This one is for those of you who have ever wondered whether you should be doing what you love or what makes money.
There are very few who can say their job does both. You may be an accountant who wishes you could open a cattery, because you actually love cats more than accounting. You may be a mechanical engineer who wishes you could spend your days white-water rafting. You may own a liquor store but wish you could spend your days traveling the savannah and photographing wild animals. Whatever the combination is, for most people it seems to be a trade-off, a one-or-the-other, not a single activity that fulfils both the passion and the financial obligations.
What is my trade-off? Well, I would spend my days on the race track. I have a huge love for putting commercial vehicles through their paces on a race track. Unfortunately, if I had to take that on as a full-time job then two things will happen – Number 1: I would either have to switch completely to being a journalist or 2: I would likely take a large financial knock. This is not to say the guys who do this don’t earn good money, but I do know it would require a lifestyle adjustment for me. The fortunate thing for my situation though is that it would still be a paying job. For many of you, this probably isn’t the case. What you would love to be doing might yield no financial reward at all.
So, we all get told quite often that we should follow our passion and do what we love. Truth is, very few people can commercialise what they are passionate about and the rest don’t want to live the nomad lifestyle. Where does this leave us?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who decided that instead of studying what makes people unhappy, he would look at what made them happy. He speaks of ‘the flow experience’. The term comes from subjects (artists, ice-skaters, business people) in his studies describing the way they feel when they do things they enjoy and how it ‘flows out of them’. Imagine how your passion would ‘flow’ if you didn’t have to worry about the money part.
He also looked into how artists do something their whole life which will give them little or an average amount of income and potentially never give them fame or fortune. But one of the artists, a composer, said how he can just sit and write music and how much ecstasy this gives him. He spoke of how he seems to step outside of himself and just watch his hands at work. This is what gives him that ultimate fulfilment. More than a high paying job ever could and so he likely chose that over money. And how does this ‘flow’ feel? Mihaly describes this in 7 points:
- Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated
- A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
- Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing
- Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate for the task
- A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego
- Timeliness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes
- Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward
While each of us may not feel this ecstasy, we may come quite close to the feeling of fulfilment. I did another track day recently and the feeling of ecstasy is exactly what I felt. Would I swop it for my lifestyle and current job? Nope. Fortunately, my business is in the CRM space – I am passionate about helping businesses improve their customer’s experience, so it fulfils me. It allows me to help businesses improve their customer’s experience and at other times it allows (funds) me to enjoy my passion. So, I have the best of both worlds.
Now, if you have asked yourself if you should give up what you do to go follow your passion, here are the 3 main options you will have:
- Leave your job and follow your passion but be willing to – in part or completely – sacrifice whatever it is the job is giving you – probably money
- Keep your job, accept life as it is and let go of the passion
- Keep your job and use it to finance your passion
The option you choose is completely up to you and fortunately, as life has it, you can always change your mind later. None of these decisions are permanent.
Here is my opinion on each of the choices:
Option 1 will require that you make sure you have prepared yourself mentally and financially for the change. Consider those that are dependent on you before you make this decision, but you will likely never regret this even if it goes wrong, trust me on that.
Option 2 will probably be the decision I would advise against because two things will happen – Firstly, you will NEVER stop wondering if you made the right decision (where option 1 would give you that answer). And secondly, although you will keep making money, consider what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found in his research –“A lack of or decrease in material resources reduces happiness, but an increase in material resources does not increase happiness”. Read it again and give that some thought…
Option 3 has the best outcome and I have seen the happiest people doing this. In most cases you will save and take time off to go do what you love or make time at night and on weekends. You get to maintain your lifestyle for the most part and you get to enjoy your passion too. On the extreme, I know of people who work just enough to finance the next bit of their passion. For e.g. traveling the world to surf and only doing odd jobs to pay for accommodation, food and surfing equipment. Alternatively, this model could be adjusted over a longer term if you work for many years and retire (maybe early) to do what you love on a daily basis. This would require discipline on your part to save and invest in RA’s.
So, in summary, although one could choose between the two, it is not meant to be as black and white as people make it out to be. You do not have to sacrifice one for the other and even if you have, it is not set in stone. Think of it this way – it’s not a light switch that goes on or off. It is a dial – you can turn it from left to right and back again. The more it goes in one direction, the less you have on the other side and vice versa. Too many people believe you can only have one or the other. When you think about following money OR passion, give some thought to this and remember you can have both. If you don’t believe this, and you have excuses as to why you cannot at least make time for your passion, then remember the more you make those excuses, the more the world will validate them.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right” Henry Ford