An Open Letter To Generation Y

Dear Fellow Gen Y’ers,

With the possible exception of sleeping, most of us will spend more time working than we do any engaging in any other activity.  What should we expect from our work though?  Should we love it?  Should we, dare I say, be passionate about it?  Many amongst us have quixotic answers to these questions.  Unfortunately, our collective optimism towards work may be making us worse off though.

You’ve probably heard this advice at some point in your life: “follow your passion and the money will follow”.  This advice is not only a lie, it’s one of the most pernicious lies I know of.  In fact, I know plenty of people who followed their passion, and guess what — the money didn’t follow.  If you take the time to think about it, most of the swindlers who peddle this type of advice have a passion for helping lost souls find their passion.  It turns out that helping people find their passion is one of the most popular passions amongst us Gen Y’ers.

Until very recently, work was considered an unpleasant necessity — a curse endemic to human existence.  Times have changed and there is now a widespread belief (particularly amongst our peers) that we should be passionate about our work, or crazier yet, we believe that it should make us happy.  Think about this goofy belief for a moment and you’ll quickly realize that a world in which everyone followed their dreams would be a nightmare.  Our lives may not be perfect, but the economic progress that comes from working jobs we aren’t passionate about is what has ironically allowed us the luxury of worrying about finding a job we are passionate about.

Trying to find rewarding and fulfilling work is a noble pursuit, but sometimes there is an economic disconnect between the things we are passionate about and the things we can make money at (this is what hobbies and leisure time are for). What creates value for others doesn’t always generate money, and generating money doesn’t always make you happy.  The trick, I think, is to find some tolerable way of creating value for others that also allows you to get paid.  It may take some time to figure out exactly how to do this, but that is part of what makes life interesting.

So go ahead — follow your passion — but please don’t be disappointed as to where it takes you.  If you do what you love there is a good chance you won’t be compensated all that well.  If you’re okay with that, great, but please don’t complain about how you should be paid more to do something you love.  Also, please remember that nothing sucks the untainted joy out of something like trying to do it for a living.  If your hobby turns into your job you’ll have to find a new hobby and the cycle will continue ad infinitum.

Greg Linster

P.S. Please read this article too.



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