Question: “What should I make my career in?

Answer: “Follow your passion!

Me: “What Crap!

The suggestion made by most well-meaning ‘advisors’ is “Do what you love…

There are abundant books and articles written around this theme. If you are a cook, start a restaurant. If you like watching films, become a film critic, even make films. If you like doing plinkity-plonk on a guitar or a keyboard, start a band. It you are creative, write a novel. If you like hiking, start an adventure sports academy.

Running a restaurant is a difficult business and requires cut-throat (maybe the chef’s knife will come in handy here!) business practices. Ever wondered why no one listens to your witty criticisms about the films, or reads your facebook updates about the film you saw last night? Managing an outbound sports program requires the ability (among other things) to handle a lot of logistical uncertainty including propitiating the weather-gods. Ever wondered about the average lifetime of such businesses? Ever considered that low barriers to entry means too much competition? And, believe me, doing your own thing is harder work (with longer hours) than your current job.

We will probably not be able to do what we love…because:

  1. If what we love is spending money (consumerism) then it seems crazy to earn money by spending money.
  2. If we love wasting time, we will not earn money doing that.
  3. We will also not have too many choices of a job.
  4. Being an entrepreneur requires a different set of guts (not the belly that most of us have because we love drinking beer).
  5. If your business is successful, others will follow.
  6. You may burn your bridges and not be able to return to a position of safety (your previous job).

By now you must be thinking, what has all this to do with the subject of this blog entry?

I will digress a bit into the debate about ‘love’ marriages versus ‘arranged’ marriages. Arranged marriages have been given a bum rap in recent times, but face it, most of the couples of our generation are happier, more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand each other, share issues and problems, fight and can live with our differences. Most of the couples in my children’s generation are quite the opposite. There are fewer permanent relationships.

Maybe we should just blame it on technology (internet) and the knowledge explosion. Maybe it has to do with more available choices.

But the point is, we fell in love after we got married, and we have remained married. And we are happy. Youthful passion may not endure, but love does.

Another interesting aspect of an arranged marriage is that families have to adjust. There is a lot of emotional investment and that creates a support system. Since our beliefs are based on our past experiences, and our future responses are based on our beliefs, it is highly possible that our backgrounds may determine how we deal with an uncertain future. The support system also gives us the courage to take risks.

Put it another way, the chances of success are higher as there is more background analysis, more emotional investment and a better support system.

So to return to the topic and drawing a parallel between successful marriages (with your spouse or with your career)

  • A career should be like an arranged marriage, not a ‘love’ marriage based on youthful exuberance and passion.
  • We can love what we do. Fall in love with your job, with what you have been given…like in an arranged marriage. Be more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand your colleagues and your boss, share issues and problems, fight and live with your differences.
  • Do background checks on similar businesses, talking to people in the industry you want to be, researching the culture of the firm you plan to join makes the chances of loving your job better. 
So in short:
Don’t do what you love…Love what you do.

I am sure I am raising the hackles of a lot of persons right now. I would welcome your comments.

  1. November 17, 2012

    Interesting & a very profound thinking here I must say…

    But on the contrary , If I wanted to be a painter or guitarist all my life, but given the background of coming from my lower middle class upbringing, they never found a strong place in my ambitions to take up as a career, but instead did an MBA from IBA , and landed up in a fancy job..But later I started realizing man, this numbers & ppt’s are not my cup of tea..
    OK But i cant quit, I am getting paid here , but am I happy ???
    Daily i have to struggle so that My peers & Seniors doesn’t see me as a Wrong fit here…
    But the Question How long can you drag it…

    On the contrary , If I joined an Art School & Somehow managed to get a Humble beginning in the career, but still there will be a great contentment at least I am doing what I wanted to!!!

    I know that counter view can be how many of us do really follow our passions & if not are they all unhappy??
    But we need to understand the basic difference here , which is that majority of our lives are driven by necessity & whereas others ( which are a minuscule % & the lucky Ones) are driven by passion!!..

    Hence when an individual’s live is driven out of passion , no matter the difficulties in terms of competition, growth, stability etc, they will still be happy & rocking..which is what Each one of us are aspiring to achieve anyways isn’t it??

