on January 2, 2012 | in Life in General, What the F Should You Do With Your Life?, Work | by


It all started with a bad case of shoulditis.

You know— shoulditis, the ailment affecting one in three young professionals. Nearly 90 percent of cases have been found to result in severe and sometimes fatal damage to one’s inborn potential, ultimately leading to the slow and silent death of, well, the soul. (For more details, read my original post on shoulditis here.)

I’d wake up puking and could barely make it through the day, the feeling was so strong.

“You pregnant?” a coworker asked me.

“Nah,” I said. I peered over at him above my cubicle wall. “Shoulditis.”

Nausea, vomiting, throwing up within the mouth: along with the persistent sense that you “should” have your life all figured out (or that you “should” follow a certain predetermined career path), these are telltale symptoms of shoulditis.

He nodded at me as if he understood, but the dead-like look in his eyes told me otherwise. I knew he’d taken Suckitup®, the treatment choice of the masses, long ago. His soul— I’d guess it was already 85% deteriorated.

But me? I was restless. I just knew that there had to be more to life than this— more than coming into work every day, staring at an Excel spreadsheet, and then returning home every night to reruns of Friends. I felt like Belle from Beauty & The Beast, spinning around in the middle of a field and singing at the top of my lungs. “There’s got to be more than this provincial life!”

So that’s how I ended up here, writing this story from a coffee shop in Idaho. Homeless (well, sort of). With a bird in my backseat, a fire in my soul, and nothing but a carful of clothes and a bucketful of nail polish to my name. Yes, that’s how I ended up here, ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

But before I go there, let’s get back to the point: let’s get back to the saving of our souls.

Because the thing is, when I wrote about shoulditis on The Brazen Life Blog awhile back, I promised people that I’d teach them how to save their souls, and hundreds of people signed up to receive my free guide. I promised that twenty-twelve would be the year that we’d kick our shoulditis to the curb, freeing our souls in the process.

Whether you’re overwhelmed by the array of options and you have no clue what to do with your life, whether you feel stuck in a soulless path that’s not your own, or BOTH, The Free Mini-Kit for Finding the Work of Your Life is exactly what you’ve been looking for.



There’s a problem in the world today, and it has resulted in an overwhelming epidemic of shoulditis.

The problem? People stick us in school for twelve+ years, give us a Meyers-Briggs test and some vague career/college counseling, and then send us on our way, expecting that this is all we’ll need to get everything alllllll figured out.

But hang on a second— it’s 2012, and I STILL haven’t even decided yet if I’m on team Anniston or Team Jolie.

Heck, I can’t even decide what I want to eat for lunch today.

So how in the hell am I supposed to figure out what to do for the rest of my freaking life??

Here’s the thing, guys: most of us feel like we should have it all figured out, but most of us… well, most of us don’t.

Most of us are either (a) Completely lost, confused, and directionless when it comes to what we want to do with our lives, (b) Stuck in a career path we don’t enjoy but feel powerless to leave, or  (c) Both of the above.

And there’s a







Awhile back, I saw this super cute jacket online. I mean, everything about it seemed perfect. For one, it was purple— my favorite color. It hung perfectly on this model, and I imagined it would look just the same on me. Also, it was on sale. How could it not be made for me? I hit the “order” button immediately. My dream jacket!

A few days later, the jacket arrived. I ripped open the box in anticipation, threw the packaging  all over the room, and put it on.

And it looked— well, it looked freaking horrible.

I hated it.

Because here’s the thing: no matter how much we browse online or ask questions or read reviews, no amount of analysis, no matter how thorough and no matter how calculated, can ever replace the actual experience— the actual trying on of the clothes.

And so the problem is simple: We live in a culture that encourages internet shopping for careers.

Think about it. For the most part, school teaches us to analyze our options but allows for little real-life experience prior to making our decisions. We take classes to learn about subject matter and we take aptitude tests to learn about ourselves, and then we’re supposed to match the two up to determine our career paths.

As we’ve seen, though, internet shopping alone is rarely sufficient to make these types of decisions.


It’s not because guessing or analyzing are bad things to do. I highly encourage asking questions, analyzing your options, and trying things out to elicit feedback.

So no; the problem isn’t that we’re guessing. The problem isn’t that internet shopping exists.

The problem is that we’re guessing and expecting to get it right in ONE SHOT  based on internet shopping alone, with little or no prior experience.

May I repeat: It’s not the guessing that’s a bad thing. It’s the guessing in one shot, the internet shopping and expecting that you’ll get it perfectly right the first time around that’s a bad thing.

