Okay…this is not the first time I write something similar like this one. I wrote about “The Dilemma – Money or Passion” in my old blog here. It went way back to November 2008. I realized that I’ve already mentioned the CELTA course back then. So if I look back at my previous post here, I’ve been procrastinating for exactly 5 years before I finally did it *what a relief*. I had different priority back then. Luckily, I still have the sense to finally tick some of the goals I set for my clueless 22-year-old self. Imagine if I hadn’t done the course, it would have been an embarrassing “You’re a quitter and you break your own promises to yourself” moment. I had no idea that my life today would still align to the many vague unfocused goals I set five years ago. I guess that’s the beautiful and exciting part of this unpredictable life.
Now, with all the life experiences and nasty challenges I’ve accumulated under my belt, once again here’s my take on this money-or-passion matter. Do feel free to comment here or private message (PM) me! I’d like to hear your point of view.
As young adults who were going out to the working world for the first time, we were constantly bombarded by particular questions and phrases that supposed to help us decide on the type of work that we should be doing, our future career path. Things like: “Do what you love and the money will follow”, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and so on. The never-ending vague encouragement to identify what we love to do, make it your work, and eventually the money will come. You can live the life that you’ve always wanted and choose your own lifestyle. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? I wish it was that simple. I fell for some of these idealistic views in the beginning, but along the way I had to gradually adjust my thinking and choose a life path that better suits my personality, financial condition and preferences at a specific point of time.
The key problem is, NOT everyone knows what they love doing and NOT everything that we love to do can be turned into a money-making venture. I know I love playing volleyball, cycling, singing, writing and many other pastimes. But does that mean that I should think of making a career as a professional volleyball player or a cyclist or a singer or a writer? I’m neither a very gifted person nor a person with amazing talents, like: cooking, baking, singing, playing musical instrument, acting, etc. So for someone quite ordinary like me, how can I make my life become more extraordinary? Am I a “Jack of all trades, master of none”? Is that wrong to be this kind of person?
I like the analogy this blogger wrote in her website, Bad career advice: Do what you love by Penelope Trunk.
I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex. In fact, as you might imagine, my sex life is really tanking right now. But I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about “what do I love most?” Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself. So how could you possibly pick one thing you love to do? And what would be the point? The world reveals to you all that you love by what you spend time on. Try stuff. If you like it, you’ll go back to it.
I may be interested in languages and have a flair for playing with words. I can express my opinions and feelings better through writings. I have sensible organizing and planning skills. But that’s about it. So at one point of time, I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe if I’m good at languages, I should become a language teacher of any language that I know. How about that? Then at least I could do something I like, something that I think is interesting enough. I may not make a lot of money but I should feel more fulfilled by my work, shouldn’t I? *on the flip side* Why do we need to look for fulfillment in our work? We can feel fulfilled by having loving relationships with our partner, family and friends, can’t we? Life is not all about your work, right?”
For me, after my five-year exploration of the ‘do what you love’ advice, I’ve come to these five conclusions:
Do what you love, and then…WHAT?
1. The money will NOT follow
Yes, most of the time, the money won’t follow. Unless your field is very lucrative and you’re the best person, you’ll need to have another job that pays the bills while you’re pursuing what you love to do. Only those really talented ones or those born with pots of golds will have the luxury to do what they love without worrying about money. Of course with a lot of effort and perseverance, these gifted people will be the master in their own field, doing what they love and living a fulfilled life (in terms of work). There are many possible scenarios, but here are the 2 common ones:
Person A: Identify since early on during her childhood (with the help of her parents) that she’s talented in music and could play the piano very well. So at the age of 6, she started attending lessons regularly, joining numerous competitions, continuously learning to upgrade her skills. She becomes truly passionate on what she’s doing and knows that she wants to have a career as a pianist. Now, she’s an accomplished pianist and a piano teacher. An independent talented young woman who earn very decent $ by teaching what she’s passionate about.
Person B: Identify that she loves to sing and perform, so she aspires to become singer. She writes her own songs and posts her singing video all over the web. She joins a lot of singing competitions but the judges keep on slamming down her effort. Saying that she’s not good enough. Meanwhile, she keeps on living her life waiting tables, paying the bills and also waiting for another big chance to show her ‘talent’ to the whole world. She’s been struggling to make ends meet for more than 10 years and it seems like she doesn’t have that amazing talent she thinks she has. At what point do you think she needs to let go of this dream? Will perseverance and effort be enough if you don’t have the right talent? She’s not good at it, will her persistence pay off?
2. Also do what you’re GOOD at
It leads to this 2nd point. When identifying the kind of life that we want to set up for ourselves, we should also take into account what we’re good at, our personality traits and personal preferences. For example, if you’re good with numbers, you might enjoy doing work in finance or accounting firms crunching large numbers of data. And if you’re the kind of person with attention to details, this type of work might just suit you perfectly and eventually you’ll LOVE what you’re doing at work. If you’re good at talking to strangers, naturally outgoing, love to meet new people and instantly build good rapport, maybe you will love doing sales job. How can we identify what we’re good at and know for sure that we’ll love doing it?
