Ram Dass on Discovering Your True Work Path

Many, many years ago, many incarnations back when I was a professor at Harvard, I used to run a course called “Career Decision Making.” It was interesting, because the students at Harvard all had these models of doctor, lawyer, business, graduate school of business, or something like that. We’d start the course by having people fill out a questionnaire and talk about what turned them on the most. It would be interesting that somebody would say, “Well, what I really like is being out in the woods by myself for long periods of time.” Then they would think about their career and they’d think, “Well, now should I be a doctor or a lawyer?”

When I’d say, “Well, have you considered being a fire spotter in the woods? Working in the forest?” I mean, Harvard just doesn’t have much in the curriculum for that, you know.

It was interesting to start to lead with your wish list of how you would like to live, how you would like to serve, and then start to tune very, very slowly.

If you have that option, you’ve got to be ready to fall on your face and make mistakes. That’s a very important part of this game of hearing your uniqueness. Because what you listen to until your mind is really clear is always colored by all these kinds of attitudes, prejudices, cultural preferences and so on.

So you hear something and you make a choice and you start to moving in a direction and then you feel a moment later, “Uh oh.” So what becomes interesting in consciousness is the lag between the moment you realize you’ve done it again to yourself, and the moment you correct it. The inertia is your stubbornness of ego-will or something.

Remember Gandhi leading the march of all these people and he said at one point he was going to stop the march because he anticipated violence. His lieutenant said, “You can’t do this, Mahatmaji. There are people here that have given up their jobs, left their homes, to follow you….” and he said, “Only God knows the truth. I know only relative truth. My understanding of truth, the truth I understand shifts from day to day, and my commitment must be to truth, not consistency.”

And a lot of people are very afraid in career planning because of the term “career” even, to deal with the inconsistency of growth and the chaotic look that you may have if you keep changing your game. Many people that start to be a teacher, and then they don’t want to be a teacher, or they start being a doctor and then they don’t want to be a doctor – they grow through these things. I find the culture is more and more accepting of that kind of fluidity.

What you begin to hear are your unique needs, not only economically in terms of style of life you need, but also in terms of what kind of people you want to be around, what kind of qualities you want to develop in yourself.

-Ram Dass


Click here to read part 2 of this blog series. 

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