Career Vs Passion; Sometimes you Have to be realistic.

I enjoy writing, quite as much as I need my job. I don’t enjoy my job very much, but certainly need the money and I can’t glean a good sum of it if all I do when I should be hunting for deals (it’s the way lawyers make money, not through salaries) is write. This is the issue I’ve been grappling with for a while now.

Over a month ago, around the time I decided to give facebook a break. I’d decided to push the halt button on all the writing I’d been doing but for this blog. It’s a decision I made to create ample time to think through my career choices and priorities in less cluttered space as I pondered upon the future; where and how far I plan to haul along this unlikely combination of my job and the kind of writing I do.

But while it may not be accompanied with a proportionate bearing on my bank statement, nothing I’ve done before gives me as much a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment as writing does. Alas, I not only need to survive, but I also want to buy my own car; and while it’s not easy to procure wealth through writing, it’s almost as hard to make a decent living in a profession that requires full attention when you’re bogged down with lofty writing ambitions.

This threw me in the relentless debate of “do what you love Vs do what you need to survive”. There is a popular saying that suggests that if you do what you love the money will follow you. It worked for Steve Jobs when he dropped out of collage to pursue his dream, against which background he advised graduates to follow their passion in his famous You’ve Got to Find What You Love speech. He said;

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

Paul Graham offers an interesting perspective on the subject, he says;

There’s a sense of “not everyone can do work they love” that’s all too true, however. One has to make a living, and it’s hard to get paid for doing work you love. There are two routes to that destination:

The organic route: as you become more eminent, gradually to increase the parts of your job that you like at the expense of those you don’t.

The two-job route: to work at things you don’t like to get money to work on things you do.

The organic route is more common. It happens naturally to anyone who does good work. A young architect has to take whatever work he can get, but if he does well he’ll gradually be in a position to pick and choose among projects. The disadvantage of this route is that it’s slow and uncertain. Even tenure is not real freedom.

The two-job route has several variants depending on how long you work for money at a time. At one extreme is the “day job,” where you work regular hours at one job to make money, and work on what you love in your spare time. At the other extreme you work at something till you make enough not to have to work for money again.

I like Paul Graham’s approach because it considers the likely possibility of starvation that lurks in wait for those who are rather quick to jump ship in pursuit of their passions. While Steve Jobs’ speech was rhetoric and really inspiring, in my opinion, not everyone may be as lucky and smart. There’re lots of people writhing in misery and disappointment because they trusted that the dots would somehow connect in their future. The theory may have made all the difference in Jobs’ life, but there’s no guarantee those dots will connect for everyone.

Marty Nemko observed;

Based on the 2,700 clients I’ve worked with over the past two decades, the hundreds of callers to my career-centric radio show, and my countless other conversations with people about their careers, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been sold a bill of goods when we’re told to “Follow your passion, “ or “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Fact is, if you do what you love, you’ll probably starve.

So like most writers I know who don’t want to starve, I decided to pursue Paul Graham’s lax variant of the two-job route; to keep my day job as I do the writing on the side.

However, the real problem I’ve found is learning how to balance the job that feeds me and the passion that buys my airtime. Prioritizing on what I should while creating time for the things I am passionate about.

How do the rest of you do it?

7 thoughts on “Career Vs Passion; Sometimes you Have to be realistic.

  1. Thanks for the post. There’s always a sharp disconnect between one’s passion and one’s career…and this is further amplified my the economic world setting we live in where you’ve to earn a living from what you do(where you love or not) — that’s the harsh reality. Now to earn a living from what you truly love to do is a life long journey, that turns out to be rewarding once achieved.

    Thanks again for the post. Am looking forward to seeing you follow your passion and making it work economically no matter what!


  2. i have learnt to love my job,regardless of how shitty it is..i just focus the benefits and so milk as much money from it so that it covers up for all the shit


  3. It seems to me that you want to love your job, the kind of love to generate a desire to look forward to going to work every morning. And I’m thinking you kind of once did enjoy the profession (at least in school). But after school, you came into a world that bitch slapped you with a boring reality. But if you look closely, you are doing what you love, you just aren’t looking for the silver lining. I mean, life’s not black or white; there is so much colour; you get a little bit of this and a little bit of that, not necessarily everything. At least that’s what am doing/ telling myself to keep myself from going mad with reality.


  4. I’m resigned to the fact that writing might never make me rich but I guess that’s why it is a passion. The thing you do without promise of a reward because the action itself is often enough of one. It would be lovely if we could all one day do a J.K Rowling and be on the next Forbes list but the reality like you pointed out is very different. So we write for other reasons: because we have a story to tell, or characters that want to get themselves heard or simply because we need to.

    Perhaps the second jobs are needed to give us the fodder for the next story. The interactions and observations made during the course of the job inspirations for the next big character, you never know. I like to look on the bright side.


    1. You raise good points, I came across a good quote by Oscar Wilde that pretty much sums up the issue of expectations from writing. He said;
      “The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer. Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid but ask of art to sacrifice herself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you.”


  5. not everyone has a passion or holds onto a dream, many people in the world just want to settle in and live (slip) through this world, so let them I say, because when one tries to lift up their expectations, they fail and blame. my only problem is when these people choose to advise those that hold onto a passion and are wishing on that star, that is wrong, wrong I say


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