In the flurry of Steve Jobs related items that were thrown at you last week, you most likely saw quotes from his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. This quote, in particular, appeared on my Facebook feed no fewer than ten times:

You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

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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.

(Full text of the commencement speech here)

I understand why people find this inspiring or profound. But this is absolutely terrible advice from a practical standpoint.

Most of us are never going to get paid to do what we love. Work is something we do to support ourselves. Ideally, we don't hate it. That's the best most of us will ever do with our employment – we can consider ourselves fortunate if we don't actively loathe it. But love it? Steve Jobs got paid to do what he apparently loved, and good on him. He is not like most of us, though. He had a lot of talent and he happened to love something that was beyond lucrative.

I am biased here, not only because I am a negative bastard in general but also because I deal with so many people in the demographic Jobs was addressing in this speech. Many undergraduates are far too practical, choosing career paths that neither make them happy nor suit their talents simply because they have been promised that it will make them rich. An equal number of them, however, could stand to be more practical.
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The number of people who plan to make a living in creative fields (writing in particular) or whatever is the latest fad career portrayed on popular TV shows vastly exceeds the number who can conceivably do so. And let's face it – unlike Steve Jobs, most of us simply aren't good enough at the things we "love" to make a living off of them.

The kind of advice Jobs is giving is very common; we're all supposed to encourage people in this way.

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Is that a good idea? Looking back on my life, I don't wish I had followed my dreams or any of that crap; I wish I had not chosen a profession I like in which there are no jobs and at which I am not good. Let's face it, most of us have pretty impractical dreams.

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They're certainly not practical as careers – the kind that pay the bills – for many people. Unless you're fortunate enough to really, really Love devising consumer goods for which people will pay a ton of money, it might not hurt to think about a career path in slightly more practical terms.

52 thoughts on “ORACLE”

  • Well said. Couldn't agree more. In addition, doing something and doing it for money are two different things. And what if, like me, you don't really love anything, but like a lot of different things?

  • I agree with you Ed, but is it really different than telling a little boy his dead puppy is "in heaven with grandma"? It's a complete lie of course, but one that's easier than the truth?

    If by the age of 21 you can't figure out life is fucking difficult and mostly strewn with bullshit, then you're kind of stupid and will do whatever other people tell you anyways.

    If you have figured it out (as a solid liberal arts education helped me to do) then, well, this is simply the boilerplate that parents like to hear and no skin off of anybody's ass.

    That said, I always hate it when my fellow teachers tell me that their "passion" or "calling" is for education, because I know they're full of shit and/or possibly really bad at what they do.

    However, I don't mind an even-keeled assessment along the lines of "somebody pays me a comfortable salary to do a job that doesn't make me want to commit suicide, like in advertising or law or FOX News."

    I can live with that. Hell, for a matter of fact I do.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    I love my job as contrarian although it doesn't pay well. Ed, were we introduced?, and wetcasements assume that one has to be good at what they are doing in order to make good living of it. Who the hell said that?

    Experiment 1: our president is a rich man and pres. To me he seems good at absolutely nothing.

    Experiment 2: look at the NYT columnists. Most of them are downright stupid, simplistic, cannot buy a clue, bumbling endlessly. They are all very distinguished and successful people.

    Last experiment: for 30 years I am on the faculty of an engineering department at a above decent university. We do research and if we are nice we are tolerable teachers. Half the faculty, all complete geniuses according to their moms, wouldn't recognize good research if it hit them over the head. Most of them are quite stupid too. (I love my department.)

    Success does not require talent. To be a CEO you start by being 6'2", the rest is automatic. Or as we used to say in a military I served in: the only difficult step on the way to becoming a chief-of-staff is getting to be private first class.

  • The worst advice I've heard is, "Do what you love and the money will follow." Bullshit at best, cruelly misleading at worst. There is more wisdom in, "If hip hop didn't pay, I'd rap for free." Personally, I don't want to play for my money, or work for my fun. But since I spend more time at work than I spend sleeping, eating, or teasing the cat, it has to matter to me somehow. I have to make it count. I can make more money, but not more time; that, all I can do is spend.