That’s what gets you stuck— when all you have is $150 and you spend all $150 of it on what you think will be the one perfect jacket.

And then when it turns out you’re wrong, you feel stuck, because think of all you’ve invested! You spent all your money on this one jacket! Think of the sunk costs! To start over now? The horror!

And thus begins a lifetime of walking a path that is not your own; the slow and silent killing of your soul.

To put it another way, imagine the following scenario (this is a passage from Jim Collins’ and Morten Hansen’s new book, Great By Choice):

“Picture yourself at sea, a hostile ship bearing down on you. You have a limited amount of gunpowder. You take all your gunpowder and use it to fire a big cannonball. The cannonball flies out over the ocean… and misses the target, off by 40 degrees. You turn to your stockpile and realize that you’re out of gunpowder. You die.”

Now THIS is the problem, guys!

THIS is what I call one-shot internet shopping! Without any prior testing or experience, we are sticking all of our gunpowder into one huge cannonball and hoping that we get it right the first time around.

I mean, of course we’re having a hard time figuring things out. Of course we’re getting stuck in soulless career paths. Because


Silly us.

We need a new process, guys. We need to be able to base our decisions on more than just one-shot internet shopping, and that’s what this guide is all about. It’s time for us to stop this madness now.

If you’ve already fired a cannonball, you’re probably thinking, “Crap, I’m screwed now.”

The good news is you aren’t: I’ll show you a way out.

And if you haven’t yet fired a cannonball, I’ll show you a better way of  doing things.



OK guys, so there’s also a second problem with internet shopping. Here it is:

Maybe the jacket that’s truly meant for you, the one that truly, truly fits you— maybe it doesn’t exist online.



Well, think about it.

Back in the day when I was trying to “internet shop” for my career path, I made a list of things I thought I liked to do. Based on the traditional “internet shopping” method of analysis, I was hoping to match these “likes” up to the perfect career.

In essence I was saying “I like purple,” and then off I went internet shopping to find the perfect purple jacket.

Go ahead and take a gander at my list:

  • “I like helping people”
  • “I like inspiring people”
  • “I like being creative”
  • “I like building, creating, innovating”
  • “I like writing”
  • “I like asking questions”
  • “I like crafting original solutions”
  • “I like thinking outside of the box”
  • “I like listening to people”
  • “I like connecting to people”
  • “I like being in charge of, and accountable for, my own work and my own results”
  • “I like learning”
  • “I like working on my own terms”
  • “I like creating change”
  • “I like thinking of better ways to do things”
  • “I like self-insight”
  • “I like personal development”

OK, so there you go.

So what’s the “answer” to these questions, guys?

Based on this assessment, what would you say is my dream job?

Go on, tell me.

Really… tell me!

Impossible, right?

The thing is, there are multitudes of things I could do to integrate these “likes,” some of which haven’t even been dreamt up as of yet. Literally, the possibilities are infinite.

And yet this is what we are attempting to do when we internet shop. Based on a list of aptitudes and likes, we are attempting to pinpoint The One Thing We Are Supposed To Do With Our Lives.

I can tell you one thing for sure: Creating The Unlost was not on my list of options when I took the career test in high school.

It also wasn’t on the list of careers for college graduates with a psychology/accounting degree.

I couldn’t even find it on

And yet, when I listen deeply to my soul, there’s no doubt that this is the one thing that makes me feel most alive. As freaking weird as it sounds, I believe that this is what I was called to do. Doing this work— it is somehow inseparable from who I am.

Therein lies the second problem: we are looking outside of ourselves at a predetermined list of careers, and we are doing our best to “internet-shop” and to match our skills and interests up with the perfect jacket.

But sometimes what we’re meant to do isn’t on the list.

Sometimes the jacket that is ours alone isn’t on the internet.

We could browse the internet for a lifetime, we could scour a list of careers for hours on end, and still we might never find the jacket that is ours, simply because it doesn’t yet exist. It is one of a kind; it is ours alone. We are going to have to make it ourselves.

Consider this: Perhaps we aren’t meant to be an artist or a psychologist or an engineer or anything on any pre-existing list. Perhaps we are meant to be— simply, ourselves. And perhaps when we are most ourselves, a part of this just happens to involve creating art or counseling people or engineering— in that way which only we can do.

So listen up:

Maybe we aren’t just looking for a career. Maybe we’re looking for ourselves, for that person we were meant to become.

And who we are might not (and in fact probably doesn’t) exist on a list out there.


