I have been thinking about this post “In the Name of Love” since Janet D. Stemwedel (who I religiously follow in blog and tweet, and so should you – she sees issues very differently and makes me think very hard) retweeted
Yup… it makes you smug in your privilege. I also liked:
According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient.
This is right up there with “your cancer got worse because you weren’t thinking strongly enough about getting better” as a reality of life failure.
But there are some other ideas in there with which I am not quite so sanguine. The author takes Jobs to task for using the words “you” and “yours” too much. People become self-absorbed. The article goes on to say:
While “do what you love” sounds harmless and precious, it is ultimately self-focused to the point of narcissism.
Um, no. Should we all go wait tables because its something we don’t love? The world is not black and white or red and green or blue and yellow, no matter how much your passion for black, green or blue says otherwise. Giving up on what you love because someone else is waiting tables or working as an adjunct will not change their situation one bit.
“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and cosign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can self-righteously bestow DWYL as career advice to those covetous of her success.
This may be or may not be true. Confusing “do what you love” with “being a rich selfish jerk” isn’t going to change the world. Becoming (and staying) a scientist is hard work. It may help to have a loving family willing to support one (some of whom may not be 1% or even 10%-ers, just parents who want their children to succeed). But not all people in middle-class careers (slick apartments in Ann Arbor or Iowa City to the contrary) come from that background. There are lots of people from other backgrounds who are doing well/making it in science. There is no question it is harder for someone from a working class background to make it in science, but it is possible.
Telling people that others are suffering (and there is always someone in worse shape then you, if you are reading this), and therefore finding your passion is selfish doesn’t make sense. Finding your passion (and knowing there is going to be hard work in getting there) may give you the power to help others with the same passion. It might make it possible for other people to have careers that they love. To advocate not finding your passion is a bit selfish to that perception of what is wrong in the world. The world is a hard, hard place. If you do something to increase your leverage to change the world, then do so.