    But if you want practical advice rather than inspiration, here's Mary Schmich, telling you to floss and dance and other things you already knew you should be doing:,0,4054576.column

  • The fastest growing portion of education are people with bachelors degrees returning to community college to earn learn a trade of some sort. When my wife did this I was gasp but she is now earning more in her chosen field than she did in IT.

    I love learning for learning's sake but for most people, what they seek out of college is a decent paycheck. The swelling ranks of college graduates and even those with graduate degrees are making a job on a tugboat look pretty fucking sweet.

  • We keep forgetting that both Jobs and Gates came of age "just then". They were there when the doors opened. Seamless integration of Xerox-PARC, and develop the hell out of it so it works really awesome, now multitouch. Selling a platform that became the standard for every basement DIY computer maker so that McDs like computing happens every where, it may not be great but it's The Standard.

    They just happened to see it and turn it into what we have today.

    WT… is Cain on about? "Don't call Jobs fortunate.."?

    Well Hermy, you go out and develop a new OS today. Well dipspit that door has closed, and it's gone no matter how hard you work.

  • the above discussion seems oddly out of step with the realities of life for most students. and with the news, and the state of the economy.

    The reality seems to me to be that no amount of practicality or good behavior will guarantee or even make likely that students will finish school without being saddled with mountains of debt, crippling health care bills (or impending ones), and likely joblessness or drastic & depressing underemployment. And yet without college people's chances of jobs are not improved either, especially given the collapse of decent paying trade & manufacturing jobs in the US.

    Do what you love and money will follow is bad advice. Do what you love and your priorities & connections will help you have better priorities than money (and a chance of survival on less of it), maybe. yes, life is difficult, but it's harder if you don't have people who help each other without being paid to. that's what people doing what they love often do.. even just emotional or creative support goes a long way, but often other more material support comes out of that as well.

    All I know is, for many of my students, no amount of practicality will prevent or solve the disaster that has destroyed their chances – it was not of their making and they can't strategize around it. I think it might be more practical to take to the streets.

  • Thank you! I know too many art, history, philosophy, English, and sociology majors of my generation who, saddled with tens of thousands in debt and looking at a lost decade, wish somebody had told them these things. None of these people wanted to be rich, but they assumed they'd be able to pay their rent. If they'd known otherwise I think most would have reconsidered. It's easy to blame them for their naivete. But remember, we were fed the "Sky's the limit! Follow your dreams!" dogma from birth. When enough people you trust spend 18 years telling you something…well…on some level you believe it. Breaking from it feels like betrayal.

    My senior year of high school (2004) one of the brighter guys in class was called to the guidance counselor's office for the obligatory "Did you send in your college application, moron?" session. While there he announced he was skipping college and going to pipe-fitters school. Word of this spread around the school. Everyone, the counselor included, reacted as if he had announced he was joining the circus. I'm all in favor of higher education, but the fact that "following your dreams" has taken on a normative quality is utter bullshit.

    Gotta say, Ed, judging from how you write here I have a hard time believing you're anything but a great teacher. Uncompromisingly challenging, I'd guess, but you know damn well that's a virtue, whatever the evaluations of lazier students might say.

    As I've never read your academic work I can't honestly evaluate it. But, don't let the weird meritocratic standards and cheap bastard-ry of academia be what convinces you that you aren't good at it.

    I've been wondering lately whether we've erred in deciding that higher ed teachers should also be researchers; as if a knack for pedagogy and a knack for research were necessarily linked.

  • It's never been clear to me if it's really possible to make big life choice decisions at the outset of the path. Seems like there's never nearly enough information to predict outcomes–in advance. So, it may be that a successful life is one in which one manages to internalize values and live by them, such as managing to "do a good job" day after day, whatever that job is. Plus of course also managing to keep some broader perspective, such as knowing that being a "good" Nazi does not meet the criterion, no matter how many Jews you send off to the Camps.

