Hari Shanker R

Hari Shanker R

A Happiness Engineer at Automattic.

To Follow Your Heart Or To Follow Your Brain?

Almost 90% of motivational speakers, self-help books and billionaires advocate one constant ideology. It has many forms, but the version I like the most is this quote from Steve Jobs‘ from his famous Stanford University Speech:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

steve jobs

I must have heard the Stanford University speech a thousand times now (<- not an exaggeration). I still get  goosebumps, every time I hear Steve’s soft voice hammer the point deeply into my head.

So, the heart of this theory (if you will pardon the pun) is that, if you follow your heart by choosing a career/doing things you love – you will succeed in life, right?

Conventional logic begs to disagree.

There are many arguments against the ‘follow your passion’ school of thought. Allow me to shed light on a few of them:

  1. What if your passion is in a field that is too competitive, and what if, despite the best of your efforts your efforts fail to materialize in achieving your passion?
  2. The career you’d like to follow is, to put it subtly, an economically unrewarding one (say, the liberal arts). Would one be able to make a living out of, say, quoting shakespeare? (Teaching jobs are few and far in between)
  3. Is the career that you’re about to choose based on your passion really your passion? Once you’re midway in a field, changing lines may be close to impossible at times.
  4. You could always follow a more economically rewarding position. As your primary job gives you enough money, you could follow your passion in your free time.

I can cite a dozen more points against the ‘following your passion’ platitude, but I stop here.

Picture this: You’ve just realized that you’re exceptionally talented in a particular field. You’ve listened to a couple of motivation speakers/read a few books/were inspired by a close friend or a teacher. And you’re all set to do what you love.

And that’s when someone – a skeptic (usually a parent or a close friend): asks you these gut-wrenching questions, which you fail to answer. You lose confidence. Your dreams are shelved. Boom.

My dear friend, if you are one of those hapless folks who have given up on their dreams due to mind-numbing logic…

SHUT OUT ALL THAT MEANINGLESS LOGIC AND BLOODY DO WHAT YOUR HEART TELLS YOU TO DO!!!

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart […]

[…]Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

This part of the Steve Jobs’ speech sums things up for you.

You have one life. If you live the rest of your life, doing things just because your grandmother or your uncle’s best friend told you that ‘this is the best way to make the most out of your life’, you should probably kill yourself right now, cause your life’s going to do it for you otherwise. It’s going to lead you to a slow and painful death – which is an entire life of disappointment and depression.

Oh yes, you can always follow your heart and choose to live too. A life of happiness, and joy!

As for the ‘logical questions’ – All these questions have a ‘what if’ part, that showcases the negative side of things. Okay, you’re starting out on something new and the first thing you hear is the plight of somebody who has tried and failed. The negative thought is planted in your mind, and the seeds of failure have sown themselves. Erase your mind, be positive – for every person who has failed, there is another person who has achieved spectacular success (the proverbs about failure are bloody wrong, I tell you!) Look around. Start your venture – with a positive mind and concentrated effort. Success will follow.

To answer each question one by one:

What if your passion is in a field that is too competitive, and what if, despite the best of your efforts your efforts fail to materialize in achieving your passion?

Honestly, if you’ve put in the best of your efforts – YOU WILL SUCCEED. Nobody said it won’t be a life without hardships, though. The challenge is to stay put, cause, if your mind is well-oriented and if your efforts are prudent and in the right direction – success will be yours! As for the rare chance of ‘what-if’, life has a habit of surprising us in the most heartening of ways. In the rarest of rare case where your efforts fail to bear fruit, life will open up a new path for you. Trust me!

The career you’d like to follow is, to put it subtly, an economically unrewarding one (say, the liberal arts). Would one be able to make a living out of, say, quoting shakespeare? (Teaching jobs are few and far in between)

What if I told you that liberal arts graduates earn more than their counterparts and some of the corporate majors in fact prefer liberal arts graduates? There are a lot of misconceptions about education in the society – and half baked opinions from grossly-misinformed passers-by only makes things worse for a student/job aspirant. If your passion/expertise lies in a particular field, you should go for it, no matter what! Success will follow.

Is the career that you’re about to choose based on your passion really your passion? Once you’re midway in a field, changing lines may be close to impossible at times.

True, interests change as people change… but passions rarely do. You have to find what you really love to do. Something that excites you and even gives you sleepless nights, an idea that consumes you… If you choose to go for a job that merely interests you, the axiom in question holds true. But once/if you realize your passion (no matter how late it is), you can always implement it… No matter what!

You could always follow a more economically rewarding position. As your primary job gives you enough money, you could follow your passion in your free time.

This is the biggest joke ever! This story will make you realize what I’m trying to say.

So, to cut a long blog post short… Try to find out what you love. It’s not that hard… as life unrolls before you, it gives you plenty of hints. Ask the right questions, and you’ll find the right answers. If you have not found it yet, keep searching. The answer is just another question away. You will realize as soon as you find it. And once you find it, do not let it go – no matter what. It’s never too late.

Follow your heart, no matter what.

I’d like to sign-off with with a quote from Matt Mullenweg – the doyen of Automattic, and one of the founders of WordPress. I’m one of Matt’s biggest fans alive, and this post owes a lot of inspiration to him. 🙂

Matt Mullenweg

 

© 2017, Hari Shanker R. Some Rights Reserved.
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