Deep thoughts.

If you find this idea to be contradictory to the idea of trying on lots of jackets to determine your career path, then hang tight. There will be more explanation to come.


Now before we really get into the meat of things, let’s make sure I first address a popular misconception. THEN I promise I’ll get into the good stuff. But trust me, you need to hear this first.

Because the thing is, amazing people who want to save their souls often fail to see how internet shopping applies to both sides of the equation. We tend to conjure up bold visions and dreams, and I love this about us.

We’ve got to be careful, though. There’s not just one way to kill your soul, there are two.

“I THINK I’M SUPPOSED TO DEWORM ORPHANS IN SOMALIA!” you announce one day after being struck by a bold insight.


But wait a second— HOLD ON!



Isn’t this just another version of internet shopping?

Sure, it’s a bold vision. Sure, it goes against the “norms,” against the status quo. Sure, it excites you and it awakens your soul, and this is all very good.

But at the same time, it doesn’t matter if you’re settling for an unfulfilling cubicle job or whether you’re stepping out on your own to fulfill a bold vision— in both cases you haven’t taken the time to try on the jacket.

Either way, you haven’t tested things out or gained any prior experience to help guide you.

And as we’ve learned, firing an uncalibrated one-shot cannonball can be awfully dangerous.

So listen up, guys:

Up until now, you’ve been afraid of taking Suckitup, of getting stuck in a soulless job for all eternity.

But it turns out that moving too quickly in the opposite direction can kill it just as surely.

Because there are in fact two ways to kill your soul: one is to fire all your gunpowder in a single shot, to spend all your money on one jacket, to get stuck in your one-shot job forever and to believe there’s no way out.

The second is to jump ship from your soulless job too quickly, before you’re ready. To declare a grand plan without trying on any jackets, risking the chance of quickly drowning your soul.

All of life is a balancing act, guys.

Sit too still, never take action, swallow the Suckitup, and watch your soul slowly die.

But jump too quickly, without enough validation or experience, without enough of a plan and without trying on the jacket, and chances are your soul will drown.

Sure, there are always exceptions.

But are you willing to bet your soul on being one of the lucky few?

Are you willing to jump based on the mere hope that maybe, just maybe, you could end up as one of the lucky one percent?

That choice is up to you, but I can tell you one thing: I refuse to leave the survival of my soul up to luck or to chance.

The question becomes this, then: How can we try on jackets to gain experience and to help guide our process while also looking within ourselves to find that one-of-a-kind person who we were meant to become?

Don’t panic— there IS a solution, and your soul isn’t destined to die. There IS a better way to do things, and I’m going to show you how.


Now on to the solution.

Actually, that’s a lie.

This is not THE solution. This is simply a solution— one of many.

Take it or leave it.

Whether you’re just starting out on the “search for your career” or whether you’ve been stuck on a a soulless path for quite some while, this solution applies to you. You DON’T have to quit your job to implement it, and you DON’T have to take bold risks (although if you do it right, you can quit your job if you want to). All you have to do is follow the plan, and follow it consistently over time.

To learn more, sign up for The Unlost’s free Mini-Kit below.


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[Image by bayat]

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  • Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (That’s all I got. I love it.)

  • Rschirmer83

    Great content- as usual I loved the post. I know it is going to be a guide but I felt like there was too much text in the first two parts about the problems. I think you did a really good job of giving examples of the problem but maybe slim it down a little. I am looking forward to seeing more about the solution! Great start:)

    • Thanks! You’re right; it is a bit long for a blog post, but as a standalone guide I wanted to make sure it contains sufficient depth. That being said, conciseness is always key. I’ll do some more “reader testing” to see how if i can’t get it more streamlined without losing depth. Appreciate the feedback!

  • Feel free to expand your target audience to ANY age group.

    • Hi Michal, you’re right– I’ve received several comments from readers who don’t fit within the “target” age group but who are definite sufferers of “shoulditis.” Initially I wrote it directed toward twenty-somethings because Brazen Careerist indicated that this was their main demographic (and as it stands, a majority of my readers do fit within this demographic as well); however, it’s certainly true that there are many, MANY people outside of this age group who can relate.

      That said, I agree that it’d be worthwhile for me to consider appealing more to a “psychographic” profile (i.e., alike in thought or personality) rather than demographic (i.e., alike in age group). I will definitely take a closer look in this area.

      Thanks for your thoughts; much appreciated.