  • Spiffy McBang says:

    The most maddening thing about this advice, at least to me, is that it's really not that far from advising people to find something that they love to do and use it to make themselves happy regardless of whether they can make a living doing it or not. If so, great; but if you have to get a "real" job and use that to support yourself while doing the thing you love on the side, there's nothing wrong with that. People end up finding things they like, or that at least keep them sane, but I wonder how many more would find the activity that really captures their imagination if they were encouraged to find it regardless of whether or not it's career-worthy.

    It would probably help people understand that not all passions are profitable, as well. I got an English degree and plan on getting an MFA in creative writing, but I'm doing it with full awareness of the difficulties and only applying to schools that offer financial support. That's both specifically to avoid mountains of debt and because I'm good enough to pull it off. But the people who jumped right back into the master's program at my broken California state school with basically no support and a relatively meaningless degree at the end (only an MA, which really doesn't get you shit if you can't move on to a PhD)? With the exception of a few, they're pretty well fucking themselves, and I know a number of them are "following their passion" because they either don't have anything else to do or they can't face the real working world (again, in some cases; many of them are older). Someone needs to sit down with a number of them and say, look, you're ok at this, but you should probably update your resume and start looking for something that will help you make money, not spend it by the thousands.

  • Sometimes making a career doing something you enjoy can end up making you hate what once brought you happiness. I'm a computer geek and went into I.T. back when I was a thorough technophile. The year I landed my first job in I.T. (1997) for Halloween I dressed up as a Borg making my own costume with lights and a robotic hand. After 14 years of day after day of fixing technology that breaks I'm not quite a luddite but getting there. Certainly the last thing I'd want is a CPU in my brain like the Borg. From cheap crappy parts made in China to cheap crappy software made in India/Redmond it's amazing the stuff works as well as it does. Also unlike many other fields I.T. changes all the time so your degree becomes worthless within 5 years as you have to relearn everything you know twice a decade.

  • p.s.: We're talking about a commencement address, too, which for most people is the end of the show, not the beginning. A bit of inspiration is kinder than "So long, suckas! Hope you picked the right major 'cause it's too late now!"

  • @Bill Casey: I don't know about Poli Sci, but in my field (rhetoric), there are plenty of jobs for people who want primarily teaching responsibilities and less research/publication pressure. In my position, I published 2 refereed journal articles and a book review, did a few conference presentations, and that was plenty of scholarly production for tenure/promotion.

    With that said, I disagree that college-level faculty can successfully "just teach" and not do anything to stay current in our fields. Since a big chunk of what we're (supposed to be) teaching at this level is the production of knowledge, if you don't do any of it, it's hard to teach…

  • From the old Drew Carey Show:

    "There's a support group for people who hate their jobs – it's called EVERYBODY!"

  • The MO that I go by relative to this type of advice is this: When you are at a crossroads in life and you don't know which path to choose, think about which one you'd regret the most on your death bed if you didn't choose it. This stark black and white approach has often brought clarity to my life during uncertain times.

  • Bill Casey's story about the bright kid who shocked his school by choosing a trade instead of college really caught my attention.

    Our society desperately needs to start taking blue-collar jobs more seriously. We need to restore dignity to blue-collar work. There's nothing intrinsically "wrong" with being a pipe-fitter, or a farmer, or a mill-worker, but over the last 40 years or so we've been taught to look down on those jobs and the people who do them. (This of course is why most Americans are so comfortable with sending manufacturing jobs overseas, or bringing in migrant workers to staff the farms and the slaughterhouses.) But we can't have a society without all of these jobs being done, and the more we pretend otherwise – the more we pretend we can all be book editors and web designers and lawyers, taking turns selling services to each other – the more dysfunctional we become, in all sorts of ways.

