You'd assume that a dream job is one that allows you to follow your passions. You'd be the best in your field, making bucket loads of money, and not have a care in the world. Yet this 80,000 Hours article highlights the six elements of what constitutes a dream job. And, without thinking I would, I agreed entirely.
As told in the article, here are The Six Ingredients in a Dream Job:
1. Work that's engaging;
2. Work that helps others;
3. Work you're good at;
4. Work with supportive colleagues;
5. Lack of major negatives;
6. Work that fits with the rest of your life.
The article goes into greater detail and is supported with a lot of evidence. Quite surprisingly, nowhere does it mention actually following your passions.
When I was in high school, I did the International Baccalaureate Program, which put any AP program to shame. At the end of sophomore year, knowing the impending war on stress, I chose not to pursue my passion for music academically. I didn't want my innocent love for it to be replaced with exams, unnecessary information, and theory I had no interest in. Instead, I took up dance—something new and refreshing—and met amazing people, one of which is now one of my best friends.
As a college junior, I'm now majoring in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in Contemporary Culture and Creative Production. I often seek solace in the fact that my vague major could help me bullshit my way into many different types of jobs, securing myself of an income right after graduation.
With the "follow your passions" mindset that had been instilled in me ever since I could remember, my future seemed dim. I had accepted that I was bound not to make that much moolah since I would not be in the finance, technology, or medical industry. The older I got, the more I understood the world I lived in and the more I realized how bullshit of an advice to follow your passions was.
I had a dream of living in Hawaii. Each time I fell into the hole of researching the very real costs of living there, I got hit with the harsh reality that most likely, I would have to work hard to get what I want and certain occupations can only take me so far.
As much of a sellout as I may sound to certain idealists, financial stability is a justified desire for everybody and a requirement for most. This is not to say I'm aiming to be a cold and horrible person pursuing a 1% elite lifestyle. Financial failure prevents us from so many experiences and opportunities. Yes, the best things in life are free. But so many good things are not.
Sure, studies have shown that there comes a certain point where increasing income has no effect on day-to-day happiness and emotional wellbeing. Still, I'm done complaining about how dim my future looks with my Liberal Studies degree. I'm done accepting I will never be the best in my field, that I'm average, that I'm just a statistic. Even if all this is true—and it probably is—believing it and letting it consume me will just prove to myself that I won't get far in life. I will lose all semblance of ambition and accept my lot. All because I didn't push myself into directions I thought I wouldn't like, or be good at. Like business, for example.
INSEAD, which is considered one of the best business schools in the world, attracts a myriad of people from all over the globe. According to Poets & Quants, a website devoted to the coverage of business schools-related news, INSEAD's Class of 2017 includes "skydivers, kitesurfers, salsa dancers, and kayakers." This school attracts creators and engineers, art lovers and the finance-oriented, the spiritual and the realistic. Who's to say the art lovers, explorers, dancers, and non-traditionally business-minded folk aren't doing what's right for them by going to a business school?
I know of struggling artists trying to make it all over the world — emphasis on the struggling. I know of playwrights and writers where, to them, the image of New York is more of a mere space for struggling artists than it is a haven. I don't think it's wrong of me not to want to succumb to that life, and I don't owe it to anybody to pursue that life.
Self-made billionaire and "Shark Tank" star Mark Cuban says 'follow your passion' is "easily the worst advice you could ever give or get." His advice is to follow your effort, not your passion. He continues to argue that "when you spend hours working hard at something, you get good at it; and when you get good at something, you tend to enjoy it more. [...] When you are good at something, passionate and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen." Essentially, passion and success can come with effort but you should never follow your passion in the first place.
And I realized I've never put in my all when it comes to my passions. I didn't take the chance to learn more about music when I had the opportunity back in high school, and my stance on writing not being my day job just proves that I've never wanted to put in all that effort. All these passionate bursts of interests in various hobbies are just that — hobbies. I have too many passionate hobbies for me to be able to distinguish which passion would take me the furthest. (Or anywhere at all.)
The 80,000 Hours article argues that a dream job is more about job satisfaction than it is about making your favorite interest the most financially successful. Seeing this point of view allows me not to feel guilty about what I already know: I will probably never pursue the passions everybody thinks I have, like music and writing. But that doesn't necessarily mean I couldn't be passionate about what I eventually do.
Am I subconsciously afraid to follow my passions in case I fail? Perhaps you could look at it that way.
Yet I see it as not corrupting my interests, not directly mixing business with pleasure, and doing what's best for me holistically. I know myself enough to know that I am not a single-minded person. I've never had a "thing" — one thing, one passion, that I'm incredible at and that could sustain me financially for the rest of my life. I am not lucky enough to be that person. I dabble.
Again, this article would probably be more useful if I were a 40-something-year-old looking back on the career choices I had made in my life. But teenagers and young adults, so many who are on the cusp of adulthood, are forced to decide before their life has even begun, what career and interest to put their faith in. Hopefully it's something that will last, something that will make them happy, and something that will make them successful (in whichever way it means to them.)
We'll see when the time comes what opportunities are presented to me, which opportunities I wish to chase, and what I choose to put all my effort into. But whichever direction I decide to take, I will do what's right for me, what will bring me the most holistic satisfaction, and I will not feel guilty about it.