What Passion Will Buy You

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There is an interesting discussion brewing in the blogosphere at the moment. My friend and fellow blogger Lisis Blackston of Quest for Balance wrote a controversial article last week about the feasibility of dropping your day job to pursue your passion.

We’ve all witnessed a growing culture of people who are quitting their lukewarm office careers to do what they’ve always wanted to do. There are countless success stories floating about (particularly in the online world) and it almost seems like following your passion — given an unwavering will — all but guarantees financial success. Lisis challenges this notion in her post.

Her article is here, and it is absolutely worth a read.

Several bloggers have responded with their take (a full list is at the end of Lisis’ article) and the topic is dear to me, so I’ll weigh in too.

It does seem passion generates income for some, but not for others. Therefore, ditching a steady job — under the assumption that your passion cannot fail you in the income department — is not exactly a bulletproof idea. But how do you know if your passion is the kind that would make you rich if you ran with it?

When it comes to making money, it seems to me that the starving artists and the turkey-feather craft peddlers are missing a crucial law of profiteering:

Passion has never paid bills, not for anyone.

Not for Michael Jordan, not for Bill Gates, not for the Beatles. What made all of them wealthy was that they created something large numbers of people were willing to pay for.

It just so happens that the Beatles’ passion (along with its much more rare and useful cousin, talent) resulted in the production of recorded music that has actually improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Forty years later, I can come home after a rough day, put on Abbey Road, and suddenly feel a lot better. That’s real, concrete value that their work has brought to my life — “value” as in something so useful I would pay money for it. I even bought Beatles coasters. Sixteen dollars, and worth every penny.

When I was a kid, I watched Michael Jordan’s unbelievable moves on TV and I loved it so much I wanted to be him. I had all the Chicago Bulls paraphernalia: basketballs, shoes, posters, clothes and more. At ten years old, whenever I could round up exactly $1.13, I would rush off to the card shop and buy a pack of NBA cards. So often I had not a penny more, and that’s what I did with my money. Because it was so worth it to me.

The point is this: people part with money when they find something that is directly valuable to them, that is to say they pay for what they believe improves their lives. Jordan’s passion for the game really didn’t really enter into the equation from my perspective. I just bought what I really liked.

You could argue that without passion, Michael Jordan would have had difficulty putting in the thousands of hours of practice required to be so spectacularly profitable. I wouldn’t disagree. However, he needed to be part of an intelligent business model (the NBA) for his basketball passion to be worth a cent. Playing for big bucks in the NBA just a natural career path for a basketball prodigy, but if he’d been a backgammon player — even an equally masterful one — he would never have become rich.

Money doesn’t come in exchange for passion, it comes in exchange for what other people value. That’s the key: the other people. Who says I value what you are passionate about? Elite backgammon matches just don’t produce enough value for enough people for it to make anyone rich.

I spend maybe $150 a year on Gillette Mach 3 razors. I buy them because they are far and away better than any other disposable razor I’ve used. I have no idea if the people at Gillette are fanatically passionate about making the best razors. It is more likely they are fanatically passionate about making money. I don’t care either way, I pay for what is useful to me, just like everyone else. Particularly in the realm of big business, the creative motives behind a product are usually quite distant and irrelevant to the person who is shelling out the cash.

Passion is a rather private and internal thing; it’s more of an interaction between your emotions and your actions. Your customers can only guess at why your product is so awesome (or so awful) and they probably aren’t particularly concerned with how it makes you feel inside.

Where did this myth come from?

So who ever said passion creates cash? I suspect, rather than outright snake-oil salesmen, it was people who decided to follow their passion and found that suddenly they enjoyed working, and were able to approach work with much less resistance and much more creativity. Imagine the difference between living a life where you cringe when you wake up, to one where you rush to work with enthusiasm.

But if your passion does not help you produce something that people will pay for, it cannot be expected to make you money. If your passion is to build and sell houses, you’ll come to your work with an excited and innovative attitude, which can only improve your chances to please clients and master your trade. It’s not hard to imagine that outlook leading quite organically to increased profits.

If your passion is to balance chairs on your chin, no matter how good you are at it you may have difficulty paying your bills, simply because people generally don’t tend to spend a lot of money to see people balance furniture on their chin. This, in turn, is because watching a chair-balancer doesn’t improve people’s lives in a significant or lasting way.

The correlation between passion and income, then, is only circumstantial, not absolute.