    Ed, this was an excellent article, by the way. Thank you for making this point.

  • As an extension of the same bullshit line of thought, that you should do what you love and not settle — as a freshly minted professional just out of school, I DREADED the "clever" interview question that is always asked of kids looking for their first "real" job: "What made you decide to go into this field?" For a while, I answered honestly: that when it came time for me to choose an actual career, I picked one that I felt I had an aptitude for, and that other people told me I had an aptitude for, one that had certain aspects I would enjoy doing and that would pay my bills. A career counselor at my school soon disabused me of the notion that it was in any way possible to get a job with that kind of an answer. And so I did what all of my classmates did: thought long and hard about constructing a (totally real!!) story about some existential dilemma leading to an epiphany. And so I sat in those interviews, embarrassed at the words that were coming out of my mouth, relating fascinating tales meant to demonstrate that the reason I'm looking for a job isn't that I want money (oh no! that would be greed!), but because it was my cherished dream to spend 60 hours a week sitting in a tiny windowless office, poring over thousands of pages of hand-scribbled documents.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    When I was considering whether or not to get a ph.d., I was offered a Presidential Management Fellowship. I basically had a guaranteed job in the federal government that would have set me on a fast track to making pretty decent money. I turned it down. Now I'm in my 4th year of working on this goddamned degree, with at least two years to go. It's gonna be 8 years I've put into grad school, assuming (fingers crossed) that I finish at all. And then I will promptly join Ed in this brutal, unforgiving academic job market, and will probably bounce around (in my mid 30's mind you) from town to town and job to job until I give up and go work for the government or a consulting firm. At which point I will make the same salary I would have made if I had taken the PMF. yay summers off!

  • This is my #1 piece of career advice and people hate it.

    HATE IT.

    I lose speaking engagements because I tell people to grow up, join the adult world, and realize that passion and happiness won't pay the mortgage. Have a skill. Operate with integrity. Do good work. Then go home and hug your kids.

    You wouldn't believe how much people hate me for that.

  • I think the real message is that if you are actually doing what you love it doesn't matter if you can barely pay your rent. Of course, that's pretty rich coming from a multimillionaire but there's truth to it. Just never have children or any long-term financial goals and you're set.

  • I think a big problem that the Occupy Movement is bringing into the public discourse id the fact that so many young people today were given the sometimes terrible advice of studying what you love and the rest will follow. Many of us did that and came into an economy that has continuously been in a jobs-depression since 2000. I got a great liberal arts education with the intention of being a college professor. During my masters work I did the math and realized that there were just too many PhDs in History for too few tenure-track positions and I did not want to go to school for another 4-5 years to make $40k and live in the middle of nowhere. Like a lot of my peers, I grew up and started looking for a practical career. A LOT of my law school classmates had done the same thing. As a group, we made a rational economic decision to go into a professional that is highly stressful and demands long hours in exchange for economic security. We were sold a bill of goods. The Occupy movement is fueled by those of us who had "done the right thing" by getting an education, supported Obama, and have been completely forgotten. Whether a student was idealistic, practical, or idealistic followed by practical, we were sold a bill of goods. This is how the protests in Tunisia began-an over-educated and under-employed group of 20-35 year olds got sick of it. It's time to re-instate the social contract. Who's ready?

  • I always wanted to be an English professor and I am, but it wasn't easy and it's not lucrative. More than undergrads hearing the reality, graduate students need to realize that graduate school isn't fun, isn't easy, and doesn't guarantee you a job. I know so many of peers who were in my PhD program who hated teaching but wanted a professor's lifestyle. They didn't realize that, much like the 1950's the Teabaggers love to espouse, the professorial life has is a fucking myth. If all you want to do is read stuff, drink in pubs, and pretend to be smarter than the people who actually earn a living, then at least admit it; but to feign that you're pursing a career of some sort when you hate teaching, suck at research, can't publish, and don't go to conferences is insulting to those of us who are working our asses off.