    If the above title of the article was to be true, then we probably never had or witnessed any Sachin Tendulkar, Justin Beiber , Dr Kalam , Tom Hanks & many many more Greats …

    As the famous dialogue from the Movie ” Bucket List” when Morgan Freeman is explaining the Legend behind the Great Egyptian Pyramids goes -” Have you Found Joy In your Life My Son”….

    that’s the most important point which I am making here, we spend the majority half of our lives working, Its better be the thing which you loved / Enjoyed the most!!

    Although i know I can never win over an argument against your kind of intellect , but would like to know your views on my stance as well..

    Always your Student
    Jijo Thomas

  2. November 17, 2012

    1. You joined the current fancy job and now it is not interesting. So you think you should have done what wanted to do earlier. Drawing a parallel to the marriage: You fancy your spouse for her features right now and after some time she is not interesting. So you think you should…. 🙂
    2. We cannot change the world or the job, but we can change our reaction to the world or the job. You should do due diligence, which means not do actions based on emotions. But once in it, you have to make the best of it, either by changing the source of your problems, or changing yourself. Status quo will only create misery. Please also read “Acceptance is not resignation“. Else we will either be running away or repenting our decisions and making life miserable for others.
    3. So you made a mistake. We all do. Now, will you do due diligence before jumping into another mistake?
    4. “The bucket list” is a 2 hour movie with well-paid script writers and with an aim to create a feel-good factor for box-office money. Do you think they will talk common sense? Have you heard any real-life character speak like this? Is everyone not following their passion unhappy? Or is it because they do not think they have options?
    5. If Sachin had done something else that his parents wanted, then started his cricket career 2 years later…would it have made a difference?
    6. Do follow your passion, but please use your MBA teaching specially the one about critical thinking :-). That is what I meant by due diligence.
    7. What prevents you from doing art now, as a side job, or as additional learning, like my friend the guitar teacher, who does programming from 9 to 5 and then immerses himself into the guitar world from 5 to 9.

    Always your teacher

  3. November 17, 2012

    Nice reply Sir…

    First thing I am very satisfied & comfortable with my Job, I was only giving an example..

    1.Regarding Marriage , sadly due diligence is the only option available to most men..( dont have a personal experience yet).Lolz…
    4.The Movie may be Scripted n paid, but there are key take outs which we comes as free & implementable..

    5.i have heard people say that you have to be at the right place, at the right time to make it to your destiny…Who knows what would sachin be if it was 2 years later…cant say…
    6 & 7. yes I will follow My dreams & what I aspire to be….

    But the key thing which I was pointing out was due diligence is like to put it bluntly is – one landed up into F***ed up situation or Place , later realized that you cant help it or there is no way out, then the only option left is to adjust maadi & get used to it…
    what I wanted to say is why ???
    Choose your passion at the first place & then something screws up you anyways have to adjust maadi…

    Critical thinking: Aaahh, the best mental dope available I believe to keeping fooling ourselves…Our lives would have been way miserable without it..
    Like Baba Ranchordaas said:- ALLL IZZ WELLL.!!!

  4. November 17, 2012
    Jisha Balakrishnan

    Nice post Sir, probably included in a few which I carefully read. Still one question… Why connect this thought to marriage? Why not something else.

    Student (IBA, Bangalore)

    • November 17, 2012

      Marriage is an institution that we cannot wiggle out of (flight), due to social pressures. We can possible go through life like an automaton (freeze) or start screaming back (fight). In reality, we learn how to handle a situation while in it. This learning helps in handling other situations, not of our making, like jobs, without running away, picking up a fight or doing nothing.

      We rush into relationships without adequate consideration. For example, we do not consider if the values and beliefs are similar or not. Then we try to change each other. I am drawing a similar parallel with careers. We rush into our jobs without adequate consideration, because the salary or brand or profile is right. Very few persons consider culture (values and beliefs). We then try to change the company (company should do this) or the company tries to change us. Typically we part company.

      So, if we rush into personal or professional relationships without adequate considerations, what is the difference. Married to a job or married to a person…the issues remain the same. It is I, not the other person who should have thought about all this before tying the knot.

  5. November 17, 2012

    Everyone in the company is not suffering, hence the place is not f**ed up. You are. Hence the issue lies with your response. Of course, what you are implying is the traditional Fight, Flight or Freeze response. There are other responses, but when we are emotional, we cannot see any other choice.

