‘Should I go for something I am passionate about or go for the money?’ I hear people ask this question a lot when looking for a new direction in life. Not everything I love earns me an income. Some of what I love I do because it earns me benefits other than monetary reward. Nor do I love some of the things I have to do in order to earn a living. There are challenges no matter what. There is a difference between loving money and loving what you do.
Chris Gardner gives this advice to his son in The Pursuit of Happyness:
“ You want something, you go get it. Period.”
Image By Nils Geylen, via Flickr
Desire is the most important emotion when heading into the unknown. People want to do something that they love, or work on something that will logically lead to something they love, in order to do their best work. This helps them be more creative and resourceful, and succeed in life. Google encourages its employees to work on something company-related that interests them personally during work. Bharat Mediratta, a software engineer at Google, states that giving engineers a chance to apply their passion helps them do amazing things. While trying to do something new or starting an unusual project or trying to get a new business off the ground, there are a number of obstacles a person encounters and should not give up on the first try. The late Steve Jobs taught us brilliantly about failure. He turned Apple’s greatest failure – “traditional” personal computing– into a great success due to the network effect of easier interoperability with other market dominating products.
If you can't afford to do the thing you're passionate about — for example, if you do it, you won't be able to feed your family, or it would keep you from graduating college (which is something you may think is more important than whatever you're passionate about) — then no, you'd better not bet your economic life on it.
A basic principle concerning how you should deal with an unknown future is that every small smart step you take should leave you alive to take the next step. Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard University, says once you have enough money to meet basic needs — food, shelter, but not necessarily cable, incremental increases have little effect on your happiness. Gilbert recommends going into a career where people are happy. But don't ask them if their career makes them happy, because most people will say yes; they have a vested interest in convincing themselves they are happy.
Instead, try out a few different professions before you settle on one. For college students, Gilbert envisions this happening with part-time jobs and internships at the cost of “giving up a few keggers and a trip to Florida over spring break.” But even if you wait until you enter the workforce, it makes sense to switch from one entry-level job to another; no seniority and scant experience means you have little to lose. So it's an ideal time to figure out what will make you happy. Use a series of jobs to observe different professions at close range to see if YOU think they make people happy. At Syracuse University, the Global Enterprise Technology (GET) Immersion Experience is an innovative, extended work program for undergraduate students. It gives them an opportunity to experience first-hand the different opportunities available to them while they are in school to figure out what is right for them.
When you are dealing with uncertainty, the best step forward is to act. You don't think about what might happen, or try to predict the outcome, or plan for every contingency. You take a small step towards making it a reality, and you see what happens. Who knows? Even the smallest step can change everything. So take those small steps. You might discover that your passion does, in fact, make you money. After all, who knew you could make huge amounts of money figuring out a way to connect all your friends (Facebook).
What do you think is more important? Ensuring economic stability or doing what you love? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section!
Somaditya Sinha is a 2nd year Masters student in the Information Management program at Syracuse University. He is interested in management of large data sets and the design of data management systems. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @somsinha86