Usually you make things worse by trying to explain again what you didn’t get across the first time. I do it nonetheless.
My post on Zen Capitalism might have been interpreted as advocating Follow Your Bliss and Anything Else Will Follow (Money, in particular).
I cringe; this is exactly what I intended to avoid, but it serves me right in a subtle way as I ridicule clichéd ‘new age-y thinking’ often.
I believe my cardinal error was to introduce over-used terms such as passion in a hand-waving way.
What I actually tried to get across was:
I believe we deprive ourselves of viable, commercially reasonable business opportunities because we simply don’t see them.
Options are obscured by a filter built from our interactions with ‘society’ – their expectations and doubts, their questions about what you are going to do based on your degree and your experiences. I don’t want to blame ‘society – theoretically we are old enough to take our own decisions; this is rather an observation and I am preaching to myself also, not only to the blogosphere (This is true for all of my posts, I should add this disclaimer more often.)
I picked my stint as an IT freelancer for SMEs deliberately in my previous post – as it was the most stressful transition in terms of having to come to terms with ‘expectations’ and comments like But you do not need a PhD to do that?? I argue that I put all my alleged smartness into overcoming that silly pride of an academic and just offering some services that somebody else really needs right now, no matter how menial or mundane former colleagues might consider that.
This is just an anecdote of mine, there is no silver-bullet-style philosophy of work ethics to be derived from that. Your mileage may vary in terms of your blind spot. Or worse, all options you could come up with in your wildest dreams might still not be converted into something business-y.
However, my theory may be faulty and incomplete anyway:
You consider me a geek – but there is a darker side of me: A penny pincher, a controller, a professionally paranoid consultant. The underlying truth is maybe that the paranoid part of me has forced and driven me to thrive in this capitalist world (this is drive, not passion) – until I reached a state that would have made even the most risk-aware coward taking a leap of faith.
So most ironically you might accuse me of having lived Randy Komisar’s Deferred Life Plan and I cannot deny. I could just argue that I didn’t consider it a plan at all – I thought (felt) it was the best thing to do at that moment of time. Randy Komisar’s theory of matching your portfolio of passions resonates strongly with me – exactly because of that. He states (I am paraphrasing, this is not a quote) that the current match between your passion(s) and your options, however imperfect, allows you to get a bit closer to some ideal state – a state you cannot even describe yet.
It might be the right thing to do to deliberately embark on a job or a project that is definitely not the epitome of Your Ultimate Passion, but it allows you to take a twisted, but reasonable step in the right direction.
Some years ago I said very often that my job scores about 85% on the scale of True Calling, but it gives me more and more financial freedom. Truth is, I was not aware of what I am really heading at, and I cannot say for sure that I know it now – but it felt like the right direction. Not in a ‘spiritual way’ – no revelations here, rather assessing options and risks, probably paired with great gut feeling in a down-to-earth way. Or simply dumb luck.
For full disclosure I need to add that I have neither been born rich nor have I married rich – I daresay anything I own is due to my very own achievements, and I am darn proud of that.
But the definition of one’s true achievements is debatable. I am guilty of having been born in a wealthy, politically stable country with an over-developed social system. Education is nearly for free – there are no student loans. But on the other hand my country is over-administered in a legendary way and infamous in throwing in intricate, bureaucratic wrenches (think Vogon bureaucracy) into the careers of aspiring entrepreneurs, and we use to say If Bill Gates would have been born in Austria he wouldn’t have been able to found Microsoft.
And yet, there is another, much simpler explanation:
Some people are luckier than others because they truly enjoy what is considered dreadful work by a majority – and that majority is in turn happy to pay somebody for that.
For example I really enjoy troubleshooting technical systems to a greater extent than most people. This invokes the explanation ‘dumb luck’ in my case.
We should start a research project or search for existing statistics on people’s intended passions, any careers that might be derived from those(*), and the economic needs of a society. Probably we find that 20% of the world population would enjoy making a living of spam poems, but this planet only needs one or two spam poets really.
I’d like to ponder on (*) a bit more as I feel this is the hidden escape.
I do still hope that we are not yet creative enough enough to apply those skills that are fired by my passion to some economically viable venture. I conjecture that everybody has some skills that allow him or her to do joyfully what is dreaded by a majority. Can we work out the math in a self-consistent way? I am already considering that pie chart diagram of skills of every individual – skills I enjoy versus employable skills I have but I just apply in order to pay the bills.
Can we sort this out and bestow joyful jobs to all of us?
Or do we need to distort and twist the definition of ‘joyful’ in a sophisticated way?
I would like to hand that question over to you again and add Michelle’s epic quote from a comment as a motto:
As she pointed out – probably we should have some blog carnival of a series of posts (by different bloggers) on these existential questions as comments would grow quickly into full-blown posts.