Pursuing a career or pursuing my passion? Can I do both?
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to spend my time and where I want to end up in life. The more I explore this the more I’ve noticed that a lot of people get into businesses or careers for well-intentioned but potentially counterproductive reasons. Did you start that amazing startup idea because the world really needed it? Or was it chasing that million dollar exit with a hope of happiness at the other end? Did you decide to get into a certain career for money or prestige? Did it live up to the hype when you actually started the work? Is what you do for the majority of your time something you would choose to do for free?
One thing I’ve definitely come to value is my own mental and physical well-being. Like the helpful advice of airline attendants, you need to make sure you have your own oxygen mask on before your can save the world… or make the million dollar exit. If everything you do comes from a place of trying to get “over there” into a position of “success” then you’ll always be striving and if you’re not careful you’ll miss the ride. Happiness now is worth a billion dollars at 60 and gratitude for the things and people in your life are priceless right now.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not bagging on people who want to build great companies or pursue all consuming careers. I’m speaking from my own personal journey from a struggling musician to a software developer and now some sort of social crusader (who’s still a struggling musician). I realised instead of chase money I’d much rather grind at a project to try to make our communities a better place for all of us. I’m happier spending all my weekends writing music and creating acoustic versions of classic hip hop songs even if I only ever play them to my friends at parties. At least I had fun while I was alive and I did it with the people I care about.
This morning I was listening to an interview with Neil Pasricha talking about happiness. I found that he was describing exactly what I’d stumbled across recently and it’s helped me finally become happy within myself. Do it for you , do it for passion or do it to be part of something bigger than you.
Many people think that their circumstances or the things that happen to them or the way they are are the reason they are happy (or not happy). The second part has been shown to be true and around 50% of what makes a person happy or unhappy is genes. But another whopping 40% can come from our own actions and self reflection. When you couple this with research into epigenetics and how the exact same genes can express themselves differently it goes a long way to explain why average incomes in affluent countries have been rising but reported happiness levels have remained about the same. These external measures such as job title, salary, assets and even power are no replacement for simply being comfortable in your own skin and happy right now.
The ironic thing about all this is that I decided to start my degree in “Software and and I.T” at age 22 simply because I was sick and tired of being a poor musician, performing at the same dive bars playing songs I didn’t like and slowly having all passion for music sucked out of me. I was lucky to have found a of love for building and helping others build software but it could have easily gone the other way. To add to that, now that I don’t worry about how to pay the bills, I’m finding I’d rather spend my time writing or playing music than on side hussles with the sole aim of getting rich.
What I’m saying is that every now and then try to take a some time out of your busy life and think about those things you see others doing and bemoan “I wish I had the time to do that too”. Because you do, you can and you should. I encourage you to go for the things you are passionate about and find a way to make it work.
I agree with what Ed Sheeran said in the live (and 1,000,000 times better) version of his new song Eraser. “I wish that love was a currency and the whole world was wealthy.”