The economics of it can’t be ignored, and I don’t think any reasonable person would say that business sense is irrelevant just because passion is in limitless supply.

Fine art is one area where the passion-for-money fallacy is most apparent. I’ve seen more incredible works of art than I can count — intricate, painstaking, eye-popping work that must have taken hundreds of hours for the artist to compete.

But who will pay for those hundreds of hours of passionate work? I can see a hundred such works of art in the same gallery, deriving a measure of joy from each, for twelve dollars. For all the untold heaps of passion that go into it, where does the equivalent in money come from?

Nowhere, because there is no equivalency between passion and money. The market for fine art is very small. Most people never buy art, and when they do they don’t spend much. How much do you spend on paintings and sculptures in a year, compared to say, gasoline? There are art collectors out there who spend fortunes, but not many.

There is a tremendous disparity between the passion and effort that goes into a work of art and the amount a person is likely to pay for it. Some areas pay better than others, and your passion may very well not create much in the way of salable value for anyone else.

In a Mexican gallery I once saw a wonderful iron sculpture that I would have loved to own. The price tag was eight thousand dollars. Even though I loved it, if I had a spare eight thousand dollars (or a spare fifty) I wouldn’t buy it. There are too many other things I would rather spend that kind of money on: travel, furniture, living expenses. Eight thousand dollars worth of any of those things add much more value to my life than eight thousand dollars worth of sculpture.

Even if I had a spare half million, I don’t think I’d drop eight grand on it. I can always get more value out of eight thousand bucks than what a sculpture or a painting could possibly bring to my life.

So you can see how unbridled passion can easily eat up time and resources that nobody will ever see fit to compensate you for. Passion is no safety net at all. It could very well be dead weight, at least as far as supporting yourself goes.

To make money, you have to understand what makes money: delivering something of value to people willing to pay for it — and you have to be able to create that something of value efficiently. It’s extremely simple, but for some reason it it doesn’t seem to be widely known.

So to follow a passion with no regard for its value to others is just plain foolish, if you’re expecting it to pay your rent.

Alchemy

The whole discussion has left me slightly confused. I have to say I don’t really know who these oft-maligned snake-oil salesmen are. One name that keeps popping up is Tim Ferriss, the author of the lifestyle-design handbook The Four-Hour Workweek.

I own the book and have read it through, and I remember it being rather sobering and practical. I don’t remember promises of automatic riches, just a cutthroat method of maximizing productivity. If I recall, the book’s overwhelming message is this: spend your time doing things that are proven to generate income.

By the sounds of it, the discussion around “making money doing what you love” is centered disproportionately around the “doing what you love” half of the equation, as if the making money part is an inevitable byproduct, rather than an equal consideration.

I guess I never expected it to be that way. I have long known that the holy grail of reward without effort, in any form, is a myth. It’s today’s equivalent of alchemy. Nobody has ever come close to turning lead to gold, nor have they ever had any convincing reason to believe it’s even possible. The whole idea — and the thousand-year craze that followed it — is based on nothing but a fantasy. Yet somehow the promise of something for nothing continues to seduce and intoxicate enough people to keep it alive centuries later.

Diet pills, electro-ab machines, pyramid schemes, get rich quick… all of it is alchemy. I don’t find it particularly dangerous, because I don’t expect to get something for nothing. There seems to be a sizable proportion of the population who are still trying to turn lead to gold, and they will always receive the only things alchemy has ever yielded: disappointment, and plenty of lead.

If one never loses sight of the amount of value their work adds to the lives of others, then they should never be surprised at the degree to which they are compensated for it. I think North American culture in particular is preoccupied with the getting paid end, and sometimes forgets that income is compensation for something someone else receives, not an intrinsic benefit to keeping yourself busy.

Passion as a Career Path

So where do I stand on the passion vs. practicality debate?

As we’ve seen, it’s practicality that turns effort to dollars, not love. Love may have uses in business, but only insofar as it is practical. Loving your customers is perfectly practical to business goals.

My unsolicited, unqualified advice? Err towards passion, certainly. And by a lot.

I took the opposite approach out of high school. I was terrified of following my passions and finding they could not support me. I was determined never to be one of the legions of university students studying marine biology just because their hearts melt at the thought of swimming with dolphins, or the wannabe movie stars doing deodorant commercials.

So out of principle I ignored any career path that could possibly be exciting or fun, and went into computer programming, which was at the time (c. 1999) an extremely lucrative field. I had a talent for it, but zero interest in it.

