(This series was originally published at MuseHack)
Me, I’m a positive guy. You’ve been reading my stuff, following this blog. You know I try to keep an upbeat attitude
There’s a reason for that – a good attitude is essentially engineering a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not talking being naïve, I’m talking about keeping the kind of attitude that focuses on and maximizes the positive. I’ve seen more people defeated by a self-ruining narrative than a naïve one, to be honest – we’re usually our own worst enemies
However, there also times to admit that, when we get down to it, some things are awful. In fact, some good things are awful for that matter, or have awful sides.
And this comes to the phrase “Do What You Love” when it comes to talking jobs. You know it, you hear it, it’s practically de rigueur for any half-baked career coaching or even fully baked career coaching. Even I use it now and then, though I go beyond it.
The basic idea of “Do What You Love” as career advice makes sense; find a way to do what you like for money. There are two problems.
1) It’s been used as a panacea, chanted endlessly. I hear it so much that *I* am reducing how I use it because it’s become an empty, deceptive catchphrase.
2) In many cases it’s cruel, and it can even be elitist and deceptive as Slate Magazine notes.
Frankly, “Do What You Loke” is now a phrase of diminishing usefulness, pap advice, and concealing hard truths. So know what?
It’s time to go to the dark side. Let’s start with your situation . . .
OK, so you have a dream, a job and career that involves doing what you love. You can feel it, you want it.
And yeah, a lot of situations conspire to make sure that you’re not going to get there.
It’s not even a real conspiracy most times, its just that in many cases you’re starting with the deck stacked against you. You might not even have a deck for that matter.
And this is just you, you’re some person in a first world nation reading this on the Internet. Right now the majority of people in the world don’t even have the luxury of self-deception you have right now. Telling them to “Do What They Love” is outright cruel because they needs to focus on surviving or paying the bill or not dying of disease or wondering what the next war will bring.
Even if you aren’t in the situation so many are, you have plenty of things that threaten to make your “Doing What You Love” dream a cruel joke that’s ultimately empty.
Birth Situation Means a Lot
If you’re born to a well-off family, great, you probably have plenty of options. Otherwise, not so much.
You can’t pick your parents or their situation, and let’s be honest here, if you’ve followed the news, their situation affects yours. Income mobility is rarely what we think it is, especially in America, where we seem to keep deceiving ourselves about our problems.
And that’s just economics. Is your family functional? Trust me I know quite a few people whose screwed up family dynamics are barriers to their success. It’s enough to make you think having kids should require a freaking license. Plenty of people are screwed over by being in a “good” but dysfunctional family.
All of the above, in turn affects your education, your chance to go to school, what you can pay for, and your sanity. Your perfect dream job faces a lot of challenges just depending on who you were born too.
People Will Be Biased Against You
Sorry, based on your gender, race, country of origin, state/province of origin, family, religion, and sexual preference plenty of people are willing to hate you automatically. It’s kind of like a pre-loaded, always on hate, the Flash Memory of bigotry.
If you live in America and have any sense of honesty you know we’re not “post-racial.” If you read the news you can hear horrible stories of misogyny in various industries. The progress on gay rights is pretty positive at least, though there’s certainly lots of bigotry out there.
And yeah, it matters. Ask Jose aka Joe here.
And yeah, that is going to affect your career, don’t delude yourself.
So right now your circumstances of birth mean a lot. Yes, it’s awful.
You Fit The Template And That’s It
Or maybe for your “Do What You Love” dream job you’re the right color, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, whatever. Sounds great, but that also means that you may succeed as you fit some template. It doesn’t mean you’ll actually be good at your job, just you fit what people expect the “right” person to be.
Think about it. Because of bigotry and bias and the like you may fit someone’s idea of the perfect employee, and be totally unsuited for it. You have all the right checkboxes but aren’t right (and trust me, even outside of peoples biases, the wrong people get hired all the time). So you may get put in a job and then be awful at it or not grow.
Of course as you fit the template, it might take a damagingly long amount of time to find out how awful you are.
Location Means A Lot
Where you’re born affects your chances of success.
Think how many people never move more than so many mines from their place of birth. Or their state. Or the neighboring state.
Think of the quality of schools and politics and economics of different states or provinces or areas you live in.
Now think of how that affects you and your dream job. The schools could be awful. You may have to move (more on that later). There may be no internships. The economy could be a disaster. There may not me the right soil to grow the seed of your dreams.
Where you live right now may be one of the biggest barriers to success.
The Economy Matters
I remember things before the Great Recession. I remember insane raises and the hope of the Internet Age. I remember when things were new. That seems way, way too long ago.
The American economy, indeed a lot of the world economy as I write this, seems to be pretty lousy.
And right now people are growing up in this. You probably know plenty of young people with crushing debt, no opportunities, and so on. The economy you’re born in, grow up in, go to school in, affects your chances to “Do What You Love.”
And chances are it’s crushing your chances unless you’re lucky, smart, or good. And maybe even then
If you’re “apolitical” you’re copping out, running away, and letting things get worse.
Our Federal government can change policies, start wars, stop wars, deal with trade disputes, create questionable legislation and so on. That stuff affects you, right now, at this very moment. One administration change – and the reaction to it – can make your country turn into something different.
In America our states, our laboratories of Democracies are sometimes the meth labs of democracy, where you can see bad ideas made flesh. Visiting states can be like visiting other countries as there’s so much difference.
Just look at the news and you can see the impact local, international, and other politics has on people’s lives and choices.
One dumb war, a governor who decided to play Doctor Moreau on the state budget, a lousy administration, can kill a lot of your dream job hopes fast. Sorry.
Maybe you ought to start voting.
What To Do?
So yes, this is depressing, but this is part of the “Do What You Love” dark side – a whole lot of stuff out there is all ready to crush your dreams. Chances are it may already have.
But there are things you can do. I’e covered a lot of similar things here, but some basics if you want to fight for your dreams.
- Deal With Your Birth Situation – By being very aware of how it affects you and working around it – or with it.
- Deal With Bias – By staying aware of it, and frankly get involved with professional associations that deal with bigotry in your chosen profession.
- Deal With Fitting The Template – By being aware of it and focusing on real improvement.
- Deal with Location Limits – By making the best of it or moving. If you team up with friends and family it’s easier.
- Deal WIth Economic Issues – By being good at budgeting, following economic views, and voting. You’ve got to be an amateur economist.
- Deal With Politics – By being an engaged citizen. Know politics (and earn what’s bullshit), vote, and get involved. Then be ready to realize you’re full of crap and change your mind. It may not hurt to know when to leave a failing state.
Who knows, maybe you can overcome your birth circumstances and the larger forces.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.