“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle
I was asked to write on the subject of passion vs. practicality in relation to choosing a college major and the pursuit of a career. It’s a question many of us have struggled with — do I follow my dreams or be practical and go the tried and true career path? Ultimately, I believe you are the only one who can answer this question. Far be it from me to advise the next great novelist, film-maker, artist, actor, or rock star to pursue a degree in health care because these jobs are projected to be in demand. After all, I don’t even know you! But you know you, so I can assist by posing some important questions:
Is it dream or fantasy? Are you talented enough to take your dream all the way?
Being a starving artist may sound chic, but ask any starving artist if they’d like to land a high-paying, commissioned job or be so renowned that their works fly out of galleries at tens of thousands of dollars, and you’re sure to receive a resounding “yes!” Sure, you want to do what you like, but will you be able to reach a level where you are satisfied with the lifestyle this path provides? When you think about your dream you surely don’t envision a life of penniless obscurity. The lifestyle you dream of requires enough financial security that you can be focused on your passion and not have to worry about money. So, if you aren’t significantly above average at your particular talent, perhaps the idea of pursuing this career is really more fantasy than an attainable dream. No one says you have to give up your talents (who can stop you from painting, writing, or acting?) but you may want to consider a stable career path while you pursue your interests on the side.
Are you a hard worker? No, I mean a really hard worker?
Do you think getting through school, getting a job, and working your way up a career ladder is difficult? Well, following your passion can be enormously harder. To be successful in a non-traditional career you not only have to be great at what you do but you have to dedicate yourself to it 100%. You’ll have to motivate yourself to make progress in your field every single day. Forget weekends, vacation days, and having people around you to pick up the slack. It’s all you baby. What is passion? It’s fire, zeal, fervor. It’s a powerful, intense, and overwhelming enthusiasm. The original Latin meaning is physical suffering. Are you ready to suffer for your career? Think again about the starving artist. It isn’t the starving part we admire, but the willingness to starve in order to pursue his one and only passion. Rags to riches stories are beloved because the central character sacrifices everything to find success. So the question is: do you truly have passion?
Your talents are still your path to a successful career!
Most likely if you have that kind of passion, you haven’t been sitting in front of your computer reading my blog post. However, if you’ve answered yes to these questions, congratulations on being absolutely certain of your destiny (and remember me when you hit the big time)! For those still reading, take heart; I haven’t finished with you yet. Whatever you pursue in college and in your career, remember that you should still follow where your interests, skills, and talents lead you. There’s no success to be had in choosing a college major and following a career path purely for its earning potential. Without an interest in the field, you’ll be miserable in your work and that alone cancels out true success. Spend the time to research where your talents can take you. You’ll enjoy your studies as you learn more about your chosen area and you’ll be happy in your career with continued opportunities for advancement and success. When you love what you do, you work harder at it, and your success snowballs. Along this path you are sure to learn more about yourself, improve your abilities, discover new talents and new ways to apply them, and you may even find what you are truly passionate about in life.