We spend a strangely large percentage of our lives building boxes around ourselves. These boxes limit us, and don’t seem to add any particular value to our lives.

Your career path is one such box. Can you name every industry on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ page? You probably could barely name a half a dozen of them off the top of your head, and there are hundreds of them. And that’s just categories! Really broad categories, within which are thousands upon thousands of different jobs. Even the same “job” could be wildly different in two different companies, in practice.

But most people really quickly put themselves into a tiny box of what they “do.” Society seems to encourage this to some degree – if your last job was as a welder and you decide you want to try copy writing, you get some strange looks.

There’s a certain age where you’re encouraged to try new things, but then there’s definitely an age – in my experience between 25 and 30, but your mileage may vary – where you’re supposed to stop trying new things, except maybe as hobbies.

People categorize everything. Sometimes it’s useful shorthand – if you mostly haven’t enjoyed seafood, romantic comedies, or prog rock then those might be useful categories for you. But we too often take what is useful shorthand and make it iron-clad law. It’s good to break out now and then. Try the shrimp, watch a Meg Ryan movie, listen to Dream Theater. And the next time you’re looking for a new way to trade value with the world, look outside the box.

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