Worst Graduation Advice: Follow Your Passion! - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Worst Graduation Advice: Follow Your Passion!

A couple weeks ago, my home got hit with lightning. I don’t know if there’s such thing as a “little hit” of lightning — like the Seinfeld episode of “good” cancer in which the person still died — but it felt like my home took a big hit. It was the bad kind of lightning.

The lightning strike knocked out nearly everything in and out of my house that was electronic. It has been my pleasure, then, these last few weeks, to get to know experts in nearly every field — tree cutters, electricians, pool professionals, HVAC guys, sprinkler system fixers, security dudes, and yes, A/V pros who can put my stupid computer and TV system back together.

The A/V guys were already friends. They had come out before and made sense of the myriad of wires and programmed the damnable universal remote. It’s a device that isn’t necessary but reduces manic rages around the house, making it most welcome. So, Bob (let’s call him that today) answers my question, “Bob, how did you decide to do this?”

Bob is 19, and like his older brother, hated high school but is extraordinarily intelligent and likes working with is hands. His passion, he told me, was cars. This is what he said:

Well, I love cars. Cars are my passion. So, I went to work for this Honda dealership and got a job as a mechanic and moved up. Then, a friend told me about a job at the big Chevrolet dealership and I got a better job there. I was starting to make good money. The problem was that when I got home, I was starting to hate cars. I have a couple really nice old vehicles [author’s note: I don’t remember what they are but am sure you’d be impressed by them] but they just sat in the garage. I didn’t want to touch them.

So, when my brother offered me a job, I decided to take it.

I asked him how he now felt about his decision. “Well, I like working with my hands. This job is always different. It’s fun to learn something new.” He continued, “Turns out, I didn’t want my passion to be my profession.”

Such wisdom from such a young man, I thought. So succinctly put, too. How many people still struggle at mid-age because they’ve felt betrayed by a world that didn’t see their talent? What could have become a fun hobby became a frustrating job where the poor worker never “made it.” In this case, Bob could have made it as a mechanic but doing what he loved as a job was killing his love for his passion.

Pursuing his passion professionally actually made his life worse, not better. This used to be rather common knowledge. Men and women would have their hobbies — working on old cars, making model trains, quilting, cross-stitch, painting. Doing these things didn’t mean a person felt compelled to get a job as a car mechanic or model train store owner or quilter or painter. These were avocations to occupy one’s extra time outside of his or her job. Certainly some folks become so well-known and skilled that their avocation becomes their vocation because there would be more money and pleasure in it. That’s not true of most people, though.

Most people tinker and dabble and then go to work Monday as a banker or accountant or computer programmer or lawyer or plumber or electrician or teacher or, yes, an A/V technician and business owner.

Mike Rowe through Prager University has a video about the bad advice college graduates receive. It’s a video worth watching regarding following one’s passion:

A person’s gifts do not necessarily overlap with a person’s interests. One young guy I knew wanted to be a graphic designer and work on video games, but his gifts were administrative and not artistic. He insisted on pursuing his passion rather than getting a degree and then a job that aligned with his actual talent. Now, he’s working at the Apple Store. There are worse outcomes, but it seems that his time and effort would have been better spent pursuing something more financially rewarding that would use his actual talent.

Not everything in the “good old days” was good. However, the more realistic idea that you got up, went to work in order to serve a higher good — putting a roof over your head and feeding the family — seems to have been better for everyone. The expectation that one’s passion must be one’s profession is wrong-headed and in some cases, futile.

It’s time to again welcome the idea of hobbies and honor working for a living. The living often begins after the job hours end.

Melissa Mackenzie
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Melissa Mackenzie is Publisher of The American Spectator. Melissa commentates for the BBC and has appeared on Fox. Her work has been featured at The Guardian, PJ Media, and was a front page contributor to RedState. Melissa commutes from Houston, Texas to Alexandria, VA. She lives in Houston with her two sons, one daughter, and two diva rescue cats. You can follow Ms. Mackenzie on Twitter: @MelissaTweets.
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