The good thing about living in our age is that the internet is filled with career advice. The bad thing about living in our age is that the internet is filled with contradicting career advice.
The economic crisis happened the year I graduated, which meant I didn’t have to look far and wide to discover that “Go to school, get into a good university, get a good job and you’re set for life” no longer applied. All I had to do was go to work one day and see the empty desks around me. Apparently our peers in the Western world had discovered that a bit earlier but living in the Middle East, someone seemed to have missed the memo.
So at some point in your life, it’s 6abee3i jiddan (natural) to type into google, “I hate my job wh…” and google totally gets you. The trick is to somehow find your way through the 264,000,000 results that come up.
Some people will tell you to follow your passion, and again, if you live in the part of the world where you’re branded an engineer or a doctor from the day you’re born, then there’s a high chance your passion is very much different from what you’ve studied. However, the main risk connected with following your passion is you’ll be broke — for a very, very long time — and following your passion — or doing anything in fact — is pretty difficult when you’re broke and hungry.
“Following your passion – or doing anything in fact – is pretty difficult when you’re broke and hungry.” Tweet this
Then Cal Newport entered the scene with his message, “Why ‘Following your passion’ is bad advice,” in his book So Good they Can’t Ignore You. His advice focuses on how passion comes after working really, really hard on something, and being really good at it.
Personally, I support the second message, because of a few truths:
- Not everybody knows what their passion is
- The world might not be willing to pay you for your passion
So let’s say you’re really passionate about counting baby coconuts. The most that someone might pay you for counting coconuts is a free baby coconut drink. But the world might not be ready for your counting-coconut-services, so following your passion happens to be really really really bad advice.
So let’s say you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what their passion is.It’s very easy to read all this stuff on the internet and get pretty pumped up about quitting your job and hitchhiking around the globe to discover what your passion is. It’s easy theoretically, but pretty hard practically (read $$$$).
But here’s one thing to know about those successful ‘follow your passion’ stories on the internet. To each one, there are probably five failure stories that don’t get reported.
So before quitting your job, find out exactly what’s bothering you. You might not be having a passion crisis. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you get intellectually challenged at your job?
- Are you building your skill set?
- Do you enter a state of flow while you’re working?
- Is the world ready to pay you for your services?
If the first three answers are no, then those might be your reasons for ‘hating your job’ not that you’re not passionate about it. Maybe if you find something else in the field that intellectually challenges you then you might throw those ‘Malaysia, truly Asia’ brochures out the window.
If you do know what your passion is, and really want to make money out of it, then work at monetizing it before you quit your day job. Ask the world if they are ready to pay for it and don’t be like that coconut-counter.
The trick is whatever you do, do not make rash emotional decisions based on one bad day at work. Even people who follow their passions will tell you it’s not always good in the ‘Living My Dream’ world. There are difficult clients, and tasks they hate doing but have to do it anyway. And if you’re not really convinced, read Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. He definitely does a better job convincing than I do.
Image: Google screenshot and unsplash.com
This post previously appeared on my primary blog; http://ahscribbles.com/follow-your-passion-or-not/
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Isn’t it funny how people seem to be experts at giving you advice on how you should lead your life, and yet when it comes to their own lives they seem to be unsure themselves? I think people in general need to enroll in a “MYOB” course. In case you’re wondering what that stands for, google it. Yet we’re all guilty of it at times; telling people what’s best for them or because we’ve gone through something similar or because we think we’re the experts. People always suffer from this close to graduation; “Get a job,” “Go to grad school”, “Get married”. Nobody talks about traveling to India and asking a young boy begging on the streets, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” the answer to which inspired, “Pencils of Promise.”
So what are the few lessons that would need to be enforced in an “MYOB” course?
1) Recognize that you don’t really know the whole story. A lot of times people reach conclusions and make judgments from the way things look like on the surface, but unless the person sat down with you and explicitly opened up, you’re really not aware of the whole story and you can’t really reach a conclusion or make a judgement.
2) Interfere only when you’re financially invested. So when a kid keeps on failing school, the parent needs to interfere because he’s paying for all that education. The problem is many people interfere, they do so under the claim of being emotionally invested. They care about you. They don’t want to watch you fall….yada yada yada….but you know what, their emotions? Their problem. Not yours.
3) If you really really really care about that person, then you need to ask two questions; “Are you happy? Can you stand on your own two feet?”
The follow-up to the second question falls under point (2). If the answer is no, and they financially invest in you, then they can hen you can interfere since their business becomes yours, technically.
Society has built this whole idea of how success needs to look like for everyone, they don’t realize that some people really don’t care about the mansion with the swimming pool, that they’re just happy with their own mud house and cow, so let them be. People are different. They’re motivated by different things. They want different things.
