We’ve all heard the advice to follow your passions and the money will follow, but we’ve also felt the pressure to choose something practical. We’re supposed to get a degree in engineering (like I’m doing), science, or business so we can provide for ourselves, our families, and not lose the comfortable lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to living.
I was looking through some old favorite YouTube videos the other week and I came across Alan Watts’ lecture on choosing to follow your passions, becoming a master in them, and the money following. Watts got me thinking about what the world would be like if everyone, not just a select few, followed their passions and became what they wanted to be. I immediately assumed there would be considerably less engineers (shows how much I enjoy engineering…) and with the decrease in engineers, there’d be less technological advances.
I initially discredited this hypothetical world, but then caught myself: So what? What if there weren’t as many engineers and we didn’t have as much technology? What if there wasn’t an Apple product of every size between a tiny shuffle and a full-sized iPad? What if we didn’t have tablets that doubled as laptops that then tripled as TVs? What if we weren’t sending people to Mars in the next few years?
What if instead we had more writers? More chefs? More teachers? Yes, the world would be remarkably different, but that isn’t to say it’d be worse. There’s a lot of the unhappiness in our world and the fact is that most of it is due to peoples’ discontent with their jobs, not their annoyance at a less clear television screen. After all, if you could get up and do something you love doing everyday, could you really have much left to be unhappy about?
In this world full of passion we would also create better things. Not necessarily faster, sleeker, or stronger things, but better nonetheless. The world today seems to be pumping out product after product because they will be bought, not because we believe they’re worth making.
In a world of passion not only would we have have much more art, much more adventure, or much more literature we’d also have more love in the things we’re already making. Clothes, food, and cars would have soul in every stitch, in every bite, and in every part.
I kept exploring this imaginary world, thinking how cool it’d be if different cities were homes to different passions, like if Cincinnati was the home of painters, while St. Louis had chefs, and Buffalo was the clothing capital of the world. Growing up you could live in places that had things you were interested in experiencing.
The more I thought of this world, the more upset I became. Where did we go wrong? Why isn’t this the way we ended up? We are made to be happy, yet we constantly choose unhappiness. We choose safety, comfort, and easiness instead of risking anything to live.
Think about our lives and the times we’ve failed. In the moment they hurt, in the moment our worlds crumbled around us, in the moment we weren’t sure the sun was going to rise the next day. But it did. And it kept rising, day after day, and as it did we got better.
We adapted, we learned, we grew. We’ve grown so much since that first heartbreak, since we were cut from that first team, since we got our first F.
We used to put forth so much more effort into the things we wanted. We chased the girl. We played our hearts out.
We studied for hours. We failed, but we grew. Now we’re “grown up” and we’ve lost that drive. We’ve become placated. Somewhere along the line we were told “no” and we made the mistake of believing it. We call ourselves “grown ups” because we think we’ve grown up without anywhere left to go. No place left to direct our efforts upwards and onwards.
Between social pressures and our own perceptions we’ve stopped growing. We think we’re forced to fit into the box made for us, to do this and do that, but really there’s just a line in the sand with nothing to keep us from crossing it except our perceptions and our fear of opposition.
When did we let fear win?