Follow Your Passion or Profession?

Bad advice

We’re given a lot of great advice that on the surface seems good, but when you get down to it doesn’t actually help us at all, it might even send us down the wrong path.  Instead of finding your passion, or “do what you love, the money will follow”, I’m saying find what you actually enjoy doing – that’s your “passion”.  Don’t get too caught up in the “find your purpose” bit, or that your life needs to have a purpose.

What if what you love to do is play music?  This purpose idea would put you in a situation where you would feel that “there must be something else”.  Is playing harmonica in a blues band really a “purpose” in life?  We, as Americans, especially this generation, have been raised to believe we were put on the planet “for a reason.”  I don’t want to argue such religious and philosophical questions with people, but I do want to point out that this Puritan-induced worldview will fight against people finding what they are naturally good at and enjoy with their whole soul.

I’ve been down this path

I know this as it relates to my own life.  I have looked for my purpose, my passion, etc. while working in a career that has made me really great money.  $200k per year for many years, but because it’s not my “passion,” I always felt something was missing, and it was if I were to expect my work to fuel my passion.
Again there’s nothing that says you must work in your field of passion to be happy.

Fund your passion

What I realize now, after a shower epiphany, is that I just need something to fund my passions.  I’ve never been happier when I was playing harmonica in a blues band.  Good luck doing that until the money follows.  I’ve read those books, “What Color is your Parachute?” and “Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow.”  Great books, horrible advice for the practicality of life.  I’d say, “Do what you can stand doing every day to fund your enjoyment.”

I love to write, to create – the same thing – it can be done, there are more successful writers than harmonica players, I assure you.  But if I just do it without regard for whether I ever make money from it, I will be happier.  And I can argue that more salespeople make over $200k per year than writers.

There’s another dark side to following your passion into work.  You run the risk of killing you “passion”.  For instance, I love to work with my hands – I don’t know a single mechanic who loves his work anymore.  Many of my favorite musicians are below the poverty line.  How many writers, actors, etc. work other jobs?

Don’t burn out your passion

There’s a flip side to this as well, if you follow your passion into your work, it very much could end up being something that burns you out.  Once you see “behind the curtain” you may lose all passion for that work.  There are tons of sayings about this:  “The cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” for instance.  If that was his life’s work, why then, did he not spend his spare time making shoes for his kids?  There’s another great joke about a gynecologist coming home from work to find his lovely wife in a slinky negligee, only to tell her, “Honey, if I have to see another one of those things today, I’ll just shoot myself”.  You get the idea.  Drudgery kills passion.

I’m passionate about computers.  I’ve played with them on and off since I was 12 when they were just becoming desktop items.  I still do it today, and my home computers are always up to snuff.  I work in the field, but I don’t do computer project-based things for work.  All of my computer projects, building a website, building a backup drive for my family, building a database to house our DVDs and books so we know what we have and what we still need to buy, all of these things were projects I did on nights and weekends because I enjoy it.

You get to steer the ship

My point on all this is, we’ve been getting really bad advice for our futures, and I hope this post gets to at least one person in their late teens or early 20s to give them hope that they can have a great life without having to work in a field that “has a purpose” or generally contributes to the betterment of society.  If that’s your passion, great.  But as I’ve listed mine, none of those fit that category, and I’ve been forced to keep looking because a life of “meaning and purpose” must surely meet those criteria, right?

Wrong.  It’s your life.  You get to steer the ship.  Do what you can tolerate in order to fund the stuff you really enjoy doing, whatever that is.  Trying to find a job as a professional video gamer sets you up for a life of complete frustration, and it’s not your fault.  You’ve been misled.

I’m not saying it’s foolish to follow your passions into a field that would pay you, definitely not.  But I would caution people against doing that because I have met relatively few people who still enjoy their life like they did when it was just a hobby. And once that passion becomes a profession, what’s your passion then?  What would you do to “relax” or for pure enjoyment?

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