reality of what a dead battery feels like for the first time in a long while (since you started taking Adderall) and starting to notice that your battery can only be charged by actual progress and passion, which is much harder to come by.

Nothing drains your spritual battery faster than a miserable day job, and chances are that the job that you attained and prospered at on Adderall is now pretty miserable to you.

But it can be hard at first to know where to go next. You’ve only just begun to rediscover your natural passions.

Most self-improvement gurus tell you that your goal should be to find that dream job, where every day is filled with your natural passion and you’re making money doing something you love to do. But that’s easier said than done. Dream jobs take lots of time, effort, and happy accidents to acheive. They can take decades to fully realize. You can’t just quit the job you have right now and start working at your dream job tomorrow.

But there is another type of day job; one that will act as a stepping-stone to your dreams, and will provide you with an environment that nourishes your growth as a person rather than suppressing it all day. This job will help focus your experiences and your spirit in the direction of the person you want to be, and will invite serendipitous discovery and growth. I’m going to call this your “growth job”.

The idea behind a “growth job”: Until you can create a job that is your passion, find a job that fuels and nourishes your passions. Until you can get paid to do what you want, get paid to grow in the direction you want

Here are two famous examples of people who picked excellent “growth jobs” and later went on to acheive their wildest dreams as a result.

Why Albert Einstein wanted to be a patent clerk

Albert Einstein, age 26

Albert Einstein, age 26

You’ve probably heard that Einstein started out as a patent clerk. This little piece of trivia is usually related as a lesson in hope and patience: “Don’t worry! Einstein was once just a patent clerk!”. Poor young Einstein slaving away as a lowly patent clerk with all that brilliance couped up in him. But that’s not the real story. Einstein choose to be a patent clerk on purpose. He knew ahead of time exactly the kind of intellectual growth he could experience in a role like that.

Fresh out of college, a young Albert Einstein knew he wanted a career in physics, but was having trouble getting an accademic appointment (he kept getting turned down). So he had a friend at the patent office hook him up with a job in the mean time. 

Sounds boring (and beneath him), but being a patent clerk provided the perfect intellectual nourishment for the young physicist. Think about it: All day long he read over inventions from minds all over the country (brilliant and dull alike) and had to figure out whether they were mechanically sound or totally unfeasable.

When he was first hired, Einstein’s supervisor said to him “You have to remain critically vigilant…When you pick up an application, think that everything the inventor says is wrong.” Can you imagine what kind of mental skills that kind of attitude would encourage? Exactly the kind you would need to do something like…critically approach the modern laws of physics.

Many of Einstein’s first theories were directly inspired by his job at the patent office. And he had plenty of time to work on those theories because the nature of the job and his intellect allowed him to complete most of his day’s work in about 10 minutes. So not only did the work itself inspire Einstein, but the job allowed him enough free time to work on the theories as well.

If you were an aspiring young physicist who was having trouble getting an academnic appointment, what better day job could you imagine than critically evaluating mechanical inventions part of the day and then having plenty of time left over for your own projects?

Now, here’s the real question: Einstein was a pretty smart guy. Do you think maybe he knew going into the job what kind of growth it could offer him?

Here’s a great article if you want to learn more about Einstein’s job at the patent office.

Ayn Rand, Hollywood Extra and Script Reader

Ayn Rand, age 20

Ayn Rand, age 20

For those of you who don’t know who Ayn Rand is: She’s pretty much the greatest fiction writer who ever lived. Her masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, is rated as the 2nd most influential book ever written, next to The Bible

From childhood, Ayn Rand’s dream was to write fiction novels. It took her until she was in her early 20’s to escape communist Russia and make it over to America. Her first job in America? An extra in a hollywood movie. One of the greatest minds in the world, just standing there in the background in some movie.

Of course, it didn’t take long for her mind to be recognized. She was soon promoted to script reader. You know what a script reader does? She reads and evaluates scripts that people send in…kind of like a patent clerk evaluates patents. 

Being at the bottom of the ladder in hollywood wasn’t exactly the same as getting paid to write great novels, but Ayn Rand had always loved western movies, and she got to be around stories and story writers all day (plus she knew she wouldn’t stay at the bottom of the ladder long).

I can’t speak to Ayn Rand’s actual motivations for choosing Hollywood as her first job in America, but I’ve always been amazed at how perfect a first job that must have been for her.

For one thing, if she hadn’t fully mastered the English language yet (having just come from Russia), I’m sure reading scripts all day helped her absorb the language pretty quickly — and in story form to boot!

In her novels, Ayn Rand demonstrates an incredible ability to paint a vivid picture with words. When you read her stories, they come alive in your mind. When you think of a character in an Ayn Rand novel, you picture them as someone you knew in real life because their image is so vivid. It would not suprise me if her days studying screenwriting and reading screenplays didn’t help grow this ability in her…because in a screenplay you’re basically telling the reader how to recreate the picture you see in your head…screenplays are all about visuals…is it just a coincidence that Ayn Rand presented such visual mastery in her books? I don’t think so. I think she picked exactly the right “growth job”.

How to apply this to yourself and pick a smart day job that will help you grow

Complete this sentence: “Or I could do something crazy and just go be a _____.”

What job would you do just for the fun of it and because you always kind of wanted to? What job would really allow you to grow as a person and be enjoyable at the same time?

Here are some qualifications to look for:

  • May involve something you idealized as a child (childhood dreams are there for a reason)
  • Almost too easy and not creative enough by itself (leaving you plenty of pent up creativity)
  • May be completely unrelated to the field you’re in now (that’s kind of the point)
  • Fun
  • Must be something you could conceivably quit (or start quitting) your current day job for right now.


  • Ignore money. I know that sounds unrealistic but it’s better to budget like crazy, cut down your expenses, and start moving towards your dream. Remember, dream jobs typically pay well (as a rule), so if you have to endure kind of crappy money for a couple of years to get there while having loads of fun and growing, do it. Trust that the financial side will eventually take care of itself somehow as you follow your dreams.
  • Take your ego out of the equation. Ignore the approval of others. If you start feeling afraid that the world wouldn’t approve of the choice you’re considering, you’re making the right choice for you.
  • Forget what you “should” be doing based on your past qualifications, age, and experience (remember, this is about a new direction).
  • Ignore the voices of conventional thinking. Ignore other people (and that nagging little voice in your head) who tell you you’re throwing your life and career away. What they don’t realize is that you want to throw it away. You want a new one. A real one. A meaningful one.

Have you thought of it yet?

Now: What if you actually did it? What if you went for it? If your heart swells when you ask yourself that question, you’re thinking of the right job.
Once you’ve identified you’re ideal “growth job”,  the second step is realizing what tremendously unique growth opportunities that job offers you personally. 

The more you think about it, the more sense it makes for you, and the harder it is to ignore.

Now do it. Start moving towards it. Even if only an inch at a time. Every step you take will be exciting. Get there. Get to that place were your spirit can be free.

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