I hated school throughout, performed terribly, limped to a late graduation and never worked in the field at all.

The second time around, I chose a slightly less lucrative field that I was slightly more interested in: civil works. I enjoyed the work more, but I would shoot myself if I truly believed I would never find a more enjoyable way to earn a living.

Strike two. I should have picked something that really got me excited.

I sure don’t make a fortune in this latest career, and since I don’t particularly like it I don’t see myself racking up promotions or engineering groundbreaking new methods. I sure could use some passion in my line of work.

I think most people find themselves in careers that do nothing for them aside from paying the bills. In that case, passion is only useful after-hours, and that’s a disturbing thought. The typical arrangement is to sell half your waking hours, at a flat rate, five out of the seven days in a week — to somebody else who is making a lot more money with your effort than you are. With the modest amount you receive — and the remaining half of your time — you are to build a life.

Most of us live this reality, and I now see it as a bloody curse. Of course we can do better. We settle, because it seems impractical to walk away from a steady income. Business owners who get rich from our modestly-paid efforts want to make sure we don’t get too entrepreneurial ourselves, so they get us dependent on health benefits that are so difficult to walk away from. Beware. This is the reason public healthcare is so violently opposed in the conservative contigent of the US, but that’s another post altogether.

In his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn encourages the reader to ask “What is my job in this planet, with a capital J?”

Good question. Is it selling insurance? Programming data entry systems? Processing credit card records? Stocking grocery shelves? Helping the suburbs of Winnipeg get bigger?

With one precious lifetime to spend, and all the advantages of a developed world and a free market, maybe it’s nothing short of idiotic to resign yourself to a post in life that has nothing to do with who you are or what you love.

Like so many others, I have the dream of becoming rather well-off doing work I love. Unless I die in my thirties, I will do it. You can bet the farm on it.

I’m certain of it not because Tim Ferriss or Steve Pavlina or Tony Robbins says I can, but because I’ve decided I will. It’s not a gamble, it’s not a leap of faith. It’s how I plan to spend the rest of my life. It will take considerable amounts of practical effort — planning and testing — but it is certainly a lost cause without passion.

Passion is definitely not a requirement for a steady income though, not by any stretch. In fact, it’s probably easier to find a steady income if you forget about your passion completely. Don’t let it bug you, don’t allow yourself time for it, and you’ll have your rent paid with ease. Maybe you can let it poke its head out on weekends. Just make sure it’s out of sight by Monday.

To be blunt, working for the weekend is a shit existence, and even though it seems to be the default strategy in my culture, I will not settle for it. In a bearable but uninspiring job, the days slip by so freely that suddenly you wake up to find a decade has gotten behind you and you’re nowhere closer to anything you love. With the exception of what simple pleasures you can cram in on weekends and evenings, it isn’t life, it’s a slow death. There is too much up for grabs for the intelligent (and passionate) individual to let himself pass the years that way.

Certainly a middle ground holds the most promise. I tried the career game without passion for a while, it led me somewhere unbearably mediocre. I’m starting over, with passion as my compass and practical thinking as my throttle.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and think that passion should take a back seat to practicality. One without much of the other is a recipe for disaster, yet I think practicality without passion is much more dangerous, because it can steal your life from you without your realizing it. Maybe it already has.

Passion isn’t worth any money. It’s priceless.

R

Photo by Zarko Dricnic

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{ 59 Comments }

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) December 8, 2009 at 6:07 am

I think it interesting that many focus on “getting rich” rather than “having a job that reflects my personal philosophy thus creating a sustainable income that enables me to contribute better to the wider community”.

multiple streams of income are the norm for my lifestyle, and many others. quitting other jobs to blog alone is more like taking a step backwards.

besides an 8hour office cleaning job to finance my blog needs, I am a copywriter, EFL tutor and general roustabout. I have more time to do stuff that I want as compared to 9-5 friends, and unlike some of them, I am in the position to say no to job offers that come my way.

any small business takes time and lots of hours. it is not unusual for an offline business to be operating under a sole manager who is also working 40 hours a week elsewhere.

what’s with all the “instantnessness” of 21st C living…? are we so bored?

David December 9, 2009 at 1:13 am

“having a job that reflects my personal philosophy thus creating a sustainable income that enables me to contribute better to the wider community”

*That* right there is what I’m looking for. Well put, as usual Char.

