Let's Digress

Passion and Vocations: An Open Letter to…People

[This is an open letter to all high schoolers, college people, and anyone ever considering eventually working in a vocation that they’re passionate about.]

Dear Aspiring Future Impassioned Workers,

The older I get, the more I see people trying to sell stuff to other people. This is especially true since I almost exclusively work the night shift and all of the good infomercials come on after midnight. Side note: those copper skillets look like they’re at a very fair price.

The more internet and radio and social media I see and listen to, the more it also sounds like the things that people are trying to sell to other people are complete loads of horse malarkey. Whether it be a “do what I say and your life will be perfect” program, get-rich-quick schemes, positive vibes being sent to and fro, or how the government will solve everyone’s problems if we just let it have all the power.

Here’s the deal: They’re all silly. Especially that government thing; you’re supposed to solve your own problems and the government is only supposed to protect the life, liberty, and property of the people. But I digress.

The big thing, and purpose of this letter, is about something I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately. Perhaps it’s because the school season is upon us, or perhaps because I just now started paying attention. Anyway, it specifically relates to vocations and the workforce:

Just follow your dreams and passions and do what your heart tells you to do and everything will work out beautifully.

That, dear reader, is a load of bologna. A load of stale, store-brand bologna.

The bitter truth is this:

Mike Rowe said it best (and it’s in bold for dramatic effect): Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.

So, you’re passionate about playing the oboe, baking, pogo-sticking while blindfolded, walking dogs, painting landscapes of cows in trees, building houses for the homeless, finding forever homes for birds, or shoe-shining? Great! Those are all wonderful things to be passionate about. However, passion isn’t synonymous with skill set and marketability.

Let me state that again: Being passionate about something doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at it.

Too many times over the past several months I’ve seen and heard “business professionals,” who are wholly unqualified to give business advice, giving advice to people telling them quit their jobs or to go to college for degrees that just don’t make a lick of practical sense in a real-world setting. They use the language of emotional-porn. Words like, “life calling,” “passion,” “your industry,” etc. to sucker people into quitting their steady jobs, or to just not get a job at all, in order to “follow their dreams” at any cost because of “happiness” and hollow fulfillment.

I’m all for following dreams and doing what you’re passionate about. My shtick here isn’t to deter you from that. It’s quite the contrary: it’s simply to deter you from doing it impractically, dysfunctionally, poorly, or in an excessively costly manner.

We should all do what makes us happy and what we’re passionate about. But more often than not, our skills and abilities aren’t anywhere close to being up to par with our levels of passion. Just because we’re passionate about photography, doesn’t inherently mean we’re ready to own and operate a large photography business.

What does this mean?

I believe that in the meantime, you should do things that will help facilitate your passions in a functional way. Let’s take the photography example:

So, you’re passionate about photography, want to own a photography business eventually, except for a small hang up: you suck at taking pictures.

Does this mean you should get a degree in photography? Not yet. More likely, go to school for a business degree first. That will help you out with the photography business later in life and you will have more job opportunities in the meantime with a degree in business than you would with a degree in picture taking. It also means possibly looking for an internship or a part-time job with an already established photography company. Who knows, after being around a real photography business for a while, you might not even like it.

Another option could be to do what you’re passionate about as a hobby. Doing something you’re thoroughly passionate about as a hobby wouldn’t be nearly as costly and it means that you could probably have a steady, decent-paying job in the meantime. Maybe you can eventually monetize your passionate hobby, but the odds of being able to make a steady income with it from the start are slim to none.

I should also make a statement about our passions and our intentions. Your intentions may be to be the best photographer ever in the history of all mankind, but if your pictures suck, then that just ain’t going to become part of reality. Intentions are all well and good, but in real life (and real world business), intentions don’t pay the bills.

If you do a photoshoot for a family’s Christmas cards and completely botch the entire job, they aren’t going to be happy and they aren’t going to want to pay you. Sure, your intentions were to take the best Christmas card pictures ever, but your abilities weren’t up to par with it, resulting in shoddy work.

Intentions are great, being passionate about something is wonderful, but just because you’re passionate with good intentions doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be good at it. Most likely, especially in the beginning, you’re going to suck.

And here’s the good news: It’s okay.

It’s okay to suck at it, because if you learn from your mistakes you’ll adapt and grow and become better. The secret is to just not be dumb; be practical and continue taking the next best most right steps.



P.S. If you want to watch something more dramatic and in-depth, check this video out. It’s the one with Mike Rowe using all the best words about things. https://youtu.be/CVEuPmVAb8o

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