  6. November 17, 2012
    Sameer Virmani

    AAaahhhh,dhukti rakht par haath rakh diya :(, Kassh i would also know what is my passion? Majority of the person do not know what they want to do in their life and unfortunately i am one of them.I believe if you do what you aspire to do you would be satisfied/Happy if not successful.

    • November 17, 2012

      Few interesting points here.
      1. Mostly, we do not know what our passion is, we sometimes THINK we know what our passion is. Typically it is what we were not allowed to do. As with all other mirages, we desire what we do not have.
      2. When we do follow our passion, we try to do it well, after all we fought the world for the right to follow it.
      3. Having passion and having capability are two different things (remember Gladwell’s 10,000 hours.) Even if we do have capability, does the world beat a path to our door? How many can honestly say, “I would rather die a pauper while following my passion, than become filthy rich following some one else’s?” All said and done, filthy lucre is important.

  7. November 18, 2012
    khanjan bhatt


    You talked about acceptance.. But isn’t it what our parents teach us? And if a person always “adjusts” with a given condition, i think dreams or i would say aspirations, would be suppressed, thinking we need to adjust.

    When a person is stuck(not as in status quo, but a “forced” acceptance) in a career, he would obviously try to adjust in the environment. But in the back of his mind, there is always the thought “I adjusted myself in this situation”. And that feeling is very depressing when there is/are a bad day(s) at work. I guess same would apply to arranged marriage situation.

    I always have this question, why do i need to have critical thinking for every situation? Isn’t it good to shut off your thoughts sometimes?

    Your student and “anytime seeking your advice”,

    • November 22, 2012

      Khanjan, differentiate between adjustment, acceptance and resignation. There is a separate blog entry on that. I have never said acceptance means resignation. Acceptance is admitting instead of deny that I am in a bad situation. We then look for choices. Because of our desire for instant gratification, we want results now. But sometimes, if we think of a different time frame or a different frame of reference, we find alternate solutions or alternate reasons.

      Someone asked today, how can we love what we don’t like? I answered, “You mother does not like cooking but she does it every day and any time you want food. It is because of her love for you, not the love of cooking, that makes her do it each day.” This is a different frame.

  8. November 20, 2012
    Atanu Mukherji

    Yet again I tend to agree with Chandru on the marriage aspect pointed out by him.

    Wooing that culminates into a marriage is a ‘love marriage’ and marriage that culminates into wooing is ‘arranged marriage’ .

    In arranged marriages the wooing, which starts after the marriage and could last a a life time. In love marriage, whereas, wooing is short, during which the couple always puts their best foot forward. After the marriage, the negative surprises spring up on each others face. In arranged marriages, the couple discover each other over a prolonged period of time and adjust to each other gradually. That gives this marriage a better chance of survival.

    Talking of jobs, it is only the very lucky who get to do what they love to do. Most of us are given assignments, some of which may not be to our taste. The options are, however, limited, as these hateful jobs come with a salary packet, which is required by us for subsistence. The only way to surmount this obstacle is to train the mind to love these assignments. When we deal with multiple subjects, while studying engineering, there are subjects which we do not want to touch even with a barge pole. With the long term goal in mind, however, we do have to study these ‘undesired’ subjects also in order to maintain good grades. I always hated civil engineering and knew that this subject was the chink in my armor and could cause my downfall. To avoid this downfall, I discovered ways to love the subject. Something to keep me motivated. Motivations can spring up any which way. It could even be the lovely girl attending the same class. Also at heart, I always wanted to become a poet and an artist and just loll around doing nothing. The prudent thing to consider was my future, wherein I should earning enough to lead a comfortable life. We have to identify and pick out the motivating factors from the rubble.

    Believe me all of my 33 years, I have done jobs, many of which weren’t my cuppa. Chandru is correct, when he says you have to love the job for broader reasons. So how do we do it??? All hateful, dislikable jobs, tower over us as insurmountable mountains which are a herculean task to scale. I have always broken up these unapproachable ‘hateful’ tasks into smaller steps, something like a Work Breakdown Structure of a Project. On successfully completing the first step, I would gloat over the success and start on the second step. When the last leg has been completed successfully, I don’t hate the assignment anymore.

    Keep up the good work Chandru.



  9. January 6, 2013
    Vivek Banerjee

    Passions wane, interests change. What interests somebody at the age of 18 or 28 or even 38 may change later. A successful career ( and marriage- does not matter if it is arranged by yourself or somebody else) is all about adjustment and successful adaptation.


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