Iva December 8, 2009 at 6:15 am

Good article, David! I agree with you that there has to be a balance, and if only one side of the equation is missing you will feel the consequences, either the financial ones or the ones on your soul slowly dying…In few recent years I’ve learned the lesson with the passion, and now I am learning that the finanical side also matters.

I also think this situation where what is paid a lot is usually not what you are passionate about also has something to do with this system of production we are in today. It puts an emphasis on the technical and beaurocratic jobs, and not on the creative ones. So unfortunately, to pay the bills sometimes you have to settle for the boring job. But, I think that the amount of projects on the Internet, for example, which people do in their leisure time (personal web-projects, art-projects, Deviantart, Flickr and so on) also shows the hunger for the creativity that exists in today’s world.

But, as usual, this situation where daily jobs offer lack of creativity can also be an opportunity for those who know how to use it. I hope to get there some day, too. :)
.-= Iva´s last blog ..Psiha i recesija =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:15 am

I think you’re right on about most jobs just being rather bland. That’s an interesting thought: just to keep our society running, we need hordes of people doing jobs that probably nobody is passionate about. A whole new can of worms there…

Lisis December 8, 2009 at 7:54 am

David, David, David… even on some remote beach on the other side of the world, you still manage to put together these incredibly awesome posts. And I am SO glad you did because I think you have unintentionally highlighted the fact that there are two completely different audiences for the Tim Ferrisses of the world.

(BTW, I think the issue with Tim is the name of his book. We all know good and well he works WAY more than 4 hours, it just doesn’t FEEL like work. If he had called the book “How to Enjoy Your Work” he probably wouldn’t be the poster child for the thieves and liars. Unfortunate really, because he actually IS a valuable resource!)

You are a young, single, childless, mortgage-less, male engineer (practical sort of guy). You never would’ve bought into the Alchemy fantasy, and sure as hell aren’t buying into the “money for nothing” dream either. Most of the success stories I read about on the internet (and have met at least online) are in your demographic. Unlimited potential, with a practical mindset, a useful skill set, and nothing holding you back.

I suppose the people who most related to my post were others like me… those of us who would’ve studied marine biology just because dolphins look like they are smiling… those of us who are so passionate about the difference between acrylics, watercolors, and oil paintings that we can’t imagine the rest of the world doesn’t also find it gripping. Those of us who consider backgammon to be far more interesting than basketball. ;)

Not only are we dreamers, but many of us are tethered with real-world responsibilities too… family, a mortgage we can’t get rid of, medical bills (since we live in the States), etc. A shift in direction at THIS stage requires a HUGE backup nest egg, an angel investor, or one hell of a plan because we don’t have much room to wiggle.

So, when blogs and books and seminars offer to teach us the new ways to make a great living online (without even having to send our kids to daycare, because we can do it from home!), we line up in droves, bringing our lead for the gurus to teach us how to turn it into gold.

Are we idiots for it? Yes. (Though we prefer to think of ourselves as dreamers and idealists.) But does that change the fact that millions of us are falling for this fantasy and putting our lives, our families, our happiness and our health in jeopardy… no. And when we return to the traditional way we’ve always made money, we feel like failures… cogs in a machine… like we just weren’t quite good enough.

I guess that second group is really who I am concerned about. I figure your demographic will do fine, no matter what.

I find myself at an interesting crossroad because, as you know, we actually HAVE walked away from corporate security, and are even happier for it. But, knowing what I know now, I cannot in good conscience recommend that others (with families and significant responsibilities) follow our example. It is NOT for the faint of heart, and will test even the healthiest of marriages.

I just think a heavy dose of reality, caution and balance is called for. Thanks for an incredibly kick-ass response, D. Sorry for the post-within-a-post, but I think a wonderful conversation has started.

:)
.-= Lisis´s last blog ..Net Worth vs Self Worth: The Passion Paradox =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:30 am

Haha, well said Lisis. We are all indeed coming from different places here. I suppose I never realized the freedom I had until fairly recently, and many members of my demographic still don’t and probably never will. I am at an age where most people tend to be a few years established into both a career and a family and even that much inertia is difficult to overcome. So far I’ve dodged both of those bullets life situations, for better or worse. This means I have a substantial amount of freedom, but it also means I have no assets, no equity, a slim resumé, no woman, no connections and — at the moment — no income and no home. I’m starting the whole process just shy of age 30. I wouldn’t trade with anybody, but we do all tend to prefer what we don’t have, right? ;)

