I was attending a Stoicism Meet-up group for the first time out of curiosity, and I started discussing finding a job you’re passionate about. The host responded to me in a calm, steady manner that he doesn’t believe that people should be so wrapped up with finding a passion. He just views his job as something that puts food on the table and provides for his family. He doesn’t have to love it.
That got me thinking afterwards. I’ve encountered this perspective a few times before, but it’s definitely become less common in the modern age when young people are often told throughout social media to do what you love for a living. Our parents and grandparents worked for survival oftentimes, to keep their children fed, even if the job wasn’t that enjoyable.
So what’s the truth? What’s the reality? What’s the best advice?
I think the job market is generally tough. You’re not going to be able to find your passion on your first or second try, usually. A rare few get lucky. I think you should still strive towards a job that you love so much that you tap dance to work, but don’t expect it to fall in your lap or happen in your first few years. Have a game plan. Have a strategy. Do things to test out different careers in the field and a plan to work towards your dream industry and job title.
As the founders of Google say in their book How Google Works, choosing your industry is most important. So start there by considering what industry you want to be in, then work on your job title and the right company.
If you’re in a situation where you need a mediocre job just to survive, have food, and pay the bills, that’s fine. No need to feel like you’ve failed or you have to be miserable. I think that was part of my faulty thinking in the past. I made myself more miserable than I needed to be back when I hand some less than ideal jobs. One of my first jobs out of school was as a waiter and busser, and I let my embarrassment and frustration make myself unhappy. But I didn’t need to do that.
There’s also a spectrum. Waiter may have been far on one end for my, but office job as a data entry specialist would’ve been a little closer to where I wanted to be, although still not perfect. And so, there’s a whole range of how much you love your job, say from 0 to 100. I think the host of that Meet-Up group was probably at a 60 from what I can tell, while my waiter job was a 20 on some days and a 50 on others. So even though the host didn’t love his job, he definitely didn’t hate it either. It seemed middle of the road. And that’s totally fine! If you’re content, you’re doing better than a lot of people.
The only thing I have a problem with is not believing or having hope that there’s anything better for you out there. The big difference between him and I is arguably my will to always strive and find something better if I don’t think I’m there yet. If you don’t believe anything will change, you won’t change anything and nothing will change. I believe he is less likely to apply for new jobs, research new careers or industries, and find new work than me because he may not believe something is out there. That said, I’m just theorizing. We quickly moved onto another discussion. I don’t know for sure what he believes or hopes.
The point is for you to not get stuck based on your beliefs.
I believe passions change over time and you can rediscover new passions. So if you’re still in the early stages, here’s four tips to help you find things:
- Rest – Take some time to recharge and do something else if you’re always thinking about it. That may spark something.
- Map it out – It helps to take some vague ideas in your head and crystallize them to tangible words or pictures in a journal.
- Look for and define triggers – What in your day makes you happy? What do you spend your free time doing?
- Appreciate your wins and moments – When you’re in that flow state of a passion, be there, experience it, recognize it, don’t let it pass too quickly while your mind is elsewhere.