If you’re at the receiving end of all this unsolicited advice about how you need to lead your life, and you’re tempted to listen to them, ask yourself one question, “If tomorrow, you break your legs and you’re bedridden for two weeks, will they drop their whole life and nurse you back to health?”
If the answer is no, then you know what to do…
I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but it’s just that I’ve been trying to live offline more than online this year, adding new experiences to my list, and opting to meet people face-to-face instead of hiding behind usernames and passwords. But it’s quite interesting how during my visit to Kenya this year, I met a lot of people who brought up my blog over and over again discussing possible topics I could write about.
So today I’m going to address one of those topics. One of my closest friends told me that her problem in life was with self-confidence. She said she didn’t even have the self-confidence to talk to customer service people on the phone, and the topic made me laugh because if I had enough self-confidence in my life, I’m not so sure I would have ever become a writer. It was because I found it difficult to connect with people and express myself that actually made me pick up a pen as a child. So how was I to teach her on self-confidence, when I obviously needed a few lessons in that area myself?
But I’ll try.
My advice to her was to take risks and expose yourself to an experience over and over again regardless of how you feel about it. For instance, I personally have an issue talking to customer service myself, and until recently, I used to delegate that task every chance I got. But picking up the phone to talk to them, I realized that we avoid tasks like that because we dread we’d sound so stupid in front of these people, or we’re scared they’re going to judge us. And I suppose many people in my community would relate to that, because we grew up listening to people being judged all the time. Dialogues got dissected, behaviors got misinterpreted, lifestyles got judged…it was no wonder we were always scared of making a wrong move lest we step on a verbal land mine.
But it gets easier when you tell yourself to accept that feeling as normal, whether it is the fear of being judged or being seen as stupid, or deaf (which sometimes happens when you can’t understand what that customer service woman is actually saying). Accept that feeling uncomfortable is normal, and accept that you’re not perfect, so there’s no point in pretending to be perfect all the time.
Accept that you will make mistakes and you will be judged so be prepared for it and don’t sweat it. Whatever it is, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. People make mistakes. People learn from their mistakes. People move on. Again, taking into consideration our society, unfortunately, the communal memory of our people can astound you. You’ll hear people recalling someone else’s mistakes decades after they’ve made them.Why? In the decades you’ve been holding on to a grudge on whoever it was, Pluto got demoted so it’s no longer a planet, Japan’s coast moved 8 feet after the 2011 earthquake and over 30 new countries came into being (since 1990 at least). My point is, the world changes, and so do people. So cut others some slack.
Empower yourself with knowledge and be more competent. The main thing that makes us lose self-confidence is when we don’t know. In some scenarios we don’t know what to say, how to behave, how the other person will perceive what we say. Not knowing makes us think, “Oh God, they’re going to think I’m so stupid.” So in order to negate this, learn. Sometimes learning is simply done by spending time with a self-confident person and seeing how they do it, how they deal with different scenarios.
Practice in low-risk scenarios. This is very useful advice for people who struggle with public speaking. To some, speaking in public can be quite a terrifying experience, especially when the audience consists of high-calibre people in your field. Just the idea of presenting something can make you sick to the stomach. So step number one is to know your stuff (previous point), and step number two is practice in front of your friends and family; people who won’t judge you so much and exist in your life to be supportive. Of course, shifting from a low-risk environment to a high-risk one is not going to be easy, but at least with practice you manage certain aspects like your nerves, or how you present the material…
Fake it until you make it. This deals with your body language. I personally struggle with this because I tend to act small, disappear into the wall every chance I get. But people who fake self-confidence feel that self-doubt rise inside them and yet they never fail to stride through the room, walk tall and speak loudly even if they knew that they’re not so sure about what they’re saying and even if they knew you knew they’re not sure about what they’re saying.
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As you grow older you tend to appreciate the beauty of silence. Silence so deep that the only thing you can hear are your thoughts, and the occasional birdsong outside the window. Silence, as a response to questions you can’t start to fathom, let alone find words to express your opinions about them; like what has the world come to. At least by being silent, you are not adding to the sound pollution, even though you know that sound pollution is not the world’s biggest problem right now, but at least you’re making a contribution somehow.
“I don’t know what to say.” Has become your default because you really don’t know what to say. You can cry out and yell and try to say something but if nobody is listening, what’s the point? And if people do listen but nobody is willing to understand, what’s the point? Or if people do listen and do understand but what you say doesn’t change anything, then what’s the point?
So resort to silence.
Because sometimes, silence is the best answer you can give.