The age old debate. What is more important – to find a job you are passionate about, or to find one that puts food on the table? The notion of happiness has, in recent years, become a topic of heated debate. As a result, students working their way up and out into the corporate world are beginning to question their career choices. What job will make me the happiest?
I always dread making small talk with strangers, because invariably we would reach a point where we would touch on one of the greatest icebreaker questions of all time:
“So, what do you want to work as?”
At this point my heart would start pounding. My self-consciousness meter would start to peak, as I try nonchalantly (note: try) to reply:
“Oh, I’d like to be a freelance writer in the near future.”
At the same time, I do my utmost best to hold myself back from adding the words for now at the end of my sentence (even though most of the time, I’m not really sure myself). The response is always the same – a rather awkward:
“Oh. That’s nice.”
That’s nice? Having a pet dog is nice. And the follow-up question always hits the spot:
“So… What do you plan to do after that?”
It always seems to be a mind-blowing concept – that one would pursue his or her passion in the arts or sports arena as a full-time job. Is it any wonder that our Singapore soccer team, good as they are in the ASEAN region, can never make it to the World Cup? After all, who would want to chase their dreams when from a young age parents have already drilled into their children the notion that having interests and dreams are fine – only if they are pursued in their spare time (who has spare time nowadays, with Singaporean parents’ obsession with tuition?). This essentially relegates our dreams to the backseat, as unrealistic and irrational.
So where does that leave us? I personally believe that there is room for compromise. For example, how much food do you want to put on the table? Is simple fare like cai fan (assorted meat and vegetables with rice) good enough? Or do you want an intercontinental buffet? In other words, how much money do you need to survive? If you can accept less, there is more room for you to pursue your passions.
This is not to say that it is impossible to find the perfect job – one that pays well and is in an area that you are passionate about. American entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau, in his book The $100 Startup, makes the case for this formula: Passion/Skill + Usefulness = Success. In other words, if you can use your passion to create a product or offer a service that people are willing to pay for, and of course find a way to get paid for it, you will find the perfect recipe for success – where passion and practicality meet. In this way, it is entirely possible to do what you love and still earn money.
The catch: it will most definitely not happen overnight. Like any business (or anything else in life, for that matter), it will take months – or in some cases, even years – to build. In the meanwhile, would cai fan do for you?
At the end of the day, it is inevitable that you will have to weigh your own priorities, and decide for yourself what option would make you the happiest in the long run.