Don’t do what you love
I’m going to put a disclaimer on my blog from the very beginning: I love Ryan Holiday. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I love the Stoic principles that he describes in his blogs, books, and interviews – but the way he delivers the information is unique and inspiring which is why I think saying I love him is the correct verbiage. I only mention my fondness because a lot of what I post, at least for now will – in some way – lead back to him.
To that point, today’s blog is a reaction to his article about passion as a problem for this generation. In it, as the title might suggest, he talks about how Millennial’s real problem is they search for passion constantly, but passion is detrimental to progress. The quote truly resonated with me the most was “Think gritty, not giddy.” Four simple words that really summarized who I am as a person.
A major reason I feel like such an outcast in my generation is that I don’t really value passion. Mostly, I think passion is an excuse for the abundance of elf-serving behavior. Your boyfriend screams vulgar insults at you and then makes up for it with a night of hot sex? Sorry, that’s not passion – that’s an abusive and unsustainable relationship. You’re dwindling your parent’s retirement money, but you can make one song a quarter on SoundCloud? That’s not passion. You’re just kinda lazy.
I much prefer a life filled with real accomplishments and experiences shared with people who provide healthy, stable support. And here’s the real kicker: I don’t really even need to love what I do for a living. The way I make the money I need to pay my bills is not (and God willing, will never be) the most interesting thing about me. In fact, I would be elated to never have the “So, what do you do?” exchange with another person again. I mean, think about how many things exist in this world to learn, to do, to teach, to experience and the thing we decided to talk about most was how we make money? It’s just not interesting. Tell me about the saddest song you’ve ever heard, or what your escape plan is if you’re ever trapped by a bear, or the most fun vacation day you’ve ever had is. That’s interesting.
My job, though I mostly enjoy what I do and I’m good at it, does not fulfill me in the way most people assume it would. I work hard and I succeed because I want to be the kind of person who works hard and succeed. It has absolutely nothing to do with imaginary personal value gained from a specific job title. Any accomplishments or accolades that result from my work ethic have no bearing on who I am as a person, or what I am capable of. But being a dependable person who knows how to finish something and be proud of the effort I put in – that is something of value. I believe in the rewarding practice of diligence and consistency no matter what my title is. I’ll do my job to the best of my ability and then I’ll go home and apply that same philosophy to reading and learning, or building relationships, or going to the gym – because I care about those aspects just as much as my job. I am a complete person who exerts energy evenly throughout my life.
When I tell people I don’t need to love what I do, they think it’s absurd. Or, at the very least, boring. They want a life of glamour, where they love what they do and people envy their position – and to them, I say go for it. Mostly I encourage them because it’s impossible to change their minds, but also because it gives me that much more of a head start. I like to think of my lifestyle almost like that of a beating heart. It pumps at the same rhythm every minute of every day for 90-some years. Every. Single. Minute. The same thing. But without that consistency and dedication, all of us would be dead. Literally. And because we’re not dead, and the heart continues with its task, we – as the people with a dependable heart – get to do incredible things. Without the foundation of persistence and grit, nothing would ever be achieved. Again, literally.
Clearly, my work ethic is not a matter of life or death, but it is a matter of a fulfilled life- because accomplishments are gratifying, passion is not. It’s unsustainable and leads to a string of expectation hangovers. It’s why New Year’s Resolutions never work – no one can be as excited about something on day 100 as they were on day 1. But, they can be as dedicated on day 100 as day 1 and that’s what it is to be gritty and not giddy.
It’s hard to know if at 26 I’m making the right decisions, but if anything comes close to certain for me, it is this.