Lisis December 9, 2009 at 7:47 am

If you’re ever gonna get a woman, you might consider not advertising the “no assets, no equity, a slim resume, no connections, no income and no home” parts. ;)

On the other hand, enjoy the complete sense of freedom while you have it! One day you will willingly give that all up for a life companion and the feel of a tiny hand in yours. Every phase has its pros and cons… focus on the pros.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) December 10, 2009 at 4:03 pm

…but Lisis, by David advertising such traits he provides himself with a filter for discerning which women he would like to sail beside for a while, or a long while…

btw David~ one does not “have” a woman~ one revels in his fortune to walk in the sunshine a woman deigns to share with him ~:-)

Dave Doolin December 14, 2009 at 8:33 pm

“Being Tim Ferris” is surely an 80/hr job.
.-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Blog World Recap: How to Attract a Large and Loyal Audience =-.

Jared December 8, 2009 at 8:03 am

Nice response David. I think you nailed it, if you’re passion is something that makes the lives of others (or the world) a better place or solves a real problem, and people are willing to pay for it, you’re in luck.
.-= Jared´s last blog ..The Guaranteed Way to Never Say Something You’ll Regret! =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:31 am

Too bad we need other people to cooperate in order to make money, eh? Otherwise it would be easy :)

Jay Schryer December 8, 2009 at 8:31 am

I love the way you’ve phrased it here…modern day alchemy. That’s really what it is, and so many people fail to see that. We really ARE trying to turn lead into gold…to get something by doing nothing. People want to believe in the fantasy so desperately, so needfully, that they are satisfied with ANY evidence that it MIGHT work, and then they take it as fact.

The myth of easy money has been with humanity since our earliest societies, I think. There’s a reason why prostitution and theft are often considered to be the world’s “oldest professions,” and that’s because they were early paths to easy money.

I also love how you talked about the fact that making money requires a balance between passion and hard work. Passion makes the hard work easier, but the hard work is still necessary. Without both of these things, money cannot be made.
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..Paying It Forward =-.

Lisis December 8, 2009 at 10:25 am

Prostitution is only “easy money” if your clientele resembles People Magazine’s sexiest people. I’m just sayin’… ;)

Trish Scott December 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Was going to say the same thing…
.-= Trish Scott´s last blog ..“your one wild and precious life” =-.

Jay Schryer December 9, 2009 at 5:43 am

Prostitution isn’t necessarily easy money for the prostitutes, but it IS easy money for the pimps. And I think they’re the ones who started the idea…
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..Paying It Forward =-.

Lisis December 9, 2009 at 7:48 am

I should’ve been a pimp.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:33 am

All those clichés: you get what you pay for, there’s no such thing as a free lunch… they all came from somewhere. I love cliches, they are quite dependable.

Srinivas Rao December 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

David,

I’m beginning to rethink my career as somebody who balances on furniture on my chin :). Actually this is a really great article because it really forces people to think. I’ve always chosen a somewhat practical path in my life and the truth is it paid the bills but for some reason I never felt satisfied for fulfilled on that path.

I think that there is definitely something to be said for others finding value in the thing you are passionate about. Fortunately as bloggers others find value in reading what we write, but that being said they don’t pay for it, so it may never pay the bills. I think Lisis’s post spun of and inspired a whole list of posts across the blogosphere which is awesome.
.-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Guest Post: Successful blogging, The Hockey Stick and Exponential Growth =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:35 am

Yes, absolutely. I love blogging and I do do it for free. I don’t think I’ll ever not blog. Like you suggested, it’s such an amazing way to communicate, I don’t think I’ll ever not be a part of the blogosphere.

Daphne December 8, 2009 at 10:06 am

I came to your post from Lisis’ and I’m glad I did. My husband and I approach success and passion differently. I have always wanted him to have a job that he loves. He has wanted to have a job with a good enough income that he can support his family. While these two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they do sometimes cause conflict over what is most important to us. We both want to be happy and to support our family. It is so tempting to believe that wandering off the beaten path is to be rewarded with financial success and happiness. I like your encouragement of passion and practicality. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
.-= Daphne´s last blog ..An Update =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:38 am

Thanks Daphne. I guess a lot of our choices come from our upbringing, and what beliefs we have about what a career is supposed to be. I grew up thinking work is something you do that you are not expected to like, but it earns you the things you do like. I don’t see it that way any more, and I’m determined to do better than that.

