January 19, 2014

Do What You Love: A Selfish and Misguided Message

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL [Do What You Love] distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. 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. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

workI had to re read the post I wrote a year and a half ago  for fear it would be too similar but it continues to be an issue that few people are addressing. It’s an ongoing conversation with my kids who are all exploring careers and their future work. This article reminded me how misguided and selfish the DWYL message can be.  Steve Jobs famous Stanford graduation speech is one of the most cited inspirational speeches of our time where he implores us to spend our loves pursuing our passions in our work. And yet ironically:

But by portraying Apple as a labor of his individual love, Jobs elided the labor of untold thousands in Apple’s factories, conveniently hidden from sight on the other side of the planet — the very labor that allowed Jobs to actualize his love.

The sweat shop issue aside, the reality is most people don’t do what they love and that’s not a bad thing that’s a reality. Yet our kids are constantly being told that’s not a good choice. Our infatuation with entrepreneurship as well as a continued push for post secondary education is creating a great divide and alienation of a large number of young people who don’t fit either of these choices. Mike Rowe explains it pretty well.

 *I’m not a Beck fan but I dig Mike Rowe. 😉

As a parent, I’ve been working hard to change the narrative that society is telling them and in some ways we have modeled. The default for my children is university and I need to change that for my youngest. The default has been “do what you love” and I have to change that. Passion and vocation need not be married. Work can be work and need not be our passion and that isn’t a bad thing. There’s a selfishness that creeps in when we are only focused on our happiness when it comes to work. I think it’s border line arrogant to tell kids they should do what they love, when “do” means work.

Schools continue to emphasis that a college degree is the goal. We brag about how many of our graduates go on to post-secondary. What if we celebrated graduates who went straight to work? I suppose since teachers are college educated we consciously and sub consciously encourage our students to do the same. If you asked any grade 12 student what their teachers want for them, I’d bet almost all would say “go to college”.

Maybe you disagree but i think this has to change. Any suggestions?

Photo Credit: Pondspider via Compfight cc