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In which we answer the popular question, "What should I do with my life?" Along the way, we bust some dangerous adulthood myths and discuss choosing career paths, joy, dreams, time travel, and the meaning of life and stuff.

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Video links and other recommended reads:
Bureau of Labor Statistics:
DECISIVE by Chip Heath & Dan Heath:

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Merchandise from Mike (including "Reading Changes Us" and "Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost" posters!):

"How to Adult" is a "life skills" edutainment channel brought to you by Executive Producers Hank Green and John Green. Subscribe for new videos every week!


Created and Hosted by:
Emma Mills & T. Michael (Mike) Martin
Emma and Mike are also Young Adult novelists!
Check out Mike's debut novel, THE END GAMES, at all online booksellers, including
Amazon: (
Check out Emma's debut novel, FIRST & THEN, at all booksellers, including Amazon:

Written and Directed by:
T. Michael Martin

Edited by:
Nathan Talbott

Executive Producers:
Hank & John Green

Both: Hey!

Emma: So we get a lot of questions sent our way and one of the most common is "what the heck should I do with my life?"

Mike: Now to answer this, we're gonna have to bust some pretty complex myths, so let's start off simply: by boarding our chronocopter and going 10 years back in time!

Emma: Heck yeah!

(Chronocopter theme music)

Mike: Emma, here we are in 2005.

Emma: Let's talk to these cutie past selves. Excuse me, Mike, what do you think about being a semi-professional YouTuber?

2005 Mike: That's not a word and it never should be.

Mike: Emma, what do you think of biomedical research?

2005 Emma: I don't.

Emma: So we vaulted across spacetime to show you something important, what you want to do with your life often changes. The statistics show that in the modern economy, people change careers, not just jobs, an average of 7 times.

Mike: What's currently best for you might not be best for you later. In fact, the perfect job might not have even been invented yet, so that's busted myth number one. You won't do one thing with your life, you'll do many things with your life, so we would just kindly urge you to take some of the pressure off yourself.

Emma: Relatedly, here's a truth about myth number 2, your paycheck does not always have to be linked to your passion. Too often, we feel like there's only one true path for us. Like, if we don't achieve that one single passionate thing, which can often times be something that we chose when we were younger, then we have somehow failed.

Mike: Not true.

Emma: That's not true!

Mike: No no no no no. You shouldn't be beholden to a particular vision of joy.

Emma: If you had asked childhood me what I would be doing right now, I would've answered "slam poetry." For real. I thought I was gonna be a poet.

Mike: Seriously?

Emma: Like first, second, third grade, I was-- yeah, I was super into poetry. I mostly just rhymed things, and rather poorly.

Mike: I wrote a haiku, the first thing that was ever published that I wrote was a haiku, I wrote it in 4th grade.

Emma: OK, do you remember it? 

Mike: The sun slowly sets
all around darkness falls fast
there is a cold chill.

It's a little bit existential actually now that I think about it.

Emma: It is, I want to snap. I don't know how to snap but I would snap to that.

Mike: It's perfectly OK to just like your job, and it's possible to be pretty happy doing many different things. Letting go is not giving up. Odds are there are many different careers that can give you what you want, just be nice to yourself guys.

Emma: So now that we busted those myths, let's talk about the actual act of deciding. Step one: make a list of things you enjoy doing. Be broad in this, too. Instead of saying "I only like making red, white, and blue Erector Sets," instead think "I like creating mechanical things.

Mike: I'm just a little bit sensitive about that line because it's obvious that you've been reading my diary...

Emma: That you only like to make red, white, and blue Erector Sets?

Mike: Yes!

Emma: OK. (Laughs) This wasn't a criticism, Mike.

Mike: oh, OK. Step two: instead of immediately looking at vocations, look at values and lifestyle goals. What are your most important values; service to others, travel and adventure, lots of free time with family? What are your lifestyle goals; do you want a stable income, or the freedom and uncertainty of being a freelancer? Do you want to live in a big mansion or do you want one of those tiny houses? I saw one of those on the interstate the other day.

Emma: A tiny house?

Mike: Being tugged behind...

Emma: Awww. So cute

Mike: Yeah. It was adorable.

Emma: Once you've got your lists, step three: see where worlds collide, and be wary of "or" questions. If you've been broad enough, you'll see some career paths that check boxes of likes, values, and lifestyle.

Mike: If not, maybe ask some trusted friends or family. What do they think? And again, try to be open-minded with this. Don't dismiss running a laser tag company just 'cause you never thought of it before.

Emma: You may also find yourself in a situation where your values conflict. Let's say you're trying to decide whether you should be an ER surgeon or a mime. Watch out for that or, it implies an unrealistic all-or-nothing approach to life. Who says you can't be a surgeon Monday through Friday and then get trapped in invisible boxes on the weekends.

Mike: We didn't say it. Once you've got your choices narrowed down, there's step for: ooch.

Emma: Gesundheit. Just kidding. Ooching is a concept from the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, and it's all about entering the water slowly. Because we're not always great at predicting what we might enjoy, it's important to try a career before actually committing to it. 

Mike: For instance, Hunter College in New York has this thing that I think is really actually pretty smart, they won't let you enter their physical therapy program unless you've volunteered for 100 hours in physical therapy clinic. So try to find a way to volunteer in your field, you'll get a good sense of what the day to day job is really like, how it lines up with your values, and what you think you'll enjoy, how much free time do the people who work in that job have, and basically how happy do they seem.

Emma: Step 5: gather the data. If you've got the zoomed in view of the prospective career, try getting the zoomed out version by doing research on what the job market and outlook are like. There are many sources for this, including the bureau of labor statistics.

Mike: Step 6: wrap it in a blanket and smack it on the bottom, which is a line I'm trying to work into every script now.

Emma: 'Cause Mike knows I don't like it.

Mike: With all this research, you've hopefully come to a decision and it's time to commit. If you're super stuck, you can always get some psychological distance by asking yourself things like "what would I say to my BFF about this situation?"

Emma: We don't know what your future holds, but we can guarantee that it won't go exactly according to plan. That doesn't mean you're a failure, that, my friends, means you're an adult.

Mike: And that is all we've got for you today. This video was brought to you in part by viewers like you, if you would like to support how to Adult, you can do so at

Emma: If you guys have any thoughts on deciding what you want to do with your life, it's a wavy subject, but please let us know in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you.

Mike: In the meantime, remember, and this is totally my line, "the future isn't written, it's what you make it, so make it a good one."

Emma: That's from Back to the Future 3.

Mike: Shh.