My answer: EXPLORE. Keep on exploring until you feel that you have set up the kind of life that you imagine, make a choice and take that leap of faith *advice for my future self:)*. For me, I’ve explored as much as I can during my spare time (while still holding on my day job), from hospitality, insurance, goods sales, property and the latest one was teaching. I explored all the different fields that I think might bring me the $ and could possibly be a long-term career. While exploring, I’ll think about the things that I’m good at, my personality and the kind of life that I want to build for myself in the future.
3. The more fulfilled your life becomes
Have you ever felt that nagging feeling inside asking you to change and do something about your current life? You think that the life you have now is good enough: you eat healthily and exercise regularly, you travel around for holidays, you have a good steady job with nice coworkers, you have good relationships with your partner, family and friends. It sounds like a good life. But you still feel like you’re not living up to your potential? Does everyone have to be passionate about something, be very good at it and pursue it as a career, in order to have a fulfilled life? Comfort zone is a real place. And it’s my prerogative to make a choice, either to stay or to leave when the time comes. So don’t judge me:)
Right now, being an ordinary-non-gifted person who’s still living in a comfort zone (though I occasionally go abroad for outdoor adventures), I’d like to see myself as a reliable support system for my family and friends. Since I hardly bake and haven’t picked up a new hobby in photography, I could still use my writing, organizing and planning skills to support these two ventures, Mom’s Flavour (not that active anymore, my mom needs more help to fulfill orders but her daughters are all overseas…well?) and Foliage Photography (with my other 2 talented friends).
4. Slowly get rid of all the excuses and take care of your finances first
If you’re like me (not born with a silver spoon in my mouth) who needs to make my own living without special privileges and pots of golds, we need to really set our priorities right. We don’t have the luxury to do whatever we want, whenever we want, without worrying about money. Like what I’ve mentioned in my previous post on why I stop making new year’s resolution, defining our goals and systems every year would help us build the necessary foundation. Before we even think of jumping with our both feet into something that (we assume) we would love, we’d need to make sure that we’ve done our homework. At least get a glimpse of what it feels like to work in another field, in a very different environment. Will you regret your decision in the future? Or will you just run forward, keep moving without ever looking back? *hopefully the latter, another advice for my future self*
5. If money is not an issue, by all means, do what you love with all your heart (100%) and be responsible for your own actions and choices
Just like person A in point 1, with the resources from her parents and a gift of talent, a lot of possibilities have opened up for her. She chooses to give her all and constantly upgrades her skills. On top of her natural talent, she also gives 100% effort to further excel in her career choice. Like a wise and responsible adult, she made the right choice and strive to become the best. That’s passion and I deeply admire this kind of person.
Despite having an abundance of wealth and many different options available, our life can still be meaningless (with no purpose), unless we make something out of it. Our own character is also the greatest selling point. When we create a life we want and be good to other people, we’ll be an inspiration for them.
So for all of you out there who are:
- Talented, gifted and lucky enough to know from the beginning (even as a child) what you are passionate about and have pursued it relentlessly until today. I congratulate you. I admire you so much! (~ goes to my piano teacher friend)
- Brave enough to have made the switch, currently pursuing the things you love to do so much and living the life that you want, I salute you and genuinely wish that everything in your ‘new’ life will go smoothly. I admire you so much! (~ goes to my other friends who open a gym, a bakery, an online shop, a photography service, a make-up service, an art & craft service, friends who become an English teacher at home or at other countries)
- Still doing slash career (definition – having a full time day job: it pays the bills but not necessarily the thing that you want to do long-term & after work/weekends: doing what you love to do but not really a $-making venture yet) and waiting to make the switch. Meanwhile, becoming a reliable and excellent support system to everyone and live a full life. Good luck and you’re so awesome! (~ goes to myself + my future self + some other friends)
What do you gain by doing what you love?
Are you making the right choice?
*the purpose of this post is to quiet down my restless mind and tell myself that it’s okay to be me and to do what I’m doing at my current stage, that it’s okay to be uncertain of what the future holds and force myself to stay in the moment, just doing my best every single day*
An article on Gen Y that you might find intriguing, “Why generation Y Yuppies are unhappy?“
Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion” is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time. The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase “a secure career” has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has gotten hot.
Some things you might love because they punctuate your life – diving, skiing, cooking, yoga, etc – however, maybe doing it 10 hours a day 6 days a week would kill your passion for it. Maybe having to sell it to others over and over again might cause you to tire of this passion.
In Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, he argues that following one’s passions can be a dead end. He argues that it’s better to identify which skills you have that could be rare and valuable in the workplace – and then to hone those skills till you have career capital that you can spend in the way you choose.
But the bottom line remains: not everyone has the luxury of dropping everything and taking a massive risk right now. If you have a family, you may need to do extensive planning to transition to a new field. If you live paycheck-to-paycheck, you may need to overlap your current job with your passion in order to eventually make a living through the latter
When your money is in balance, you always have enough to pay your bills, have some fun, and save for your dreams. And here is the best part of all. Once your money is in balance, you can stop worrying about it. Managing your money becomes automatic (Warren & Tyagi). This Balanced Money Formula is a goal. It’s an ideal. If you’re just beginning to manage your money, your financial life will probably be distinctly unbalanced.
- Focus on something you love
- Be creative
- Don’t force it
- Don’t underestimate your ability
- Market yourself
- Hone your skill