Here’s an edited version of my Quora answer to the question: “Life Decisions: How do people who are talented in many areas decide what to do with their lives?“
Let me provide a personal story illuminating one option Ruchira is talking about: “pick a complex challenge that you are passionate about, that will require many different talents to solve.“
I picked the rather complex topic of aging and healthy lifespan extension at the age of 14-15 and it helped me to deep dive into a couple of different professions so far, consecutively, not concurrently though:
1. got a masters in biology and worked experimentally on the mitochondrial theory of aging as a thesis work, something related to looking for mutations accumulating with age in the hypervariable regions potentially downregulating the electron transport chain components encoded by mitochondria
2. realised that in order to understand what aging is (that is sg related to changes happening over time) I have to understand what time is and how it is structured that lead me to have another masters in analytical philosophy with a lot of modal logic involved, and my thesis work was entitled “Partial immortalization and the philosophical problems of human biotechnology and regenerative medicine”, basically delineating a technologically foreseeable scenario of unlimited life span and its social context
3. philosophy and timing lead me to journalism/blogging on aging and life extension and that is a separate skill set definitely, let alone an, independent, self-nurturing profession, discovered here my peers interested in the same thing
4. with the rise of stem cell research and regenerative medicine went back to the wet lab and started a PhD, did everything there except finishing the damn thesis, was mainly working on mitochondrial transfer between healthy stem cells and cells in oxidative stress, turns out the energetic reboost by healthy mitochondria can be an alternative way of how injected stem cells regenerate the injured/aged host tissue, to sum up experimental science gave me the insight that stem cells/regmed + mitochondria can be crucial in life extension technologies
5. blogging made me geeky and technologically involved and the rise of systems and omics biology made me realise that aging can be best understood by computational biology or by bioinformatics tools, built some stuff on genes related to aging as my first serious coding assignment
6. learned the basics of coding and turned myself into a bioinformatician in 2009, this is the last and so far most promising chapter in my quest, here I currently have at least 2-3 pet projects related to aging
So in order to understand aging and work on life extension I learned and practised wet lab biology, philosophy, journalism/blogging, coding and bioinformatics all motivated by the same, but continuously redefined aim, looking at it from many angles.
Jack of all trades, master of none? Mostly true concerning the fact that I had worked intensively in these particular fields only for 3-4-5 years. But since bioinformatics as a profession has now found me and since I’m in my late thirties I can’t help mastering it finally. 🙂 Concerning personal investment into aging/life extension: that’s ~ 20 years already.
In a way being motivated & triggered by a big, complex, larger-than-life topic like life extension is a burden (might be harder to go into details when overshadowed by a big idea), but on the other hand it gives me a constant motivation and demand. As a bonus focusing on aging is a person-against-nature thing and not a person-against-person thing (like law as a profession) and somehow this always helped me not to take competitive situations too seriously and follow my inner compass.