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Why 'Do What You Love' is a Shallow and Bad Advice?
"What the hell is wrong with the title?" you may be thinking, or you may have already read something along those lines. This title is a little blunt, contrary to the advice itself that this article is trying to debunk.
'Follow your passion' is undeniably a great piece of advice; it has always been. This 'key to success' has given us many legends whom we love to read and know about. But if this were as simple as those three words, I would be retired by now and vacationing on an island.
I don't have a wisdom of a 50-year old, but I have experimented enough with my inner callings. I don't want to start right off from my schooling days, as, then, an influential movie was used to be enough to decide what I was going to be for the rest of my life.
I loved computers. Tweaking with settings, reading a lot about hardware upgrades in order to make my system future-proof, and playing games would keep me involved all day long. My parents thought I was made for computers and computers were made for me, and the result- a degree in Computers from a decent university.
Only during my engineering days, I came to know about a parallel world, where things aren't the way you thought them to be. There were codes, languages, platforms, programming, and all those things that I had thought I would 'like' given my love for computers, but sadly that was not the case.
I was not a nerd; I was just an enthusiast who thought of himself as a nerd.
There is a big difference between 'what we may like to do' and 'what we are ABSOLUTELY passionate about'.
They happen more often than not. Frankly, there are very few people who are really happy doing what they do. Somehow, we don't find enough sinks that could absorb all our creativeness, and this leads to an epiphany that tells us or remind us about what we have always loved to do. We refer to it as passion and take bold steps to realize our dream without thinking much about the repercussions.
This belief of 'going after your dream' is further strengthened by hundreds of success stories told and retold many a times, but for every success story there are many unsuccessful ones.
I am the biggest pessimist ever born.
Passion vs. REAL job
After leaving college I got a job in a software company, which was far from enjoyable. I hardly thought twice before resigning from there. I started freelancing as a writer and thereafter, fortunately, I landed a job in the field of marketing.
It was just a chance that came my way, and I grabbed it with both hands. I was good at my new job because I had a flair for convincing people and my communication skills were better than that of an average person. In a sentence, marketing was my new found love because I had aptitude and needed skills for the job. I loved it in spite of never thinking of it as a viable career option before.
It was all happening the other way round for me.
But after two years, things started becoming monotonous, and in no time I was starving for something better, something more challenging. I was not done with the marketing altogether. On the contrary, I wanted a little more of that.
Steve Jobs has once said:
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
My answer was a 'No' for far too many days, and there was a time for a switch, again.
Don't Buy a Crappy 'Follow Your Dreams' advice
It is harder than we think. Anybody could be an expert telling you to jump the ship, and do what you always wanted. It rarely works that way. The reason why there are many adopters of the this super-hit advice is that it is a lot more comforting and exciting.
If you truly want to go ahead doing what you love, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Am I good at it?
This is the most important question. If there are millions of people out there doing better or equally well in the job that you are going to start with, better ask, whether you will have a buyer for your offerings? Will your voice get heard? Are you good enough to jump the ship? Are you ready to learn the ropes for many more years to come? Can you really deliver and survive in a competitive environment? Are you fantastic, or have in you what it takes to be fantastic?
You just cannot be a writer because your passion lies in writing. You must have good writing skills and an enthusiasm to absorb tomes of knowledge that lies ahead of you, and endure all the hardships associated with it.
2. Can I pay my Bills?
'Let's make a castle, people will come', this seems like a hollow strategy. If you are taking a plunge, be assured you won't be able to shrug it off for years to come. Money is just as important as your endeavors. If your passion cannot make you money, your interest will wane faster than you think.
3. Do I exactly know what I want to do?
'Passion for something' is still a broad term. Dive in deeper and ask yourself, what you would be EXACTLY doing 10 years after. What your office look like, what will be your work, who would be your clients, visualize everything that you could (including how beautiful your girlfriend would be).
This will create a virtual world in your mind, and may give you a suggestion or two about moving forward.
4. Do I have an appetite for challenges?
Problems will arise. Things are destined to go through the paths we never imagined before. Think about every possible way your ideas could go wrong; think of the worst that could happen. If such thoughts are not that intimidating, you can definitely go ahead.
Cal Newport puts it well
Cal Newport is an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown university. In his book 'So Good They Cannot Ignore You' he advocates the idea of cultivating a passion rather than following it.
In an interview with 'The Minimalists', he says, "True passion arises after you’ve put in the long hours to really become a craftsman in your field and can then leverage this value to really have an impact, to gain autonomy and respect, to control your occupational destiny."
Cal Newport also says that there is no passion that you need to find, but this time I differ. There is certainly something that entice us more than anything else. There are a few jobs that we despise so much so that we couldn't cultivate a passion for it, no matter how hard we try.
But between these two extremes, of following passion and cultivating it, there lies a practical way, which helps us pay our bills and doesn't make us abuse Mondays.
During my college days, away from all programming and coding, I grew completely engrossed with reading and writing. I would read fictions and non-fictions, and write stories on my personal blog. I had now grown a firm belief that writing was what I would love doing always.
As soon as I started my career as a software engineer, I knew that it wouldn't last. I kept writing in my free time and even tried monetizing it. There were many websites that were ready to pay me for what love.
"YES! This is something one always wants; getting paid for what one loves", I thought.
I passed a few Grammar tests, and enrolled as a writer on many websites even though they were paying peanuts.
Assignments started pouring in; I started writing product descriptions, reviews of the products I had never tried, articles on 'Dog Care' and relationships, and what not. But that was not, by any stretch, near anything I always wanted to do. It was happening the second time and I was clueless.
I didn't ask myself the third question, "What EXACTLY I wanted to do?"
I just had a vague term to define my passion, 'writing'. If I wanted to do copywriting, or creative writing, or technical writing, or I wanted to be an author, I didn't know.
The moral of the story: read at length about your passions or dreams, you would eventually find what you TRULY want.
I was looking for a new opportunity in marketing, and I never wanted to give up writing professionally, so I devised a way to balance these out. I started researching a little more (this time without leaving my job) and I found 'inbound marketing' interesting because this field was allowing me to stick to my interests.
As of now, I am trying to learn the new ropes, getting some new certifications, and adding some weight to my credentials. I just want to be extremely good at what I do. I don't know whether whatever that I am doing is my passion or a dream or a way to keep myself busy (and keep earning money of course), but I am satisfied. So, why to tag such things?
I am a happy as long as I have a decent bank balance and a job that doesn't annoy me everyday. I am happy as long as I keep finding new ways to explore new stuffs.
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