February 20, 2020

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?


”What do you want to be when you grow up?” is the dreaded cry from well-intentioned uncles and aunts to young children. This perhaps happened to you... Just when you turn double-digit age, you find yourself faced with an eternal mantra about earning a crust.


All of this is frustrating, mostly because it’s a question over the obvious... That one day we’ll have to make a living.

And yet, there is some wisdom buried in the flesh of these family and parental concerns. The truth is that most people asking that, did not choose their own career. Either they stumbled into it or they were pushed.

Knowing this, adults are often subconsciously seeking, to force the young into confronting as early as possible the biggest decision over which any of us is likely to exercise real control.

An immature choice

We do not choose our DNA, our parents or our nationality, but we do get to choose, if we are determined enough, what it is we want to do for a living.

With that said, think about your answer to that question and how different your actual job is now.

My own answer 15 years ago was that I wanted to become either a rapper or a chef and, in the end, went on to study economics. Nowadays, I don’t even listen to rap music anymore, I only cook for friends and family and I never became an economist.

My point is that you may want to become one thing when you’re young (chef), then you might study something different (economics) and then end up doing an irrelevant to your studies job (engineering).

A photo of Michelle Obama

"What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end."

Michelle Obama

And the worst part is that you might never be aware of all the available career options when you grow up.

3 Types of answers

There are 3 different career answers to the ‘what to be when you grow up’ question:

1. The professionals

If you want to be a chemical engineer or a doctor or a teacher, then go do it. If you want to enjoy the security of marriage and raising kids, then choose the civil service, since civil servants never stop trending.

Young children answer that they want to become a professional once they grow up around 65% of the times.

If you feel moved towards a certain job, then that’s exactly what you should do. But be aware that if you want huge sums of money (so as you can buy freedom in life), then earning a living by gradually climbing up the corporate ladder is not the way to do it. 

The way to do it is the next 2 career paths…

2. The ambitious

If you want to be a famous football player, movie director, singer, rock star or a celebrity then go for it. You will soon discover whether your talent allows you to achieve your dream. The response rate in this case is about 30%.

This path has many dangers though. The list of famous people who died from drugs overdose or took their own life is big enough to make you skeptical about this option.

If everyone thought like this, however, we wouldn’t experience art and sports on a high level. The risk of self-destruction is no reason not to make the attempt. The best think you can do is read the story of people who made it to the top and were able to age successfully.

One example is Paul Stanley, the famous front man of the band Kiss. His answer to the ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’ question was: I want to be a rock star.

When young children aspire to become something unconventional like a rock star, parents will usually reply by saying: ‘you’ll change your mind when you get older’.

So, they ask you something that you don’t have enough info to reply to and, if you sound too ambitious, they try to bring you down to earth.

The rock band Kiss rocking on stage

Paul Stanley (on the right): One of the most successful rock stars/entrepreneurs of all time.

Paul Stanley’s book called Face the Music: A Life Exposed is a masterpiece of motivation to aspiring artists. In his book he describes how hard work, determination and abstinence from drugs helped him succeed despite being deaf from one ear.

3. The visionaries

In this category are the ones who want to become super rich and live free. They are a minority especially during a young age comprising a mere 5%.

Can you imagine Donald Trump replying to his aunt “I want to first be a real estate billionaire and then the president of the US”? No matter how much ridiculous an answer like the above may sound, this should be your goal as a parent…

To raise a child who is aware of all career possibilities from a young age and neither you nor the rest of your family restricts your child’s choices to a single career path.

I am not saying to enforce your child into the visionaries’ path, but at least your kid should be aware about entrepreneurship, about rich people and how they got there and that this is an option for them as well.

How to fix this

Most children or young adults are only aware of the career paths that people around them have chosen. In other words, if you’re born in a family of employees you'll likely become an employee too.

So, how do we fix this?

By doing what school and college fail to do… By informing all young people you know about the countless career options they have.

Tell them that they’re not limited to becoming lawyers, doctors or managers. They can also be entrepreneurs, politicians, freelancers, investors, professional athletes, digital nomads, modern day cavemen and of course… rock stars like Paul Stanley!

Give them hope by telling them that they don’t have to settle for the easy choice of getting a J.O.B. (just over broke). And that with determination and hard (and smart) work they can be whatever they wish to be.

What was your own reply to the ‘’What do you want to be when you grow up?” question when you were young? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Until next time.

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About the author 

Manos Syngarefs

I am a child of God, that loves gardening, growing my own food and trying to live as natural a life as possible. When I feel like I have something to say then I will write an article. I hope you enjoyed this one :)

  • Well I wanted to become a computer engineer when I was 8, when no one around me was doing that job it was just a very young study matter. I worked for it and I earned it and became a computer engineer. It didn’t make me super rich but it gave me the opportunity to move abroad fairly easily. It gave me the chance to be respected and inspiring woman in the end. Of course being rich is a good ambition but not the aim of the life. I never dreamt of being rich maybe that’s why. Living in a certain quality of life in health and peace is more important than being rich according to me.

    But overall, good point! I am lucky to be aware of the jobs I could do even in the early nineties. The children nowadays are more lucky with the help of internet and they can be way more aware as long as their families let.

    Let your children be what they want! Don’t restrict them with the vision of yours!

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