Monday, July 13, 2009

Passionate About Nothing?

A caller to my KGO show last night said something like, "I'm a trainer for a cable company and I like it fine. It's stable, it pays well, I'm good at it, and the people there like me, but I'm not passionate about it. Would you help me find a career I'm passionate about?"

Given that in his 3o or 40 years on earth, he'd not heretofore found a career passion, I asked if, rather than take the time and income risk of changing careers, would he be wiser to recognize that he's got a pretty good deal? Might he may be one of the many millions of people who would not find a career they're passionate about that also "pays well, I'm good at it, and the people there like me,'"?" And if so, should he focus on being grateful for his good if not passion-filled career and find additional gratification outside work, for example, by spending more time doing the things you like: a hobby, playing with his kids, volunteering, and so on.?"

He said, 'Absolutely. You figured me out precisely. Thank you."

We live in an era where "follow your passion" is widely viewed as unequivocably to be sought. Fact is, too often, if you do what you love, poverty will follow. Or you end up spending a life of discontent, waiting for Godot: searching for a career passion where, for you, none ever reveals itself.

Rather than accept "do what you love" as a universal postulate, I invite you to consider which goal, for you, offers a higher risk-reward ratio:
A) a career or job you're passionate about
B) a career or job that pays reasonably, is ethical, and in which you have a good boss and coworkers, and where you find additional juice outside of work.


F.S. said...

I love this and agree completely. Thanks!

Not sure if this is a corollary idea, but I think it's also okay to take a job where you make less money if the job serves some other need. For instance, I freelance; I could take a staff job that would pay more (might be harder now, though!) but I'd lose the time flexibility that I've come to love. Other bonuses: I don't have to sit in meetings, commute, or dress up.

Kelly said...

This really helps me get perspective, and at a time when I especially need it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I'm a 50yo male and I completely agree. I left a job at IBM that paid ~$160K per year (voluntarily) to take a job where I made less money but allowed me more time with my family.

I was tired of the constant travel, and the 7am-9pm hours, where work at home meant "always work".

IBM was a great company to work for, the people were great, but I'm having just as much fun at the new gig. Less money, but love the flexibility.

S said...

Screw life.

No, I am not going to kill myself.

I am going to apply for governmental assitance. Why work? Work Sucks. So I work and maybe can make $30-75k a year. At what expense--50 hour workweeks? Screw that.

The best things in life really are free (relaxing, reading, etc.) Without having to work, I have something far more important than money, namely, time--time to spend doing what I want.

Jobs are overrated. Quit while you are ahead.

S said...

I would also like to add, there are some really nice Section 8 places out there! I really do not need money to be happy, just control over my lifestyle and time.

See, the way I look at it, there are ways in which I can contribute to society while dropping out and collecting assistance. For example, I could talk with a homeless person for free, providing him more support and counsel than some money-hungry psychologist who charges $150 an hour. So, if I talk with him for a couple hours a week, or maybe someone else, I am contributing to society, more than I take from it. Does that make sense?

Marty Nemko said...


I fear that you were not being sarcastic.

If you are of able mind and body, there are few bigger wastes of a life than being a parasite on the taxpayers.

It is theft and immoral in my view to do so.

Marty Nemko said...

No it doesn't make sense. It is unfair of you to force taxpayers support you to live exactly as you want.

Sergey Gnedoy said...

If you have the gift - to be able to be passionate about something, value of reward in this risk-reward ratio tends to infinity...

S said...

Marty, if I am call you that:

Yes, I am being serious. I do plan to get on some sort of governmental assistance, to drop out of life, because, as I mentioned, work sucks, and a life of leisure is the life worth living. (To be tangential let me point out that society itself is unfair to the poor (e.g. the trust fund baby).)

As long as I contribute more to society than what I take from it I am not abusing it. For example, volunteering at a homeless shelter for a few hours a week, or providing counsel for the troubled is worth at least $300-500, even though I am not getting a "normal paycheck." Since this is work I am doing for FREE, it is money that the taxpayers will NOT have to pay towards helping said people. So if I am saving taxpayers ~$1,600/month by the services I provide for FREE, if you subtract that from what I take, society itself comes out ahead and receives a net gain. Also many poor people need additional counseling services above and beyond what the government can offer, and they simply cannot afford to pay some money hungry psychologist.

Hopefully my explanation helps.

Best regards.

S said...

It's interesting how so many capitalists get so upset about governmental assistance for the poor yet they are perfectly okay with people taking unearned money in the form of inheritances, which usually always makes rich people richer.

Marty Nemko said...

