It’s a tough day at work. You are stressed out of your mind, and a little bit bored. As you scroll mindlessly through Instagram, you pause at a picture: a watercolour, flush with birds soaring around the words ‘Follow Your Passion’. A little arrow is scribbled at the bottom.
You think about your college buddy Rashmi, who dropped out to pursue music full time, or Govind, who quit his corporate job to head an exciting new startup. Your heart lifts a little, and you consider making this your phone wallpaper.
Pause right there.
We’ve all been there. After all, these are the words of The Greats. The dreamers, the creators, the makers, the go-getters have reportedly said: Do what you love and success will follow. Money can’t buy you happiness.
Are these really truths to live by? Should you work for money or follow your passion?
Read More: Should You Really Quit Your Job?
The Problem With Pursuing Your Passion As A Career
A study conducted by Stanford University found that the hidden implication behind these quotes causes more harm than good. These quotes suggest that once you find something that you enjoy, chasing it should come naturally, with ease. That passion is fixed, that these talents are innate rather than developed with persistence over time. Researchers have pointed out that “urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket, but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.”
Pursuing your passion assumes that everyone already has one, but the hard truth is many people don’t. While we all have a wide range of interests and talents, not everyone can or has to turn it into a special calling or a greater purpose.
And that’s completely okay.
Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But It Sure Can Buy a Lot of Other Things
The trope of the starving artist has been glorified – it’s brave and commendable to struggle in the pursuit of your dreams. After all, once you’ve ‘made it’, it would be worth the while, right?
There is a lot of pressure to ‘live our best life’ and ‘find our true purpose’. People love giving suggestions on working for passion and not money. Millennial culture places a lot of value on emotional satisfaction, but that can be short-lived when you’re struggling to make ends meet. Whether we like it or not, money is an indispensable part of our life. Paying bills, feeding yourself and just surviving requires a fair amount of money. And unless you have a grand inheritance or you won the lottery, you need a consistent flow of income to get by.
Dreams ignore the market. You may love what you do and you may be very good at it, but without any demand, supporting yourself can become very difficult, no matter how hard you work. And at the end of the day, turning your passion into a career will still make it a job. There will inevitably be some financial stress, and that could sour your interests. What you initially enjoyed as a hobby or an outlet becomes a burden.
When you work for money, you can guarantee some stability and security in your life. You can sustain yourself, and others. The random splurge won’t make you guilty and an emergency won’t leave you riddled with stress.
The Difference Between Following Effort, Not Passion
Enjoying what you do certainly makes working easier, but it’s not necessary that you only enjoy what you’re passionate about. Passion is fluid, not fixed. It can be nurtured and developed. As a business tycoon, Mark Cuban said, when you work hard at something you become good at it. When you get good at it, you start to enjoy it more. And when you’re good at something and enjoy it, you will inadvertently become excited by it. Put in the effort, and passion and success will follow.
With that being said, it is important to take some time off for yourself and try to pursue other interests. Your hobbies can satiate your emotional needs without having to meet financial ones. Besides, nothing is set in stone! You may eventually find yourself in a stable enough position that will allow you to explore different interests.
I’ve met a spectrum of people who have led fulfilling lives by chasing their passions, and by chasing money. Some people are happy to be doing what they love, even if it means living hand-to-mouth. Others live secure lives with steady jobs and enjoy their interests on the side. There’s no definitive right or wrong answer. But in case you’ve been wondering about it, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. You may not find it on a Pinterest board, but it doesn’t make your life any less significant or colourful.
These are not grand, inspirational words, but real honest ones. So to answer your question on whether you should work for passion or money, we’d say this: It’s okay to work for money. It may not seem as romantic as following your dreams and finding your purpose, but in some ways, it can be just as rewarding.
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