Eric December 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

Mach 3s are the best razors. Working for the weekend isn’t great, but I do so relish my weekends. I wonder if I would enjoy my time the same if I didn’t work full time in a corporate career. It’s the paradox of being in paradise, yet not knowing the pleasure of paradise because you have never felt pain. There is nothing to compare it to.

I think that passion is essential for continued personal growth. It may or may not be a requirment for financial success, as you said, there’s little income for a backgammon pro. I do think that whatever I find myself doing in this world, I’m better off by approaching it with passion.
.-= Eric´s last blog ..The Shoveler and his Golden Shovel =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:39 am

I do think that whatever I find myself doing in this world, I’m better off by approaching it with passion.

Me too. In hindsight I am amazed that I never thought it was necessary before. I thought it would get in the way. I figure to do well you have to like going to work, for whatever reason.

Alison | Quest for Balance December 8, 2009 at 11:57 am

Hi, David. Excellent post, and great job of opening this important conversation even wider. I’m curious what kind of work you plan to do, because I’m on my own quest to find work that I love. Thanks!

Like so many others, I have the dream of becoming rather well-off doing work I love. Unless I die in my thirties, I will do it. You can bet the farm on it.

I’m certain of it not because Tim Ferriss or Steve Pavlina or Tony Robbins says I can, but because I’ve decided I will. It’s not a gamble, it’s not a leap of faith. It’s how I plan to spend the rest of my life. It will take considerable amounts of practical effort — planning and testing — but it is certainly a lost cause without passion.
.-= Alison | Quest for Balance´s last blog ..Net Worth vs Self Worth: The Passion Paradox =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:44 am

I’m curious what kind of work you plan to do, because I’m on my own quest to find work that I love. Thanks!

Hah! Good question. I am going to experiment with freelancing, affiliate marketing and online joint ventures, while I brainstorm other possibilities. Trying different things, that’s all I can do.

Trish Scott December 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Back when I got my first gigs as a violinist people would gush all over me, “OH! You’re doing what you love and making money at it!” My reply was, “I should have been a truck driver, I’d be doing the same thing but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have to perform and I’d make 10 times the money.”

As one who has lived all her life with passions that are not considered valuable by the masses, and is genetically unable to stay in a job just for the money for more than 6 months at a time, I have learned another aspect of the good life. Simplicity. Just as the powers that be chain you to a job for the health benefits they also chain you through the visions of sugarplums dancing on the TV screen. The vision portrays a life that requires your slavery to pay for.

The more you can cut back on your needs the less you belong to the man. Period. The secret to happiness is simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Once you shave away everything that has nothing to do with your long term happiness, you have way more choices – even if your passions don’t match up with mass values.

Wonderful Post David – Thanks.
.-= Trish Scott´s last blog ..“your one wild and precious life” =-.

Lisis December 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Amen! I have discovered the same thing. One of the reasons we were able to leave the corporate gig and create this life (where I stay home with our son, and my hubby works at something he loves, making less than half the money he used to) is because we cut back on all unnecessary stuff. Our overhead is minimal, and there isn’t much we need or want.

The less we need, the less we depend on ANY way to come up with cash. Or, put another way, the easier it becomes to earn enough.

Simplicity is a brilliant way to minimize obligations, and have a happier more fulfilling life. :)

Trish Scott December 8, 2009 at 1:15 pm

I’m so happy for you. It’s a relief isn’t it.
.-= Trish Scott´s last blog ..“your one wild and precious life” =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:48 am

The more you can cut back on your needs the less you belong to the man. Period. The secret to happiness is simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Once you shave away everything that has nothing to do with your long term happiness, you have way more choices – even if your passions don’t match up with mass values.

There we go! Thanks for dropping this gem into the comments, Trish. Since I’ve been on the road and away from my regular life, I’ve noticed how much enjoyment I get out of the simplest things: simple food, sleep and conversation. Sounds like a post idea.

Chris Edgar December 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Hi David — I can certainly relate to your story. I went to work as a lawyer in part because I considered the idea of being a musician, as much as I loved it, ridiculous, and I liked the idea of writing fiction but figured no one would ever read it. I was very good at my job and made excellent money, but I couldn’t help but wonder — what legacy am I leaving to the world here — the man who drafted the most venomous motions in legal history? That thinking began before I got deeply involved in personal development — like you, I didn’t make a change because Tim Ferriss made entrepreneurship sound sexy. I simply thought, like Tama Kieves puts it in This Time I Dance, if I’m this good at being a lawyer, how good would I be at doing something that actually feels important to me?

