When I first met the team, Dabble pitched their product to me by describing a platform that provides users a low commitment way to try out new fields and areas of interest. Reflecting upon this concept led me to recall some of the jobs I’ve held, over the years, and how I might have sought out alternative employment had I only the opportunity to try out the experience that awaited me, beforehand.

The first workplace I ever knew was a warehouse within which every visible surface was covered in newsprint. Individual sections of Chicago’s Tribune newspaper would arrive daily in an endless deluge of bundles. My job was to arrange these bundles in a row and stack one section atop another — then another and so on — before finally wrapping them in the main section of the newspaper like an overstuffed, cold, smelly pita. Repeat this process just shy of 1000 times and you’ve got yourself a full shift, a towering stack of newspapers and an impossibly filthy employee. I worked for a small-minded man who sought to educate me through rants of chauvinism, bigotry and ignorance throughout my every shift. When I finally walked from this job, I had a blueprint for precisely the kind of person I knew to never be.

I decided a change of scenery was in order, so I moved from the warehouse to the fairway when I took on seasonal employment as a caddy at an upscale, suburban country club on Chicago’s North Shore. Here, I was berated by the elderly social elite for everything from my absence of religious faith to my inability to properly read a green. Once, a man for whom I caddied sliced his ball so perpendicularly that it struck me in the back of the leg, collapsing me onto the grass as I clutched my injury. He immediately rushed to my side, though not to apologize or survey my condition. Rather, the man instead chastised me for “getting in the way” of his shot. Suffice it to say, I knew it was time to seek out new employment. I knew also to never disrespect others as though subordinate, be they of a comparable social class or otherwise.

Next, I returned to the tedium of repetition, this time in the form of a job unloading endless rows of semi trailers onto a neighboring conveyor belt. The shifts lasted only 4 1/2 hours as, I would immediately be made to realize, no one could possibly do this kind of work for more than 4 1/2 hours at a time. Two lessons learned this round: 1. The tedium of repetition is not for me, and 2. I should have learned the previously mentioned lesson from my first job.

Jobs in food service, hotels and even a few corporate gigs followed, and more learnings would come, some less easy than others. For example, who knew that cleaning a grease trap is both humbling and awful? Or that wearing a polyester suit uniform, for instance, is far more embarrassing than it is humbling. In the end, however, my dabbling in discovery outside of the workplace was what led me to the most important learning life has thus far afforded me.

Allow your curiosity to guide you, and it will eventually lead you to your craft. And this will be as amazing a life experience as you’ll ever know.


Burton Rast works as an interaction designer, developer and prototyper at IDEO Chicago with a focus on emerging technologies in the digital space. He’s in the running for the lucrative title of Dabble’s chIDEO BFF, pending his making omelets for the team. You can find him on Twitter @misterburton and through his website, here.