Jad Abumrad’s Roadmap

March 10, 2015

People will tell you to choose a path and stick to it—stay on course—look for a secure career container and hold onto it like it’s a life preserver and you’re on the Titanic. But they’re ignoring the reality of how the world works—and the reality of how you can navigate it in a unique, personal way and thrive like never before. Jad Abumrad, co-host and producer of Radiolab, is a perfect example of this concept.

Illustrated Roadmap

“You should be panicking a certain amount of the time,” says Jad. “Because then you’re right at the edge of what you can do. You need a little bit of uh-oh in your creative life, just enough.”

Jad may be a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and co-host of an award-winning radio show now, but he’s more than familiar with those feelings of dread and uncertainty we all get when we’re testing what’s possible. In fact, he still gets those feelings now when he’s stuck on a story for the show; the doubt comes rushing back in. But, he says, those feelings can help point you in the right direction.

Before Jad ever came to radio, he studied music composition, thinking he’d score films. That didn’t really work out, and everyone around him seemed to be doing the things he wanted to do—and making it look easy. His girlfriend (now wife) helpfully suggested that he liked to write, and he liked to make music, and he wasn’t great at either on its own—maybe radio would be a good middle ground. So he spent a year volunteering at a radio station—working odd jobs when he could to get by—and generally feeling pretty terrible. But an important thing happened amidst all that uncertainty: he found that the immediacy of making stories from splicing together bits of audio was both immensely satisfying and more interesting than he ever expected.

Now, making Radiolab, he’s continually struck by how weirdly close his job is to the thing he always thought he wanted to do in the first place. “I just somehow wrote the script wrong,” he says. “I wanted to be a film scorer, but I think I’m doing that now, weirdly—but I would never have known that this is the job I was imagining.”

It’s difficult to accept, but possibility actually exists within confusion. As Jad says, “Premature certainty is the enemy.”


So, are you feeling lost? Hate your job? Wish you could just take a Buzzfeed quiz that’ll tell you your calling? We’ll show you how to make a living doing what you love with our new book, Roadmap.

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