Even if you do all the charity you say, it's still not ethical from my point of view. Your approach FORCES the taxpapyer to hire you for all those works you want to do. What if you're not that competent? What if the taxpayer wants to put its money elsewhere?

And candidly, most people don't volunteer enough to pay for all the government handouts you will will accrue. You may start with good intentions, but chances are, your volunteer efforts will taper but your government checks will not.

Marty Nemko said...

If my work generates income and I am kind enough to not spend it on myself but leave it to my children, why in the world should that income be taxed not only with federal income tax, state income tax, city income tax, FICA, disability, Medicare, etc., etc., but also with a death tax?

S said...

Taxes, by their nature, are FORCED payments. Why FORCE people to pay for police, firefighters, roads, social workers, etc.? The answer is because it benefits the community; we need those services, or at least the public says we do via elected officials. Now whether or not it is justified for me to get unearned money, even though I volunteer, is debatable, but I think it is. And I am not rich.

Inheritances should be made illegal as they are unearned welfare for the rich.

Marty Nemko said...

I must end this conversation but there's a big difference between paying taxes for services determined by our elected officials and in which the employees are hired by supervisors. Your choosing to do what you want, when you want, for whom you want is a luxury you should not force the taxpayer to pay.

And as I said, inheritance is no more welfare than giving you a birthday present with money I earned. The government should not have the right to preclude me from doing so--especially since I've already paid so much tax on that income. And to make it worse, to deprive my family of that gift in the throes of the pain of my death--obscene!

S said...

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Grace said...

I think this post is especially meaningful when you think that there are so many people in the world who would do anything for the seemingly dull jobs that some of us have.

I work in an organization with immigrants who are doctors and other trained professionals. These people come to North America and are not allowed to practice their "passion". They are willing to take menial jobs to provide an income for their families. They are looking at the bigger picture about what makes a happy life.

My only concern - a little bit of dissatisfaction can fester in to big problems - office gossip, unethical behaviour,etc. If you aren't passionate about your job, you must work hard in order to stay content. It must be a conscious and active pursuit. Your job is like a marriage - sometimes everything just works well, but sometimes you have to do something to spice it up a bit. Even those who are doing their "dream job" have days where it is hard to go to work.

Scenario Thinker said...

I posted this link on another bulletin board, got some response, and here's my counter response:

"I've been following this guy for awhile, and I kind of like his approach. It actually coincides with what I've discovered after too many years of trying to find "that thing", when I had it all along.

It may come off as depressing and "good enough", but it's really more.

First, one of the points is that if you haven't "discovered" your "passion" by now (if you've been out of college quite a ways), then you probably won't. Not to say you won't discover things in life at any age, but usually the prodigies and other passion-following people have already discovered it long ago. It's in their blood and their being, and they have an internal drive to do it. Others of us aren't so lucky.

Second, it's kind of what you make of it, no matter where you are. I realized after many years of thinking there must be some ideal job out there I could do, that I was pretty much doing it already, but I had to take ownership of it and look for opportunities to use my best talents. Not that my job is all fun stuff, but a lot of it is. I've invested in learning stuff outside of what I really need to do to do the job, and it has helped my a lot not only in required tasks, but I've been able to expand my project list to include some things that might not otherwise would be there.

The third point is that you're well-respected at what you do at work, and people come to you for your expertise. This doesn't happen over night of course, but it's worth it's weight in gold to feel good about what you can contribute with your God-given talents compared to finding some sort of passion that no one might pay for (by all means still do it, but it might be outside of work). Also, if you like your work, your place of work, and the people you work with, the commute (if any) and the pay is decent, it's a pretty good gig."

Anonymous said...

I think it would serve many people well to distinguish between what they do for income versus what they do for a living. They don't have to be the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree S said! I have a good job but work sucks. I am ready to move next to the college and stop working and contribute to my world in more meaning full ways than spending nine hours of my day that I will never re live so the government can take my money and do what they want with it. I agree S Said, and I know it seems ethical to pay taxes and work like everybody else. But our quality of life sucks, the government designed the work field and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. While they blow six hundred more time more money on fightin unnecessary wars and keeping reality t.v. going to keep us entertained and incapable of ctitical thinking. I would be doing the world a favor if I stopped working and made ends meet by my own means on my own time. The less I contribute to the corrupt banks and corrupt bull government to go in some ceo's pockets while my family has nothing. And is lied to by these people that this is the way it is. They have us so brainwashed it doesn't make any sense and to stop supporting them and live by your own means is something I support. Don't slave at work, go to school build your own house, grow your own garden and stop believeing the lies these people tell you!!