  • Ladiesbane beat me to it; we have to remember that this speech was given at a commencement. I simply don't think that we're supposed to take its message too seriously. Commencement speeches are like convention stand-up; the crowd expects a certain message, and you confirm their desires because that's what they paid for. Practical advice has its time and place, but cap-and-gown-in-the-blazing-sun day, surrounded by parents who shelled out a shitload for tuition is *not* among them. Graduations are a combination of churning emotions: pride, relief, terror, nostalgia, boredom–and none of these is conducive to actually hearing what the speaker has to say.

    It's also worth considering that Jobs was speaking to students graduating from Stanford, which presumably means that most of them are from families with money and/or connections; that was a crowd chock-full of entitlement and safety nets. These people will get jobs, and may even have some choice in the matter, and who will be carried until they get one that they like. If he'd been speaking at Arizona State, now, *that* would be a crowd who really needed to hear what Ed is saying. (And with which I agree.) But when you're speaking to the truly privileged, you can, in fact, tell them to chase their dreams, because they can afford to. It's when the speech becomes a meme for the masses that it starts to do damage.

  • I stand with Jobs' words because I think he was speaking to the kids who hadn't yet had the kind of dialogue with themselves that leads to an understanding of what they'd really love doing with their lives. This takes time, in any case. You pare away what's expected, what your peers admire, etc. and only after a lot of soul searching and self-knowledge arrive at what's really you. If you don't have the skills for it initially, they will come.

    But Jobs might have said, "find out what you really love, then if it doesn't pay for itself at first (or ever), find some decent way to support it." I think that would go for Ed's arrangement as well as my own. Ed must love writing this blog—otherwise why is he so good at it?—and since it doesn't earn any money (at least yet), he's supporting it as best he can. I'm an extremely un-commercial artist, so I support what I love to do with rental income. (It used to be teaching. Playing landlord is better.) If you love doing something, you'll find a way to support it—or should. Otherwise there's that "quiet desperation"—not a good alternative.

  • You've missed his point – Jobs said: keep looking! It's a sort of "Know Thyself" advice and he most certainly didn't say, as you seem to suggest: compromise and make the best of it. It's like the Founding Fathers said – you have a right to the pursuit of happiness, not to happiness itself.

    The love Jobs is talking about grows out of being good at what you do, an assessment that's not for you to make, the 'market' will do that for you. Or do you think Jobs started off by saying something like, "I know I'll just love developing this iPod"?

    So leave Jobs the honor that's his due.

  • Monkey Business says:

    I think the "Do what you love and the money will follow" needs to be separated.

    "Do what you love" is true; when you genuinely enjoy your work, your co-workers, your job, your company, etc. life is pretty good. Just don't expect to make a ton of money doing it.

    "and the money will follow." is patently false, unless you happen to work in an industry with significant growth potential, of which there are not many.

    I feel genuine sympathy for everyone that went to college, got an education, went into the real world, and is getting the shaft on employment while paying usurious student loans.

    I feel slightly less sympathy for that subset of individuals that thought they were going to make six figures right out of school with a liberal arts degree, and racked up six figures worth of debt at a small private liberal arts college.

  • Elder Futhark says:

    "and the money will follow" is your basic SHAM New Age motivational bullshit, from the Oprah Wish Hard Enough and It Will Come True crap, which, in turn leads straight to "you have only yourself to blame" Herman Cain ass-holery, which in turn gets you to pay a guru to tell you what to do and think.

    In short, it ignores completely the basic fucking laws of physics that this particular universe is founded upon, and if this were the best of all possible worlds, anyone who spouts this crap would be repeatedly cornholed by a Kraken tentacle that just appears out of nowhere, for starters.

  • I think the "do what you love" stuff is a necessary part of a capitalist economy. Most peoples' jobs suck, but we can't quit them (9% unemployment!) and even if we could, the other jobs probably suck too.

