As a newly christened college student, the first question on everyone's minds is about my major. The answer somewhat disappoints them, as if they were expecting an outlandish response, but got hit with a routine dose of yet another aspiring business student. I know, how boring and unoriginal. This inevitably leads to a follow-up question or statement, which can roughly be summarised - "well I guess if you're passionate about that…" - almost condescendingly, as if its a merely superficial, unoriginal choice. Perhaps it is. But it is with good reason.
"Don't ever let somebody tell you-you can't do something, not even me. Alright? You dream, you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you-you can't do it. If you want something, go get it." Period. – Chris Gardner, from The Pursuit of Happyness
Recent years have put the principles of idealism on a pedestal, drawing the spotlight of human motivation and decision to the pursuit of passions and dreams. This advice is seemingly ubiquitous, with college and career counselors, friends, and family alike are advising the current generation to seek their fantasies. This trend of putting short-term emotions in charge of decision making, favoring it over other attributes such as prudence and realism, sets a dangerous precedent for individuals to make major life decisions without carefully deliberating the consequences of their actions.
Of course, it is imperative to have somewhat of an interest in your work, as otherwise, it would soon become an unbearable chore, however, your studies or your job does not have to be the most "fun" thing in your life. More importantly, just because you find something fun or interesting, does not necessarily translate to it being a wise and sustainable career choice, and may not necessarily make you as happy in the long run.
In the day and age of a highly competitive job market, it is more essential than ever to have increasingly high qualifications and to cater to the needs of society. Diversifying into a variety of fields is great, but one must consider the practicality of obtaining a job in the future while making such decisions. If these factors are not heeded, it creates what economists call a "skills gap" - the difference between the qualifications and requirements of the economy, versus the actual qualifications and technical knowledge of potential employees. A mismatch between the two results in a hindrance in the economic growth and prosperity of a region or country.
Another reason why one must be cautious about this advice is that people have a misconception that doing something you like will somehow make the work seem easier. Spoiler alert: it does not. This results in people giving up easily, without persistence.
Furthermore, focusing on following a single passion makes people less likely to consider new potential areas of interest. This close-minded view can be detrimental to the success of the individual and the success of communities.
Passion is not a fixed quantity. One day, you may find yourself interested in something else. Is it worth gambling and going all in into one thing, that has the potential to backfire in the long run?
Therefore, you should choose to pursue a career in which you'd be good at what you do. Sure, you might be slightly more interested in something else, but is it really worth spending so much time, energy, and money to struggle through it, and eventually realize you made the wrong decision? Is it worth trading the long-term happiness for some short-term euphoria?
In today's world, it is easier than ever to maintain a hobby or a secondary profession in something that you are truly passionate about. So whenever someone tells you to follow your passions, think about it. Is it really the wisest choice? Would that truly make you happy?
Or, perhaps you might prefer to give more weight to the short term happiness, because in the immortal words of the father of modern economics, John Maynard Keynes, "in the long run, we are all dead."
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