This post has been sitting in the Draft folder for over 3 months. I jotted down fragmented ideas as and when they came but never really found the link to connect them all for a blog post. Somehow, I’ve managed to do so today, and so here goes.
At some point in your life, you would find the discrepancy between how you envision your life would turn out and how it actually does. Some call it “growing up”, while others believe it’s simply a transient identity crisis (quarter-life, mid-life). For those who never go through this (for better or worse), good for you, I guess?
When you get to the point of being unsure what you want to do with your life, typically you would seek advice from people you can trust or read self-help books to find answer or study your idol’s biography to find some inspirations. And often times you’d hear perhaps the most corny phrases ever from different people, such as “follow your heart”, “follow your passion”, “do what you like”, “do what you want”. As much as these phrases form the fundamental basic of “being happy” in life, they couldn’t be more vague.
Now why do I mention there’s trouble with the phrase “doing what you love”? Sure it’s a generally good advice for anyone struggling to define who they are. But what I see most of the times is that what people love to do doesn’t translate into something that adds value to their lives. I feel that the advice is vague and corny at best. Why? It doesn’t mention whether what you love is in the sense of a hobby or what you love is in the sense of a professional aspiration.
Of course, it’s the perfect situation when you can turn your hobby into something you can do for your whole life and provide for yourself. But let’s be honest here: how many people do you think have the mentality to make it happen? Or how many of them are in the position to try and fail so many times? Or simply how many of them are exactly sure that’s really what they want? If what you love to do doesn’t have any practical value to your life, it’d be a waste of time to pursue that. What I mean by “practical value” is to ask yourself whether you can become so good that you can turn it into a profession, in such a way that you’ll enjoy doing that for the rest of your professional career. If you don’t want to even invest time in trying that out, maybe you don’t really “love” to do that after all?
Often times people get confused between pleasurable activities during free times and things that provide a sense of fulfillment (in terms of professional aspirations). It’s not an either-or thing; they co-exist. For example, if you love singing but you don’t see yourself becoming as good as a singer and doing it for a long time, or you simply don’t feel like dumping all your energy into it, maybe you shouldn’t be encouraged to “follow your passion” or “be a singer”. Sure you love singing, but you love it as a hobby, something fitting for a leisure activity. An investor once asked me after I made a pitch for this business plan competition: “if you love your idea so much that you believe it’ll work, would you be willing to sell your house and your car or everything you have to make it happen?” I couldn’t give him an answer, but he got the answer just alright.
My point is this – you should not confuse a pleasurable hobby and a professional aspiration, which is why I mentioned previously how “doing what you love” is very vague in and of itself. There’s gotta be something out there, apart from your hobby (another area/field/thing that you’re interested in, which gives you fulfillment) that has the potential of becoming your value-added aspiration to life. Go and cultivate it!
I think Mark Cuban put it best when he wrote
“If you really want to know where you destiny lies, look at where you apply your time.
Let me make this as clear as possible
1. When you work hard at something you become good at it.
2. When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more.
3. When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good chance you will become passionate or more passionate about it
4. When you are good at something, passionate and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen.
Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.” (Source: Mark Cuban’s blog)
These are the advice I find plausible and do my best to follow since I read them. Many people would disagree, noting “if you are not spending time on what you love, aren’t you forcing yourself to do something you don’t like, and hence lead to ever greater unhappiness”. To this I say no, simply because you will never know if you like something until you try it; by “try it” I mean consistently doing it for a long period of time until you can decide if you really love or hate something. Chances are there are more things about you that you have yet to discover just because you’re not trying new things. Good things in life, very much like a good relationship, come after eliminating all that you don’t want or like. You simply don’t get it right the first or second time (if you do, lucky you). What I am trying to say is that you do not necessarily have to stick with something in life because you feel that it’s the right thing to do or you’ve been at it for so long it’d feel like a waste to dump it. Your dreams at age 18 may not necessarily be the same as your dreams at age 25; they evolve all the time. The best thing you can do when you’re lost is to cultivate good habits and work ethics that will get you through any types of challenges ahead.
Would like to sign off the post with my favorite speech of all-time: