Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life
This saying and others like it are thrown at us every day. I’d like to propose that the advice is at best trite, at worst condescending. I suggest to you that doing what you love or finding your passion is a luxury afforded to very few and that for the rest of us there is more relevant and helpful advice to be had.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow your passion if you want to, but I don’t think that preaching this option all the time is doing us any favours, because we start to perceive working a full time job that isn’t our passion as being an unsatisfactory 2nd place to doing what we love. I believe this is creating a generation of people who will never be able to be happy in their full time jobs because they think they should rather be doing something they are passionate about.
South Africa has issues around unemployment, wealth distribution and economic growth generally. We also have a very high average debt per capita and a dismal savings proportion. This is not the economic environment in which people should be encouraged to take risks. Instead of promoting materialism, we should be admiring those who save and eschew debt. Frugality should not be despised but respected. Those who have full-time jobs, whether blue or white collar, should be recognised for being self-disciplined and hard working.
Consider countries like Germany and Japan. They were completely decimated by war, but look at them today: both economic titans. There are other examples of this too. How did they manage it? Let me tell you, a couple of generations sacrificed themselves for the greater good of the country. They worked jobs they didn’t like for wages that were very low for their entire lives, and then they died. They saved their money; they educated their children and instilled in them a solid work ethic. South Africa needs this sort of attitude if it’s going to solve its problems.
Nelson Mandela said “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation”. We need to be that great generation. We probably need two great generations, but we haven’t been. It’s all about ME. How much am I earning? How good is my job? Am I fulfilled?
We admire ostentatious displays of wealth and everybody wants to have the house, the big-screen TV, the fancy car, the fancy clothes and they only want to shop at Woolworths and eat at the top restaurants.
When I was young we would eat out as a family only to celebrate birthdays of family members, which meant only a few times a year. This is because my parents were being careful with their money, they were making sacrifices in order to pay the bond and school fees and grow their business so they could be in a better position later in life. But few people are prepared to make sacrifices these days. They want it all now.
This is a good point at which to mention a fantastic post on waitbutwhy.com. It’s called Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy and if you haven’t read it, you really need to click that link. This image from the post illustrates how close the article runs to what I have been saying.
For all of those reasons, I propose that telling people to follow their passion is highly irresponsible. Instead of telling people to ‘live the life they deserve’, we should be encouraging people to work hard, save money and avoid risks. We should be encouraging people not to be materialistic, to view consumption as waste.
Interestingly, these are the same messages the environmental movement espouses. It’s ruinous for the environment for people to consume without restraint. It’s not sustainable.
Respect integrity, not wealth
We respect wealth too much and ignore integrity. There are many people who make a lot of money by taking advantage of the poor or engaging in illegal activities, but we put people in jail for stealing food to feed their family. Wealth should not attract respect. We should instead respect people for characteristics like integrity and generosity, for grace and empathy, the kinds of characteristics that make the world a better place.
Is doing what you love that great, anyway?
Many will testify that the fastest way to kill your passion for something is to try and make a living from it. When you do something for money instead of love, it changes your relationship with it. Not only that, what starts as a small business with you doing a lot of what you love eventually turns into a big business with you doing very little of what you love and the rest of the time is spent doing admin and being stressed. Which is probably exactly what you didn’t want to do in the first place.
Is our work really meant to provide us with fulfilment? I’m not sure it is. Work pays the bills, fulfilment comes from living life. You get fulfilment from your family, from friends, from time spent enjoying what nature has to offer. We’ve heard it a million times, money can’t buy happiness and those who have money will verify that for you.
Pastimes and hobbies
This is why people have pastimes and hobbies, so they can enjoy doing what they love without the pressure of having to earn a living from it. If they don’t want to do it today or tomorrow or for the next 6 months, they don’t have to. It’s not important if they are good at it or not so good at it, as long as they enjoy doing it.
There are many people who do not have the choice to follow their passion. They will be lucky to finish school and find a full time job.
They should be able to feel proud that they are providing for their family, that they are contributing to the economy and to society. They should not be made to feel like under-achievers because they are not ‘following their passion’.
Those who are fortunate enough to be in the position to follow their passion have a responsibility to encourage the respect of integrity rather than money and to ensure they set a good example by having integrity themselves and giving back to those in need rather than being inclined to crass materialism.