    "Do what you love" is an ex-post constructed narrative people tell themselves in order to deal with the crushing reality that they spend 50 hours a week, minimum, doing something they don't like and don't particularly care about. It's a necessary thing; the terrible jobs need to be done, preferably with a minimum of depression/existential dread.

    I'm lucky; I actually do sort of like my job, it's reasonably close to what I'd spend my days doing if I didn't work here, and the pay is pretty good. I recognize, though, that I'm a little weird in that respect. But as I read Twitter in the course of my job, I see bios of people that say things like "passionate about inbound marketing", and you realize just how deep the rabbit hole of elaborate ex-post narrative building is.

  • I'm a professional artist, which is defined as a person who survives totally off their sales… And is always 30-60 days from being homeless. Not starving as such, but living on 15-25k a year. But that's ok with me, I get that insecurity, and very low income is the price of admission here. (it's a hell of a lot better than working in political science, which is what I went to school for). I'd rather spend life as a failed artist than a successful banker.

    Anyone can successfully "follow their dreams" – but how bad do they want it? And what are the "victory conditions?" If you're totally focused on being a super-billionaire rock band then yeah, you'll probably fail. The price attached to being that successful is probably more than most people can pay. But you can get work as a musician, playing small gigs, traveling etc. Yeah, it's hard to do. But if you want it badly enough you'll forgo an iPhone, satellite TV, new cars, & normal relationships, to make it happen.

    What Steve left out of his speech, is that you have to have a nearly pathological fixation on pursuing your dreams. I know a blue-chip artist who's incredibly successful, but she's also ruthlessly fixated on her work. She works 18 hour days 7 days a week, to the exclusion of almost everything else. She schedules out time with her sig other. Is that healthy? Probably not for most people, but she's living her dream. Personally, I'm not prepared to pay that high a price for her level of success. I'm cool with being a working class/art fair/minor minor artist, level of success.

    Steve's personal life wasn't exactly something most people would volunteer for either. He was relentlessly focused on his goals and if that meant ignoring his family or outsourcing his production lines to some of the worst factories in China… Well, so be it.

    Zach Galifianakis moved out to CA to pursue his dreams. Like many hopeful people in Hollywood he was soon very poor & living in his car… Until it broke down. THEN the guy struck a deal with an auto mechanic who allowed him to sleep in whatever car was being kept overnight for repairs. I think most people, faced with sleeping in other people's cars, would throw in the towel, tap themselves out, and go get a regular job. I think it's fair to say Zach had a bit of a fixation on his goal.

    So Steve was partially right, he just edited out the price.

    -I should add that universal health care would make this nation explode with creativity & innovation.

  • squirrelhugger says:

    "I should add that universal health care would make this nation explode with creativity & innovation."

    That's a really good observation. It'd make a good progressive politician's talking point– somewhere else, because the majority of Americans are too thickheaded to accept it.

  • Thanks for the post; this sort of tripe has always been a pet peeve, right up there with the cancer survivors crediting positive attitude and/or prayer for their miraculous outcomes. On a related note, in response to Ike's query, it's a form of survivor bias: there's not much market for a story about cancer sufferers who had a positive attitude and/or prayed, but died anyway. And the many bright-eyed college graduates (or dropouts) who resolved to follow their dreams but went broke doing so don't get invited to give commencement speeches warning about the foolhardiness of such a course of action

  • @Phoinix: you remind me of a statement made by one of history's great operatic divas, in her autobiography:

    Anyone who will pay the price can succeed. –Amelita Galli-Curci

    That "price" business is the kicker, of course. But when you're focused on something you love, the "price" may not be that hard to pay.

  • Do what you love is fatuous advice at best to privileged college students, what do you think it sounds like to people like me? I'm a legal secretary. I make little money, have sucky benefits, am a few missed days of work from complete disaster and I hate my job. It sucks. All the jobs I can get suck, so I may as well stay at it. I'm not going to get paid enough to live on doing what I love anytime soon, maybe never, so you know what my advice is? Life's hard. Get a fucking helmet.