Trish Scott December 8, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Ah. The world looses a lot of fine musicians and writers to law and medicine. If society at large valued soul nurturing things half as much as money we would be in better condition to run the world – Just sayin’…
.-= Trish Scott´s last blog ..“your one wild and precious life” =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:50 am

…if I’m this good at being a lawyer, how good would I be at doing something that actually feels important to me?

Wow, the comments are really full of powerful words today. To really cut it down to the bone, my dream is to wake up and want to go to work.

Patty - Why Not Start Now? December 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Yeah, clearly the alchemists were a bust. But there is another kind of alchemy, psychological in nature. That’s why the metaphor still resonates so much. It’s about transformation and depth. For most creative people, that’s what’s underneath the passion. As a creative type myself (which I suspect is true for many here), and one who has worked with lots of creatives, it can feel sucky that little value, as you say, is placed on the depth of the work.

And that’s where it all unravels; people begin to see work as either/or: drudgery or ecstasy. Nothing in between. As a result they do a version of self-orphaning – nobody gets me, it’s so hard, how come I can’t make it? It creates the ideal opening for the modern day magician or guru to come in and sell the snake oil of a perfect, prosperous, passionate life. But really, it’s the one of the oldest stories in the book, and we perpetuate it by going unconscious about it.

So I agree with most of what you’re saying, David. And I certainly enjoy your writing. I haven’t read the books you mention though. Anything that has “four hour work week” in the title screams “stay away” to me.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..The Ritual of Return =-.

David December 9, 2009 at 1:55 am

That’s a very good point. As I was writing, bashing away at the idea of alchemy, I remembered how other people had used it as a metaphor for all sorts of powerful ideas: transcending suffering, accepting failure, etc. Seeing as how I was nearing 3000 words I decided not to go into it but you are absolutely right.

Four Hour Workweek is interesting. Tim Ferriss’ ideas are certainly not without merit; he’s got an impressive and proven track record (check out his blog at fourhourworkweek.com) but there is an undertone to his enthusiasm about productivity that is almost.. psychotic. If you read it you’ll see what I mean. Worth a read.

Erin December 9, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Well done post and fascinating comments. The reason the money is paid up front in prostitution is the perceived value is less after the service has been performed.

People are searching for a deeper meaning to life. There must be more to it than get up, drink a cup of coffee, put in a full day of work you may not enjoy, go home, watch tv, go to bed, get up tomorrow and start over. It is good to find things that bring us joy and passion. Everyone is searching.

Have your ever bought a hot meal for a hungry person, or volunteered to help a child learn to read, or ask your elderly neighbor if they need something from the store while your are going there? When we get our minds off of our self realization, self awareness, (insert any of the self terms de jour) we will find joy and some of the meaning we do desperately seek. If we got organized outside of ourselves, we really could end world hunger and poverty.

A lot of people act as though you are an idiot if you have a job that doesn’t involve pursuing your passion or dream.

I think we can search for our joy and passion and still hold down a job to pay the bills. Work is not a bad thing. Making things (manufacturing) has built word economies. It provides primary jobs. People live, marry, raise children, save for retirement on primary job income. It isn’t necessarily the terrible thing many internet and passive income preachers make it out to be.

You are correct. Perceived value is the economic standard, and work is not the enemy.
.-= Erin´s last blog ..Courage =-.

Trish Scott December 9, 2009 at 1:10 pm

“A lot of people act as though you are an idiot if you have a job that doesn’t involve pursuing your passion or dream.”

That well may be but a LOT MORE people act as though you are an idiot if you pursue your passions and dreams.
.-= Trish Scott´s last blog ..One day you finally knewwhat you had to do… =-.

Erin December 9, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Hi Trish, I also was a professional musician for about 12 years. Nearly starved to death. Wish I had struck more of a balance between making money and making music.
.-= Erin´s last blog ..Courage =-.

David December 10, 2009 at 12:25 am

The key word does seem to be balance here. Maybe Lisis is onto something… ;)

Darren December 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Good article. When Confucius said “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”, I think that could be interpreted to mean learning to love your work – or finding contentment and bliss in day-to-day living. Sure, I work 40 hours a week, but outside of that I still manage to do what I love – write and draw, hang out with friends, read, etc. I studied for a degree in visual art – and I had a lot of insecurities and anxieties about making a living from it that I ended up not pursuing it. Years later, after establishing a career in an unrelated field (social work), I came back to making art – I do it out of love now, rather than any expectations of financial reward, and it’s been liberating.

