Who am I? What do I want to contribute to this world?
If you find yourself asking these questions, you're not alone. According to research for a new book, more than 70 percent of workers feel disengaged from their jobs.
That's where Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What To Do with Your Life comes in.
Developed by Roadtrip Nation, an award-winning career exploration movement from Costa Mesa that also broadcasts a public television documentary series, the soon-to-be-released book aims to help those feeling lost post-graduation, or feeling stuck in their current careers, find success doing what they love.
The book has been a work-in-progress for 15 years, beginning when the three founders, Nathan Gebhard, Mike Marriner and Brian McAllister graduated from college and, like many recent grads, didn't know where to go from there.
That's when they decided to hop in an old RV and set out to interview people across the country about their careers. From there, more young people got involved to conduct these interviews and gather stories from all walks of life.
"There's a whole application process they go through to be a part of this, but they, for the most part, choose who they want to interview," said Long Beach resident Alyssa Frank, Managing Editor of Roadtrip Nation, in a recent interview with the Post. "It's kind of cool because it's not the same people doing these interviews every time. There are all these different perspectives asking questions, and I think there's a lot of power in that."
People, from potters to celebrities like NPR personality Ira Glass, are quoted in the book. But they're not there to promote themselves or their businesses. They're there to get down to the nitty-gritty, the whys and the hows. Why did they decide to pursue this career? How did they get to the point they're at now?
"It's super organic," said Long Beach resident Annie Mais, education director for Roadtrip Nation. "It was never the intention to go and figure all this stuff out. It's just been 15 years of trying to just listen to people and figure out how they can get to do things they really wanted to do. They all say similar things about self-confidence, pressure, failure and redefining success. There were thousands of interviews, and you can see those common threads that became the process of this book, which is let go, define and become."
Glass, who Frank said she admires most, said his plan was always to become a doctor, because that's what seemed to be in the cards for him. But something pulled him back and told him to go into radio, for which he is now widely recognized as the voice of "This American Life."
"I think it shows there's another way to go about achieving success and it doesn't necessarily have to be making a shit ton of money," Frank said. "Success is defined by what makes people happy, and to Ira, it's telling stories."
Frank recalled how Roadtrip Nation's message first resonated with her. A recent college graduate, she, like Glass, saw the rest of her life as a narrow, dull path already laid out in front of her. For her, it was the road to becoming a lawyer, a profession that only made sense because her mother was also a lawyer.
"When I came out of college, I didn't know what else to do, so I thought I'd just apply to law school," she recalled. "Something stopped me and told me I was making a huge mistake. I found Roadtrip on Craigslist, and I always enjoyed writing, so I applied. Once I found Roadtrip, I was exposed to all these different lives and just knowing whatever was in front of me wasn't my only option really opened my eyes to different options. ... This book isn't just about what you're good at, but it's about what brings you alive. You peel away those expectations that you've heard from society or whoever so there's more than what you see directly in front of you."
While Roadtrip Nation is ideal for those trying to figure out what to do with their lives, like students, it has also become popular among those already set in their careers and anxious for something different, Mais said.
Filled inspirational stories, insightful quotes from those who have "been there," and personality quizzes to get the reader to start asking themselves the important questions, Roadmap aims to be the quintessential guide for those either feeling stuck or trying to see where they fit in the world.
"I think the aspiration for all of us is to be the go-to place for people trying to figure out what to do with their lives, whether that's in middle school, high school, college and beyond," Mais said. "We want it to be the brand that people recognize as being a reputable place to figure out what they want to do next."
To pre-order Roadmap, which is expected to be released April 7, click here.