Passion

Should you Follow Your Passion or Not

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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 YouHis 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:

  1. Not everybody knows what their passion is
  2. 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:

  1. Do you get intellectually challenged at your job?
  2. Are you building your skill set?
  3. Do you enter a state of flow while you’re working?
  4. 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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A Couple of Words about Writing

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So the other day I spent close to four hours on a story. I only stopped to move to another place with better lighting. And to order food, which I ravenously wolfed down with one hand while the other was on the keyboard. It’s a story I’ve been working on for ages (the first draft was written back in 2006), and the more words I add to it the more I realize I wouldn’t want it published. Unless I want to be sued by the real people who inspired it. It’s supposed to be ‘fiction’ with enough details close to life to make people point fingers and speculate. And in a small town like Mombasa, you seriously don’t want to set the ball of speculation rolling. Trust me.

Writing can be an emotionally draining experience. That’s the main reason why I tend to write in ‘spikes’ and things like nanowrimo never work for me. I might stay away from a work-in-progress for a long time and then spend four hours in a single day writing. Not only can writing be time-consuming, it can also be unsettling. It’s how Natalie Goldberg once said, “Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.”

And sometimes writing may result in insomnia. We cannot sleep until we’ve put those those words on paper (or an iphone note). I actually kept an insomnia notebook one summer. Before smartphones came along.

And you know the worse part about writing stories?

It’s when you actually go to sleep and end up dreaming an upsetting scene. It happened to me once, but I still haven’t had the emotional capacity to write down the story around that one scene because it was too sad, thinking about it makes me tear up occasionally, I just imagine the disastrous effect  writing about it would have. 

But you know despite all its downfalls, writing helps us understand people, understand ourselves. It helps us figure things out things about life in general. In one of the scenes I wrote yesterday, my protagonist’s friend tells her, “Sometimes our secrets define us. No matter how much time we spend together you can never really know the true me because the things I choose to hide are as much a part of me as the things I choose to tell. Does that even make sense?” 

Last but not least, it can  be therapeutic.

Explains why I’m here. Good night.

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Surround yourself with passionate people

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photoHave you ever listened to someone speak passionately about something?

There’s a sparkle in their wide eyes. They gesture wildly, and talk so quickly it’s like their tongues can never catch up with the thoughts in their heads and neither can you. Yes, sometimes they lose you. Actually, a lot of times they lose you.

But there is something about passionate people that I find quite fascinating. When they speak they get so carried away by the ocean tides of their ideas, they are unanchored, and they tend to pull you with them. In real time, as you listen to them, you might actually be captivated by their manner of speech even if you understand nothing from the content.

Another thing is passionate people are quite rare to find. A lot of reasons contribute to this. A lot of times people are passionate about things they are not really exposed to in their daily lives, so maybe they don’t talk to those around them about what makes them passionate because they think others won’t be interested. Sometimes people do not even know what they are passionate about in the first place, and so they have nothing to talk about.

So if you find that one person, and they start speaking, do not interrupt. Just listen to them. Maybe you’ll get inspired.

Try Walking Away

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Randy Pausch once said, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

What if somebody doesn’t know what the brick walls are even hiding? What if they are clueless about what they’re passionate about? They go through the motions of the day, not knowing what they really love doing and so they do everything with mediocrity, feeling like….blah, doing their best to just get by. But there is a simple test to find out things that they love doing, “Try walking away.”

Because the moment you walk away from something you love doing or somebody you love spending time with, something will probably go wrong with your system. You might become a different person. You might start shuffling, stop smiling, continue sighing as though you carry the burden of the world with you, when all you carry is a heart heavy with pain.

Take the example of the writer who stops writing because it doesn’t pay or the husband who sends his wife packing only to realize he’s having difficulty living without her or the child who is afraid of touching a football because it hurt him once even though in his heart he still loved playing.

It might take a while to figure out what is wrong, what is missing, despite it being missing in your life from the start – since of course it’s behind those brick walls – but because you’ve given it your back and walked away from it, that’s when you start losing the state of equilibrium in your emotional or physical well being.

So the next time you’re having doubts, try walking away from what you’re passionate about, and if you can do so without repercussions then you probably didn’t feel that strongly about it in the first place.

And if you can’t walk away, then maybe you should walk back.

Creative Commons License from Flickr/CitySkylineSouvenir's
Creative Commons License from Flickr/CitySkylineSouvenir’s