As the probability of a cushy afterlife dwindles when 72 virgins decide that instead of sex “We’d like to go home and have a nice cup of tea.”, St Peter is away ‘helping’ with Operation Yewtree and reincarnation has been put on hold after the talking pig incident. Is it any wonder that we feel compelled to find something fulfilling to do with our lives if there’s no likelihood of an afterlife?
Add to that a sprinkling of inspiring and motivational creative media spread through our favourite social networks. I’m looking at you Jason Silva:
“That is why love simultaneously fills us with melancholy, that’s why sometimes I feel nostalgic over something I haven’t lost yet, because I see it’s transience.”
Woah! That was like getting hit in the face with a wet fish of motivation.
Add to that a dash of inspirational advice passed through generations. I’m looking at you Marcus Aurelius:
“How small a fraction of all the measureless infinity of time is allotted to each one of us; an instant, and it vanishes into eternity.”
Never has the Arrow of Time weighed so heavy on our shoulders and, bless us, humanity has tried to come with it’s own advice to lift the burden: “Follow your passion.” and “Do what you love.”.
Do what you love
Four simple words to sum up what seems like an impossible task. You may as well tell someone to win the lottery.
“Find your job boring? Well, just win the lottery!” Easy for you to say; hard for me to do.
The problem with ‘do what you love’ and ‘follow your passion’ is that they make a number of assumptions:
That we know what our passion is.
The way I see it, passions are not generated over night, they’re created through long hours of slogging away at something. Something which probably at first seemed pretty dull. As you get better at it the more you enjoy it and the more passionate you become. You can become passionate about work, hobbies, people, even moss or clouds but I think it takes time, patience and dedication. So the likelihood is that we have yet to work out what we really love doing. How can we ‘follow our passion’ if we have yet to develop one?
That our passions can generate enough money to enable financial independence and that we want to monetise them.
If we are lucky enough to have developed a passion what is the likelihood of us being able to make money from it? If your passion involves creating something which you can sell then you have a head start. But what if your passion is looking after your kids, reading, socialising or helping your community? You could probably work in a school, a library, a bar or community center but then you are at the mercy of employers dictating how you use your passion. It may be that you’ll have to fund that passion with a job you may find unfulfilling or boring.
The web industry is particularly good at pushing the passion agenda. It’s not only a requirement that you can do a job and take an interest in it but you have to be passionate about it. You need to attend meet-ups, work on side projects, learn in your free time, to basically be stuck at your computer during your waking hours. You need to live and breathe web development. Only to have your passion beaten out of you with mundane projects.
Personally, web development was the closest thing I could call a passion which I could monetise but it has been wrung out of me, mentally (fatigue) and physically (RSI T-Rex arms). I don’t want the same thing to happen to writing and that is why I won’t be pursuing it as a career.
That we are able to actively work on our passions.
As I write this article I keep giving side-long glances to a black box in the corner of the room. If it could speak it would be calling to me in hushed tones: “Play me, just one hour won’t hurt, think of the worlds you can visit, the fun you can have!”
But one hour soon becomes 2 or 3 and gamer guilt sets in. When I said web development was probably the closest I had to a passion it was because I’m keeping gaming safely locked up in the shame box of my mind.
I love gaming. I mean I really love it. It’s a great medium for storytelling and lets you experience a plethora of emotions. I could easily be passionate about it and could probably monetise it. But I won’t because I know it will swallow up my time and it will mess up my T-Rex hands even more. In this case I can’t ‘do what I love’.
That all work is equal.
While we’re all doing jobs we love, which let us grow and feel fulfilled, who’s going to do the work which is basic, uninteresting, unfulfilling yet essential?
Let’s not forget why work exists in the first place. Work exists because someone else doesn’t want to or can’t do something. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. Work is a transaction. To be snobbish about the kinds of work people do, does those people doing the things we wouldn’t want to do a disservice.
The intentions behind ‘follow your passion’ and ‘do what you love’ are good but I think it’s lazy advice. They skip an essential question:
Do you truly know what you love doing and could you do it 38 hours or more a week?
We need to give better guidance to people who want to use their time wisely. And when I say wisely I mean: as best as they see fit. It’s not up to us to judge how people spend their time.
It’s okay to want to enjoy your job, just like it’s okay for someone to find their job boring and to complain about it. That’s part of life - like complaining about a dodgy knee.
Finally, be skeptical of people who love their job when their job revolves around telling other people how to love their job. I’m looking at you self-help gurus! More importantly be skeptical of cynical bastards like me dishing out career advice. It doesn’t really matter what you do in the end, you’ll probably be re-incarnated into a pig anyway, if you do here’s three words of advice: Baa-ram-ewe.