A friend shared this in Facebook this morning and I found myself deeply irritated by the message:
The video continued to make my typing fingers itch after I’d commented so I decided to blog about it and see if I can work out just why my reaction is so strong. My immediate thought is that I’m taking it too personally. Nothing unusual in that! My second thought is that this idea scares me and might even be dangerous, both for me and for others. I was sort of serious about the artist dying in the garret. He actually says in the video that it is better to spend a short life doing what you love than a long one doing what you do not.
This fills me with questions.
- What about the men who worked for 40 years in nasty, dangerous jobs, in mines and steel foundries?
- Or the women who raised a family in the toughest of conditions?
- Were their lives of no value to them, their families or to society?
- Should they all have ‘followed their passions’ and done only what they enjoyed?
I’ve got a feeling this man is talking about a privileged minority, but making it sound like he means everyone.
Maybe I’m missing the bigger picture here. What do we as a society end up with if we make our children go through years of testing to destruction and pushing to achieve academic success and then tell them none of it is any good unless they do what they love? Is it just me or does something not add up here?
What Would I Do?
I am one of those people who has never had a great passion or even a sense that there is something that above all other things I enjoy. There are lots of things I’d do if money was no object, of course there are. I have no great talent for any of them. None of them could even remotely be described as work or lead to any sort of income.
A quick list will illustrate my point:
- Travel, I love to roam, staying in places a few days and moving on, mostly in a tent. If money was no object I would still do this but for longer at a time. I’d happily take six months to a year just exploring Spain that way. I might even write blog posts about what I saw. This is not work and would not, could not, realistically, provide an income.
- Cook, and eat, interesting food. I might even write about it sometimes but again, no income. I’m not a chef and I don’t want to be one.
- Write. I write fiction, sometimes. With no money issues I would still do it. It is an indulgence. It makes no money and I don’t see how it ever could. I read books on my iPod Touch using Kindle. I usually pay no more than 20p for a book and often pay nothing at all. People are trying to make a living from their fiction writing but I think those days are almost gone. I’d be happy if people read what I wrote and enjoyed it. I might even feel grateful to them for spending some of their precious time on my ramblings. I would not expect them to pay me for the privilege!
- Blog, sometimes more sometimes less but I’ve been blogging in some form or another for nearly 10 years. It is part of my and the way I work out what I think. Money wouldn’t stop it. I see many bloggers writing wonderful, interesting, insightful stuff totally for free. A few are hoping against hope that the elusive book deal will come their way and save them from drudgery. Most don’t even consider that. Some might make vague attempts to make enough to pay their hosting, using ads, donation buttons, Amazon Wishlists or whatever. Most give up on that when it doesn’t pay.
- Make. I draw and I take photos. Once I sewed and knitted, crocheted and quilted. Now I do it as a break from all the wordy stuff I do and I would still do it if I had all the money I’d ever need. I put my photos on line with a Creative Commons license so that others may use them. If they do I am invariably thrilled.
- Share. I find interesting things on the internet and share them with others. I’ve been doing it for many years now and am unlikely to stop any time soon. No one pays me and I don’t suppose they ever would.
- Nurture. I like to support those closest to me in what they do. I’m not always as good at it as I’d like to be but like most things I do, I try. I’ve always loved the quote “Love does not dominate; it cultivates” (Goethe)
Travel, cook, write, blog, make, share. I think I’ve reached an ‘aha’ moment. I said further up the page: “I have no great talent for any of them” and here might be the crux.
I do not have any particular gifts. There are quite a few things that I am reasonably OK at but nothing at which I excel.
That’s OK, I can live with that. I have things I do to earn a living and things I enjoy doing. It would be lovely if they were the same things but it is not essential.
He seems to believe that mastery of something is achieved by application. The 10,000 hours theory. It is a very US thing. If you don’t succeed it is because you didn’t try hard enough, didn’t put in enough effort. Eventually if you keep trying your efforts will be recognised and you will be able to make your way doing the thing you love.
To put it simply I do not think that is the case. I think it is a sort of delusion and it leads to things like some of the sad people you see on Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor. Mastery is a achieved in my belief system by a combination of basic underlying talent with application. You have to have both. Application without a great talent can give you pleasure but that thing remains something you do to satisfy your self. In many fields even great talent and application are not enough and luck plays a huge part.
Alternatively he suggests you find a career that incorporates elements of what you love, like the horse riding instructor he mentions. The issue with that is you have to have a love that fits in with a way of making a career. It won’t work if you don’t and it is hard to see how my list could provide a direction.
On paper teaching might fit the bill for my list, and indeed I do some of that, but the day to day realities of teaching are a long way from the list. If money was no object I absolutely would not teach. I find it too draining and I really dislike some aspects of it. I also probably wouldn’t write about some of the things I write and blog about.
Someday perhaps all this will be sorted out. We will all get a citizen’s wage, do our set number of chore hours each week and be able to pursue our interests unhampered for the rest of the time. Anyone remember Walden Two? (affiliate links below )
I think my ideal would be to live in some sort of Walden Pond setting for half the year and to travel the rest, and all with unlimited broadband 🙂 Now that would be Utopia!
Books in this post: