Follow Your Passion or Fail Doing Something You Hate
Though we don’t like to entertain the idea, it is true that we can fail when we follow our passion. How much worse then, to realize that you can fail at something you hate!
Identifying the productive, and hopefully monetizable interest that gives you joy and stokes your passion is just the beginning of a long journey. If you stay lucky, a.k.a., aligned with your purpose, the gift you will bear fruit for you throughout your life.
There are a slew of articles written on the dangers of following your passion, and in particular, I’m thinking of those pieces of content that have unintended negative consequences.
Read the Fine Print
I want to call attention, in particular, to the idea that following your passion is selfish. Views, like those expressed by these two speakers, Ben Horowitz (https://youtu.be/WRYRBGX4lVM and Terri Trespicio https://youtu.be/6MBaFL7sCb8), are insightful.
But in the context they are presented in, they generate dumbed-down cultural memes that are negative and destructive. Most people scrolling through do not digest these ideas in full, just the headlines. These headlines pollute the collective unconscious with a mentality that people’s personal goals don’t matter, only the goals of the collective. This, especially understood from the perspective of the industrious west, encourages the mass adoption of a kind of slave mentality.
Following your passion and following a trend, a celebrity, etc, are not the same things. The desire to be like a famous celebrity is not a true source of passion. It’s a fad. Your passion, when you discover it, is much deeper than that. It’s what, at some point in your development, woke you up to a new world of possibilities in life, the cosmos of possibility within your own consciousness, mind, and body. It was the moment you woke up to your own potential, and the cause for that awakening.
The profundity of self-discovery is so important.
I recoil when I hear tech luminaries preaching to an audience of young hopefuls to shelf their inner calling. The future of the tech industry or any other does not take precedence over life itself. Don’t ask us to put to the wayside our discoveries and inspirations. If paint, not Illustrator, is the way a person’s vision comes out, so be it.
We are changing our innate desires to fit technological objectives. In an effort to embrace a future of endless screen-gazing, people today let go of their dreams. In the mad scramble to learn and understand the onslaught of technological advancements and information, we sacrifice our time and passions.
For the last couple of decades, as technology has accelerated, I also sacrificed much bandwidth in an effort to sync with the digital brain. It seems as much a duty as posting BS to social media does for many. We humans have to re-learn how to listen to our inner voices again.
Pessimistic pragmatism prescribed in the videos above girds us into an illusory safety. These Ideas encourage us to eliminate our passions in favor of service. It ignores the fact that we might also fail when we choose to do what we don’t really feel a calling to do.
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Alienation, economic challenges, the changing nature of work; these each place us into a new, ever-changing world that we are charting as we go. In desperation, people seek solutions to their problems and sacrifice their callings in order to survive, in order to take care of their families, in order to live the life of their dreams.
But the truth is this: if you hate what you do, you are very unlikely to succeed at it.
If you feel compromised when you are doing what you do, it is unlikely to make a significant contribution to anything. If your work amounts to little more than cannon fodder because your heart’s not in it, then it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing and make a change.
Here’s a question: At the end of our lives, will we be more capable of living with ourselves and the path we chose when we lived for what we loved? Or will we take succor in the pride of knowing that we sacrificed ourselves, perhaps unsuccessfully (thanks to a lack of passion), for the greater good (and that our contribution was a wimper)?
While some academics advise us to jettison our dreams, I say what we need is optimism about who we innately are. Optimism seems almost molecularly tied to hope. Without hope, we lose purpose and without purpose we lose our zest for life. To course correct and bring the dialectical opposition in balance, 生きがい (ikigai) is perhaps what we can aim for instead of pure self-serving passions.
According to Noriyuki Nakanishi, Ikigai “gives individuals a sense of a life worth living. It is not necessarily related to economic status.” To extend the meaning loosely from my personal knowledge of Japanese culture, Ikigai is having “a sense of a life worth living” within the context of societal harmony. I added this detail of harmony, because for the Japanese mind, societal harmony is considered all the time, in parallel with considerations of the self.
In summation, I agree with Jim Carrey when he said, “