When I first started writing, I would brainstorm for ideas by brainstorming headlines. I figured, if I got a good headline, it’d give me a good prompt for what to write. But the writing that came out from that strategy wasn’t so good. It felt empty and hollow. I’d have a great headline to introduce a bunch of writing that didn’t really say anything.
A catchy, interesting headline followed by nothing is worthless. Actually, it’s worse than worthless because it wastes people’s time clicking on it. So I reversed that strategy. Instead of writing the headline first, I write it last. And usually, it comes pretty easily if I’ve put care into what I’m writing.
At the end of the day, it’s what you’ve written and its value that matters — not the catchy headline. The headline is only meant to give people a taste of what to expect and interest them enough to take a look at your real work.
In life, it’s all about the headline. The headline is always written first. We decide who we’ll be and what we’ll be labelled as — then we decide what we’ll do.
We choose the degree we want to graduate with THEN, only then, do we go to university to study it. We decide on our headline then we write the content to fill it.
We choose the job title we want THEN we type it into Google to start looking for jobs with that title. We decide on our headline then we write the content to fill it.
With degrees we’re proud of but careers we dread. With job titles we love telling others but work that we hate to do.
Personally, I’d entered into university for actuarial science. It was a fancy headline that brought on a lot of “Oooh, you must be really smart then! You’re going to get such a good job when you graduate!”. Because of this, I struggled with leaving it behind for a long time. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to give up the work of an actuary — I hated it. I was that I didn’t want to give up the headline. I liked how the headline made me feel. I liked the confidence in me that it instilled in others when they found out what it studied.
And so, I tried to find ways to change the content without changing the headline. I thought about doing years of official actuarial exams (which usually take around 8 years to finish) just so I could have the title. I already knew I didn’t want to work in the field, but I couldn’t give up the headline.
But in life, as it is in writing, if you change the content you’ve got to change the headline. Now, my headline isn’t as flashy. It doesn’t bring as much instant respect and awe as it did. But I’m infinitely happier and, more importantly, I see a future.
It doesn’t matter what fancy job title your boyfriend has if he doesn’t make you happy. It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making or whether there’s a “Chief” in your title if your job makes you dread waking up. It doesn’t matter how proud your parents are of your degree if you don’t see a career in it.
Just forget the title. Forget the official name of the discipline you’re supposed to be in or the field you’re supposed to work in. Just focus on creating value. Learn the things you want to learn. Master your craft — even if that craft doesn’t have a name. Do something of value.
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