  • Kent Hoffman

    A wise friend told me that since the Age of Reason we’ve felt we had to explain everything, and that as a result we’ve forgotten the value of mystery. – Ted Kooser

    You’re pointing us toward Mystery and away from all “the answers.” I couldn’t agree more.
    Send us Part Two.


    • Kent,

      Your words always hit me the hardest. Mystery… yes. Sometimes when we are able to embrace this Mystery, we find that we already have that “answerless answer” within us.


  • s_winge

    This was very thought provoking – and I hope its OK that I linked to it in the post I wrote about those thoughts (if not, let me know and I’ll remove it). Part of my issue is trying to decide whether the problem for me is the job/career path, or within myself, so I appreciated the discussion of the problem…and I look forward to the future posts!

    • Of course it is OK to link to it! I would love to hear your thoughts (although on that note, I didn’t receive a pingback notification and so I haven’t been able to see your post! Hopefully it will come through soon… if not, feel free to send it my way.) So glad that this brought up some relevant discussion for you!

  • Wonderful so far, can’t wait to read the rest of it!

    • Thanks Mr. Al. You are the best!

  • “Maybe we aren’t just looking for a career. Maybe we’re looking for ourselves, for that person we were meant to become.”

    That statement sums up what this guide is truly about. This is goods.stuff. timely and thought provoking. Looking forward to reading more. We all need to learn to go in the direction of who we are in order to evolve into who we are.

    • Very much agreed Gregory, and I think this is the piece that is so often missed by traditional sources of “guidance.” Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Diana

    i’m with you so far. looking forward to part 2!

    • Glad you’re with me, Diana!

  • Julia DePalma

    brilliant! ditto to the comment below

  • Love your writing style, fresh and energetic.

  • Great so far! Can’t wait to read the rest!

    • TY Justyna, and the happiest of new years to you!

  • This right here is quite impressive. Super in-depth. Super real. Great metaphors. Awesome cliff hanger. Looking forward to the next post.

  • Maggie

    “Because there are in fact two ways to kill your soul: one is to fire all your gunpowder in a single shot, to spend all your money on one jacket, to get stuck in your one-shot job forever and to believe there’s no way out.

    The second is to jump ship from your soulless job too quickly, before you’re ready. To declare a grand plan without trying on any jackets, risking the chance of quickly drowning your soul.”

    Is my favorite part. I am in the midst of finishing college, and so many of my friends think that some bold, across-the-country/world move will somehow help them find themselves. I look forward to your posts every Monday. Thanks for being so honest with where you are in your life.

    • Thanks Maggie. To be clear, I’m not against bold moves across the board — it’s just that you need to evaluate whether doing so is risky enough to pull you under 9to kill you) or not, and whether taking this risk is worthwhile. The evaluation will be different for each person. This is something I’ll go into more depth on in Part II ;-)

  • Sarahschneiderwind

    I think that you are on exactly the right thought path. There is little geared toward actual experience in life, its seems that it is viewed as a ‘waste of time.’ Formal education gets all of the attention. I received formal education and I feel less prepared than when I was a clean slate entering the college world. Now I am full of information and nowhere to focus it! Dios mio! Such a conundrum!

    • I think it’s interesting what you say, Sarah: “I received formal education and I feel less prepared than when I was a clean slate entering the college world.” “Full of information and nowhere to focus it”… quite a conundrum indeed! Hopefully we can do something about this…

  • Gen Y Questioning

    You end up with the right question: how do we create the opportunities to try the different paths that may be right for us?

    However, it takes you a while to get there. I’d just consolidate some of your thoughts. You don’t need to discuss the dangers of both sucking it up and jumping ship three times in a row. Cutting out the extra clutter means you hold my attention and my mind doesn’t wander before I can finish the article.

    • You’re right; it does get a bit repetitive at times. Sometimes it takes me awhile to strike the right balance between being concise enough but also making sure the point gets across (because for people to whom the concepts are new or who may not have thought of things from this perspective before, sometimes it helps to hear it a few times or to hear it in different ways). There’s definitely room for at least some cuttage, though– consider this my “rough draft.” ;-)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • anneri

    Great guide, but I agree with those that say there’s too much repetition and that it is slightly too long (“langdradig” is the perfect word in Afrikaans). All in all – always good to read your blog :-)

  • Awesome! I was surprised/shocked to see this being written about what has been worrying me for quite some time. Being in my 20s I found it resonating on so many levels. But yeh the audience is quite broad , anyone who is ready to wake up. The worthiness of the content overpowers the length. Continue walking with the torch, the path is starting to show itself !!

