Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I think it's still okay to tell people to "do what you love"

a short rant on something that's been bugging me for a while...

Recently there have been a few articles, social media commentary, and some backlash in general on the idea of imparting advice to people that they should "do what you love and love what you do".  The reasoning seems to be generally that it is a somewhat snotty idea that people actually have this as an option - that not all of us can be photographers, and film majors, and craft heirloom yak yarn on our wooden spindles while listening to indie folk rock and sipping on $8 Oprah Chai Tea Latte.  Or something like that.  I guess the idea is that only a privileged few get these sorts of options and it is both delusional, and unhelpful to suggest that everyone will have the economic freedom of choosing a career based on what you "love".  Also, there seems to be a bit of a backlash based on the fact that "work" indeed involves (or should) actual "work" and that we should recognize and applaud those who do jobs no one "loves" particularly but which must need to be done because society would literally fall apart if everyone picked "twee" careers like costume design and hand blowing glass because where would we get garbage men?


But I totally disagree.  And the reason I totally disagree is that it sends a really dumb message to either young people feeling out their futures and to adults who want to go back to school or switch around what they are doing.  The best advice by far is still, and probably always will be, do what you love.  And the reason is relatively simple.  If you do what you love you will likely be good at what you do.  And if you do what you love you will likely be satisfied with your work.  And as well you will likely excel beyond the other people who are also doing that thing - especially if they are not doing it because they love it.  And the biggest reason is probably the dictum if you do what you love you actually work a lot harder but it won't seem so much like work, thereby, increasing your likelihood of further success.

The world is always going to be full of people who hate their jobs, are terrible at their jobs, do a job just for the paycheck, who can't keep a job to save their life, who are never satisfied and who feel totally stuck.  And this is usually due to a variety of reasons and one of them is that they aren't doing what they love, they aren't working towards doing what they love, or they have no idea what they would love.  It's not the only reason - there is some general other issues at place which of course sometimes is lack of opportunity, socioeconomic barriers, and other societal issues.  And while this is always true in the MACRO, it is very rarely true in the MICRO.  And by that I mean that I tell all my economically disadvantaged youth who I case manage to DO WHAT YOU LOVE.  Because there is usually always some way to make that happen.  I see talent and potential in almost everyone -  and yet, very often they believe due to their circumstances, or poor advice their parents give them, or because they don't believe in themselves, that they may be stuck doing things that they don't want to do.  Usually it is a lack of self esteem and the ability to believe in themselves.

I sometimes hear college educated people say "college isn't for everyone".  I mean really?  That sounds about as classicist as anything I've ever heard anyone say.  It's not for everyone but it is for you right?  In my job I very often get to see people's IQ scores.  It is shocking to me how often some poor kid who is doing terrible in school and generally comes from a background where no one has gone to college and no one expects anything from this kid - how often these kids actually have a relatively high IQ score.  These are kids who get told "college isn't for everyone" "school is hard and it's not for everybody".

It's probably true.  School is not for everyone.  Some people really do struggle with school.  But often they have other talents and skills.  It's totally cool if that talent is welding, cooking, dancing or a plethora of other things.  Sometimes school is important and sometimes, less so.  But learning your skill, craft, and honing your talent is always going to be important. 

Someone is always going to be the dude who digs the ditches - either because that dude actually likes digging ditches or because that dude got stuck through a series of circumstances, digging ditches.  Society is never going to just be full of people who play the lute and hand raise goats and make artisinal cheese. But gosh darn it if that's what you want to do, you should totally go for it.  There are always going to be people who will just do a job for the paycheck.

And this is not to say that just because you decided to open up that little antique shop like you always wanted that it's not going to be work.  It sure as heck is going to be work.  Most jobs, no matter how much you like what you're doing, have acumen for it, or are otherwise suited for your career, will be easy.  But it will be easier, than doing something you hate.  The worst day at a job you're well suited for is better than the best day at a job you aren't.

I'm super glad that at the age of 46 I am working towards doing what I really want to do.  It feels good even though it is a challenge.  If I wasn't doing this I can think of at least 3 or 4 other things I also would have loved and probably could have done as well and all of them probably would have been challenging to obtain success at.  But all of them would have been worth it.

Don't let anyone rain on your parade.  Go do what you want, what you love, what interests you, what you're talented at, and what you feel like doing.

Jobs that I think I would have loved besides being a counselor:

art curation/art historian

(this is Jill Dawsey, she's been a curator at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, SF Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.)

Interior Designer

(I've said before I'd like to BE Mary Mcdonald, but if I can't actually be her, I think I also would have loved to be an interior designer who is as successful as her)

boutique owner

(Georgeann Bryant owns local Frances Boutique, it is absolutely charming and lovely and when I was younger I used to think I would love owning a boutique - it still sounds appealing, but I think the "business" part of it might be challenging!  Even still, if you have the right personality and skill set, this would be an awesome career)

Fashion Editor

 (well we can't all be Grace Coddington, but what an awesome job!)


(and we can't all be Don Draper either - BUT, I often believe I could have been good at a career in advertising or marketing, I even like the idea of being the person who does the focus groups and travels all over doing that)

Jury consultant: 

(this always appealed to me I think for the same reason psychology and counseling appeals to me - but in this job you're just figuring people out and making hunches about behavior rather than dealing with them directly.  I still think I'm really good at being able to do this.  I can predict people's behavior pretty accurately)


(when I was young I really only wanted to be a writer more than anything in the world.)

English or French Teacher:

(last, but certainly not least, I did consider becoming an English or French teacher - I think I would have liked it and been pretty good at it too)

All of the careers I've listed are careers someone might try to talk a person out of for a variety of reasons, either because they seem too hard to achieve, or it's too competitive, or the pay isn't particularly good.  There's always a downside it seems to everything and if there is, you can be sure people will feel they have to let you know what that downside is.

But take heart - there are plenty of upsides!  Decide what you most want and then work hard for it.  SOMEBODY has to do the job or have the career you're dreaming of - it might as well be YOU.


Christina Martinez said...

Inspiring! I still don't know what I want to do.

Cynthia said...

I love this post. I often think of my father who LOVED the game of retail - guessing what trends are going to take off, trips to NYC to buy fashions, advertising, grand store openings, window displays etc. And he worked in small towns in northern AZ, not Los Angeles or Chicago.
I love that you are working toward something that you enjoy. You have so many interests, you have a lot to choose from!


Related Posts with Thumbnails