  • I think you misunderstand what Steve Jobs was saying. He talked about a relationship.

    Too often, people stalk impractical jobs and call it love. Then when they fail and are crushed and heartbroken, they bemoan their lack of success.

    They have not engaged in a relationship. I can want to be in the NBA as a 42 year old disabled vet and "follow that dream" and "not settle" and all that, but that would not be me engaging in a meaningful work relationship. In order to do that, I have to be ABLE to do the work and be able to engage the work meaningfully.

    As you talk about the young people who seek to pursue writing, a good number of them likely are rather poor writers and simply don't know it. They have everything it takes to be a good writer except the writing skills and their whole outlook is set on pursuing/stalking this writing job. Jobs wasn't talking about THAT kind of relationship.

    You need to find something you love that will love you back. A HEALTHY work relationship where you can do great things. The problem is that people make the same mistake they make when they hear about "past lives"… everyone's a king or an emperor or someone famous. Doing great things doesn't equate to riches, magazine covers or private jets.

    I'm doing great things by being a great husband, father and provider in the face of significant service-connected disability. That's my great thing. Being here is my great thing as opposed to being in hospice. That's what folks miss.

    Do what you love because you will NEVER get a second chance at this…

  • @Amused: Oh god, when I used to temp, I hated those interviews when they would ask "What makes you want to work here" (filing papers and answering the phone) …. Um, a strong desire to buy groceries and pay my f###ing rent?

  • "I should add that universal health care would make this nation explode with creativity & innovation"

    It's too bad that Americans hate creativity and innovation almost as much as they hate when other people have health care.

  • @ Mackeyser: "As you talk about the young people who seek to pursue writing, a good number of them likely are rather poor writers and simply don't know it."

    They can become Stephen King or Robert James Waller! Room for everybody around here.

  • Whoever said Jobs and Gates came along "just then" was right. Read Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" which explains pretty well the amazing luck that's involved.

  • @anotherbozo: Please understand, I wasn't denigrating those who pursue a craft and engage in a real relationship. Stephen King had a relationship with writing that went back to his childhood. It has defined his entire waking life, really. And he showed promise from an early age.

    The parse is the relationship. Essentially that when we hear people saying "Do what you love", the admonition is to do it in a relationship in which that thing you do can and does also love you back.

    I hope there are aspiring writers out there who can and do succeed. Ed sort of poo-pooed the idea of "do what you love".

    My contention is he sort of missed the point as most do because most look at it in a stalkerish fashion, not like a relationship, which Jobs goes into at length.

  • One unexamined problem, as I see it, is the American tendency to define who you are by what you do for a living. My dad worked at the post office his entire career, and I wound up working at the VA hospital for MY entire career. Once he retired, he blossomed like an almond tree in springtime – he used to tell me 'real life is what happens when you're not at work', and suddenly every day was real life.

    The same thing happened to me when I retired, after twenty-four years. Now I'm at home, taking care of my kids and husband. I never expected what I did for a living to give meaning to my life; that's what real life is for. Then again, I was providing medical care to disabled veterans, so there was a certain emotional context that I would not have had working for, say, the IRS. I actually got people saying 'thank you' from time to time, which was nice.

  • Ah…but I think Jobs's statement makes a good deal of sense. The truth is that most of us are given the "do the thing you love"/"make money" in similar doses. It is useful for us to think about it as a dialectic that results in a career choice that moderates between the two. What sort of advice would you provide instead? "Find something you like and don't hate"? The wannabee writers and Italian Ph.Ds among us could do with a little more of the "make money" rhetoric, the bankers and consultants with the "do something worthwhile rhetoric". It balances out in the same way that the "network but act genuine" rhetoric does.

    By graduation, it's already too late to give students the one piece of advice I am reasonable confident in: get a job while you're in school. Even if you're working a job that doesn't require a degree, those barista skills may come in handy if everything else doesn't work out.

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