    • Thank you! Glad it resonated with you– I know that these are topics that I have thought about/worried about for years, and I don’t think they’ve been very well addressed for us anywhere… not yet, at least…

  • Monster-or-not, this post was definitely worth the read! You touch down on some very valuable topics and questions that rarely leave our minds. Can’t wait to read the rest.

    However, and I just say this because I’m both a devils advocate and a seamstress of many years, I dont think people should dismiss the jacket that dosent fit. Metaphor or not, from time to time we will receive things that don’t fit and in those cases we should most certainly try to refit, tweak and pad until satisfied. Worst case scenario you fuck up a thing you didn’t want anyway. Sometimes we need to trust that our soul, creativity and life-qualifications will bridge every shortcoming in design.
    That said, I fully agree with your sense of importance in trying out as many ways of life as possible, jackets, jobs and lovers included. Maybe we could start up a lifestyle-netflix of sorts :)

    • Very much agreed, Jona, about sometimes refitting, tweaking, & padding a jacket that doesn’t quite fit. Then again, though, sometimes the fit is so horrific that it’s best just to throw it out. There is no “right” answer here, but I certainly agree that people shouldn’t lean towards immediate dismissal.

  • Jmkdunlop

    Love this. I’ve read two of your articles and I’m hooked. You are definitely doing the right thing. This post kinda reminds me of a super good Ted talk, an older one I saw a few months ago about how the education system is just not geared to entrepreneurs…so if you’re a born entrepreneur (like me AND you) you always feel like you’re either failing, are unhappy or just end up being a late bloomer cause it takes so much longer to figure out your real calling…I’m gonna go find that talk and post it to twitter, it’s definitely worth a watch, affirming in a way.

    • Interesting…

      Agreed that the education system’s definitely not geared toward entrepreneurs. It’s not really geared toward… well nevermind; I digress. Would have too much to say there.

      Glad you can relate– glad to have you here :)

  • Tathata

    “So how in the hell am I supposed to figure out what to do for the rest of my freaking life?!”

    … and that’s the problem that trips everyone up on so much of the planet today. So many people are fully stuck on the idea that this question needs to be answered. But it does not!
    There is absolutely no reason to ever plan the rest of your life. There is no reason to stay on one single track for your life. There is no reason to accept only certain types of jobs as successful and others as not.

    – Tathata

    • Agreed! There’s not just “one answer,” and no matter how hard you try, you CAN’T plan the rest of your life — it’s not possible. That said, there probably are certain paths or activities that you’re more inclined toward. How to discover these and allow the “path” to evolve from there? That’s the question I explore in my guide.

  • Jenn Gonsalves

    Therese – I just stumbled onto your blog this morning. To be honest, I can’t even remember how. All I know is that I was meant to find you and this blog!! Like so many others in your community, I feel like you are articulating my own thoughts and feelings perfectly. I’ve read at least 10 posts already today (don’t tell my boss…) and I’m actually writing my own blog post inspired by what I’ve read here so far. The weirdest thing, though – that bit up above about going to work to stare at Excel spreadsheets, coming home and watching Friends reruns, feeling like Belle singing “There must be more than this provincial life” – you seriously could be talking about me. All those things are true, including the last one – I JUST thought of that exact part of that song two days ago (and mind you, I haven’t seen that movie or anything to do with it in years). I honestly believe in signs from God/the universe/whatever, and I think this was a clear one that I was meant to find your blog today. Sorry for the super long comment, I just wanted to say – well, so many things! LOL – but mostly thank you, good luck on the next phase of your life, keep at it, and thank you again!!!

    • Hahaha, the Belle song… SO FUNNY! I BELIEVE SO TOO, and I’m glad we’ve found each other! Your comment just brightened my day, so thank you so much for sharing, Jenn! Send me a link to your blog post if you feel open to sharing it with me!


      • Jenn Gonsalves

        Aw, I’m so glad I could give you a little sunshine today. :) Of course, thanks for asking! Here’s my blog: (So far I’ve concentrated on the quality of the writing and not so much on the design, LOL!) If you get a chance to take a glance, it would make my day. :) Cheers!

  • Pingback: Some Thoughts on “Quitting Your Job” or Whatever Else You Think You Want()

  • Meme

    Great Post! Took the words right out of my mouth, Therese. I too am a young 20 something year old finding my way. However, from experience, I do believe that there is no way not to put your soul at some risk of being killed, so to speak. Risk is necessary for our souls. Like you said, we need to try stuff out to see if it actually fits. A leap of faith is required.

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