Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Following your dreams etc.

(This is the 19th post in the one-month challenge series)

I often see posts like this and this.You have probably seen them too. And 'liked' them. Or shared them with a 'So true'. I have written about this before ('The other side of 3 idiots'- Part 1 and 2), but somehow got frustrated reading the Quora thread, so decided to write about it again.

The scenario is this- Someone doesn't like his/her job and wants to change. He is not sure if he has to, especially because of the money. Then the responder/blogger says "Go after it. Follow your dreams. Zindagi milegi na dobara." and all that. The other scenario is where someone says "Should I go to IITK- Civil  or NITT-ECE to earn more?" (or) "Will I get into IIM-A with a 7.0 IIT or 9.5 from BITS?" And the holier-than-thou writer says "How could you? This is the whole problem with our nation. Don't run after money. Dare to think beyond the IITs and IIMS. Follow your dreams"

About 5 years ago, I was very much a "follow your dreams' person. At some point, however, I realized there were caveats to this approach. When I say "Go after it" I usually mean "Go after it, but look before you leap". Somehow, that message is not conveyed in most of these posts I read. If there is one thing I know about life- it is that there are NO simple answers.* It is not a "follow your burning passion" vs. "stick to a miserable job". There is a spectrum of positions in between.

There are some people who are lucky enough (for want of a better adjective) to have ONE passion. They know what they want and all that's left for them is to go after it.
But sometimes, you don't know what you want. I LOVE what I am doing right now. But, is it my burning passion? I don't know. Is something else my burning passion? Not that I can think of. I love a lot of things. I don't know if I would want to do them for the rest of my life. Heck, I don't even know if I will continue loving them for the rest of my life. 
On the other hand, I know some people who don't love anything much. They are ok with software, ok with investment banking, ok with having decent meals, an average marriage, 2 kids and a house in the city. All they want from life is to be able to get these things. And maybe some music, movies and travel along with it. They are not particularly for reaching for the skies or swimming against the current or any of that stuff. And they form most of the crowd.

Just because you have one passion or many passions, are you superior to people with none? Is it wrong for someone to be happy where they are? Who gives you the right to say "You MUST want the same things from life that I want. And with the same intensity"? Granted that many of the world's innovations come from people who are passionate. But I see no point in enforcing everyone to HAVE a passion or look for it.

The other problem with this idea is confusing hobby with passion/profession. I love reading. It's one thing I love more than anything else in the world. But do I make a career out of being a book reviewer? Not necessarily. Reminds me of this comic- 

 For some people, their hobby IS their passion, but not for everyone. Also, most things become boring once they become your job.
It's the fact that you have to focus on the nitty-gritty details and spend every day on a  particular thing- basically, get down and do the dirty work. Just because you quit you job to follow your passion, it doesn't mean you don't have to do the dirty work. I remember reading an article by a journalist (sorry, lost the link!) who wrote that he had forgotten how to write normally- he always thought of filling spaces, title hooks and word limits. He says- When you work for a paper and try to write a certain amount every week, you recycle topics, you think of topics that are bound to catch the public attention and try to avoid the truly enlightening ones. Many people who write think it will be awesome to do it for a lifetime. And then you see people like Chetan Bhagat publishing.** Enough said.

I guess saying "look before you leap" doesn't sound half as much fun as saying "reach for the stars". It sounds old school, boring, uncool. And it doesn't sell self-help books. Why else would a whole industry of people insist on forcing otherwise content people to move out? Has any guy, who moved out and failed, ever written a book? Why don't people mention that when you move out of your job, you are taking a risk- it's like playing stocks- you might make it big or lose all you have?

So, all ye faithful dream-followers, I only have one thing to ask of you. I believe in optimism and positive thought and all that. But please admit that to be successful you need to work hard and be good at what you do- both of which are not necessarily correlated to liking what you do. At least in tiny text, mention at the bottom of your misleading pages- 
"Conditions apply"!

*Now, you might say- THAT is a simple answer in itself. I agree. That sentence is not completely true either. but qualifying it is quite simple, so I leave it to you.
**Arguably, he is making a lot of money. Just that his writing got worse with each piece he wrote, and he started pretty low anyway!

P.S: After writing this post, I found this amazing post by Scott Adams. He nailed it!

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