Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Dirty Jobs

Just wanted to save this, because it kinda rocked me back on my heels:

"Follow your passion--what could be wrong with that? Probably the worst advice I ever got." (11:20 into the clip)


I'm a middle aged software engineer. Back when I started out, I was just a computer programmer. These days, I almost exclusively draw boxes on whiteboards and evangelize ideas and products to folks inside my company. I'm pretty good at it, and I make an excellent living doing it, and I like it a lot.

I can't say I like it more than just the simple art of writing a bunch of code and making it work. My job is so abstract that I can't even really describe it to ordinary, non-technical folks, and when I do, they often don't believe that you can get paid for doing that. A lot of the time, I can't believe it either. Part of the price of success is becoming more abstract, more political, more removed from the simply joy of doing your job at its most basic level. That price may be worth paying, but we ought to be aware that we're paying it.

I've been incredibly lucky to be able to do something that I used to love, and still like pretty well. My kids aren't so fortunate. They were encouraged to "follow their passions" and the result is that they've spent a lot of time doing things that were ultimately unrewarding. My son finally went to trade school and got certified as an HVAC technician 18 months ago. A few months ago, I asked him how he liked his job. He replied, "Nobody wants to grow up to be an HVAC tech when they're a kid." And yet, he has more security than my two girls, who are still following their passions, and who aren't very happy with the result.

Watch the video; seems to me that it cuts through a lot of nonsense that somehow we've started to assume was true.

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