August 4, 2008
Is career ambition overrated? (and should you not taint your "passion" by turning it into a job?)
Chris Colin has a wonderful "On the Job" column in the San Francisco Chronicle today about forsaking ambition and simply treating work as a means to an end (i.e., eating).
In it, Colin profiles a thirtysomething guy who lucked into a series of ample-paying, temp and consulting-ish jobs that didn't require him to do much of anything. As a result, Colin's subject wound up with an abundance of leisure time, so much so that friends began offering unsolicited suggestions about what he should do with all his spare hours (take up bluegrass guitar, help the homeless, develop six-pack abs).
But on a quest to shun any sort of ambition, as well as the accompanying stress and busyness, Colin's subject chose to spend his down days reading, loafing, and taking on low-maintenance hobbies like raising chickens. According to the guy's fiancé, his apartment was something of a Zen-like haven:
"There was the distinct feeling of vacation, even though it was a weeknight. He was so relaxed. And it was really compelling to have that groundedness."
On the flip side of treating work as a means to an end and shunning our country's overwork ethic there's turning your passion into a career: becoming a chef because you love to cook, a freelance writer because you love to tinker with words, a bike mechanic because you love Harleys, a non-profit founder because there's a segment of the population you can't not help.
There are those who will advise you not to destroy a hobby or calling by turning it into a job like this, not to "poison" it with deadlines, long hours, and high-stakes decisions. One reader of this blog from Kelowna, BC, a lover of board games who's achieved great entrepreneurial success by developing and distributing a board game of his own, recently sent me an email with this warning:
"I play less board games now that it's a career. My life feels like a board game of snakes and ladders with ups followed by downs. It's been the biggest emotional rollercoaster of a journey. The board game business, distributors, retailers, trade shows, bad debt -- they all sap your soul. It just feels like it should have been more fun. And yet the catch is that if I hadn't published [my game], I'd have left a lifelong dream incomplete..."
Depending on the week, I can relate to this. Sometimes my dream job of being a freelance writer and author feels like it's eating me alive. Other times, it's the smartest move I've ever made.
How about you? Have you turned something you love to do into a dream job? Would you if you could? Or in these tough economic times filled with so many daily stressors, is it enough to just draw a decent salary from the job you've got -- love it or hate it -- and pursue your passion (even if your passion is reclining on the couch) in your down time?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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