A friend recently asked me for career advice. She had just quit her job as a real estate agent’s assistant because (a) she was making peanuts, and (b) she didn’t really enjoy the work. She wanted to devote her energies to something she felt passionate about. She also wanted to make good money from the git-go.
There is nothing wrong with money. I love it. It means I can have a leak-free roof and pay someone to wash my car. But, in order to be really good at something, passion for one’s craft has to trump the desire for money. Passion is what drives young people to suffer through suck-ass jobs in order to build their skills. Passion is what drives older people like myself to keep learning instead of calcifying into rocks.
It’s difficult to define what passion for a trade really is, but I think three elements are involved:
- Belief in the value of what one does.
- Confidence in one’s ability to do it.
- And the autonomy to exercise one’s abilities.
Passion is more about commitment than feeling enthusiastic. I don’t feel enthusiastic when I am working on a grueling telecom website. But I do feel challenged and determined to get it right. I work even when I am not getting paid to work, because it may mean doing something better or learning something new. I have no idea where that motivation comes from, but it is obstinate.
When I fail (it happens) and a client is unhappy, I am devastated. Likewise, I loathe it when other writers are better than I am. These nasty emotions are just as stubborn as the sense of pride gained from doing something well. So, passion must be tied very closely to the ego.
Going back to my friend, she feels that I am extraordinarily lucky to have found a line of work I love. I think she fails to understand that I love it because I work at it. My first years as a copywriter involved (a) doing work for free until I could build up a portfolio, (b) working under a curmudgeon art director who refused to use my name until he felt I was worthy of professional respect, (c) spending horrendously long hours in some abysmal places writing stuff no one else wanted to touch. And, no I did not make a lot of money from the git-go.
Most people are too sane to have a passion. My friend falls in that category. I am up a 3:51 writing a blog article. She is soundly asleep.