David December 10, 2009 at 12:27 am

What I’ve tried to do (and succeeded somedays) was to find some aspect of my not-so-fun job that I really can get into on a passionate level. If nothing else, practicing self-improvement at work can keep a person excited.

You’re right, it’s almost inevitable that we come back to what we love, whether it pays or not.

Rohit Prakash December 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Following a passion needs courage. When the gratification of what you want is there, the cons also comes with the package.

The heroes we see now, took risks before with their passion. If you want to live a life of passion, be prepared for the consequences. The real passion is when you stick to your passion despite the adversities it might bring.

Trish Scott December 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Exactly!
.-= Trish Scott´s last blog ..…did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? =-.

Ward Cinnamon (Hue) December 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Great article David. Very enlightened stuff. It seems I am falling into the 9 to 5 world again. I have fallen into Arizona as a web designer for the city I live in. It is cool, but not my passion. My passion is to gather experiences…how do I market that? Lol. Have a great adventure…you got guts.

David December 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Hey great to hear from you, Hue.

That’s always the question I guess. How to market what we want to do. As for marketing the gathering of experiences… writer, tour guide, photographer? My naive mind says anything could work if you have an edge or an angle nobody else has.

Fiona December 10, 2009 at 11:10 pm

I think it makes it easier when your passion is “being in business”, and not so much what the business is, if that makes sense.

Lisis December 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

I think so too, Fiona. Even if finding ways to make money isn’t your passion, you at least have to have an aptitude for it and find it relatively enjoyable in order to do whatever it takes.

That business mind (or at least a practical mind) is what allows you to evaluate all of your passions and select basketball, over backgammon, as your best option for creating a career you enjoy.

Ironically, I worked so hard to overcome my business/ practical tendencies only to find that now they’d come in real handy, but don’t interest me at all!
.-= Lisis´s last blog ..Net Worth vs Self Worth: The Passion Paradox =-.

Jessica Lauren December 13, 2009 at 11:58 pm

A real source of inspiration, thank you for your many morsels of goodness.

If you have a moment or two, please amuse yourself with my new creation. I would greatly appreciate the brief moment of adoration and any suggestions.

http://itapetingabella.blogspot.com/

Thank You.

Nelia December 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Ooh. I like this guy.

Millie February 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I am an student of chemistry and is mi first year in college, i am good at it but i don´t like it.. so i am in a struggle about following what i love and studying what can give me money.. So your article gave me the support i need to do whant i want to to the rest of my life: art …

:) Thank you so much. I found by accident your site and it was a lot of help xD

David February 28, 2010 at 3:16 am

Hi Millie. Some accidents are good :)

Tobi February 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm

I talked to Steve Pavlina once, he’s kind of an ass lolz. That’s why I stopped reading his blog.

Angela Hurd September 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

I loved much of your article and have worked hard for years to put myself in the position where I can earn a good deal of money in design. (great risk but great high)

This statement threw me however:

“so they get us dependent on health benefits that are so difficult to walk away from. Beware. This is the reason public healthcare is so violently opposed in the conservative contingent of the US”

Hmmm, the opposite I believe. The welfare state is the severest trap and that is the liberal direction. Another baby and bathwater analogy. Welfare reform needed for sure with cross state competition and no exclusion for pre-existing conditions (eliminate that trap) . . . The government will never out do the private sector in efficiency. There is no reason for it to do so.

canadian perspective December 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Starting from your ..’hmm the opposite I believe’.. your writing doesn’t make sense to me (literally). I have heard of studies that have shown that private HC delivery is not more cost effective than public. It seems possible to me, if people choose to work for a common set of objectives, rather than be motivated by maximizing personal and individual gain. I can think of instances (communities), where this happens all the time. People feel rewarded by sharing a benefit rather than hoarding it.

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Lisis December 10, 2009 at 11:18 am

What do you mean… “maybe”? :)

David December 10, 2009 at 10:27 pm

And she’s so humble too!

David December 10, 2009 at 10:26 pm

So wise, Char. Transparency has done me much more good in general than trying to manipulate what parts of myself others know about. The materialistic and ordinary ones get weeded out right quick.

By the way Lis, I wasn’t complaining. :)

Nate St. Pierre December 12, 2009 at 10:49 am

Char, I busted out laughing at this – you’re awesome. :)

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