Rick Mor­ton

Do what you don’t hate

The Australian - The Deal - - News -

Show me the peo­ple who tell oth­ers to “do what they love” and I’ll show you the row of gar­ment-mak­ers at a Bangladeshi fac­tory who all have mul­ti­ple ques­tions about this ap­proach.

School ca­reer ad­vis­ers – a sort of Ouija board for the damned and di­rec­tion­less, or “stu­dents” as we call them – have given up on the ca­reer tra­jec­tory and em­braced the ca­reer squig­gle. That’s the mod­ern way, you see. To­day’s teenager is likely to have five ca­reer changes and 17 jobs. The ad­vis­ers have thrown up their hands and told ev­ery­one: fol­low your pas­sion.

This is grand ad­vice when se­lec­tively ap­plied but you wouldn’t rec­om­mend it for any­one whose pas­sion is fire bug­ging, knock­ing down sand­cas­tles or dé­coupage. I fol­lowed my pas­sion once. I was drunk and it turned out to be a dog and it was 3am. So I be­came a writer in­stead. It’s al­most as sta­ble.

Imag­ine you get sent back in time to the 1700s in a ma­chine or by touch­ing some stones at Craigh na Dun in the Scot­tish High­lands. You come across a man called, say, Scott who makes ar­rows. And you cup his cheeks in your cold, cold, tiny hands and tell him: “Scott, do what you want to do, not this mak­ing-ar­rows busi­ness.”

What Scott re­ally wants to do is brand man­age­ment. You get back to the present and do you know what has changed? The fam­ily of Fletch­ers in your home­town doesn’t ex­ist be­cause the job that 16th­cen­tury Scott pur­sued with pas­sion was not con­sis­tent with his sur­vival.

When civil­i­sa­tion ends sud­denly and there are scarcely any of us left stand­ing I fully ex­pect to be at­tacked and eaten by roam­ing gangs of sur­vival­ists within the first few weeks, if not hours. I have few skills to of­fer this new world or­der and the bar­bar­ians who take con­trol and con­tra­vene var­i­ous sec­tions of the Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights won’t want any jour­nal­ists around to record the oc­ca­sion.

Long story short, fol­low­ing your pas­sion is fine if you’re not a big weirdo, threat to civil­ian life or poor. Do­ing what you love is the pas­time of peo­ple who won’t starve if they press ahead with plans to start a busi­ness sell­ing wall-mounted pouffes, even if by rights they de­serve some sort of cos­mic pun­ish­ment.

The other mot­tos “do what you don’t hate with ev­ery cell of your be­ing” and “find the in­dus­try that con­flicts with your sense of well­be­ing the least” are less catchy and don’t fit well on mo­ti­va­tional posters be­cause the words tend to cover up the pris­tine moun­tain land­scape or kit­ten with a strong work ethic.

If any­thing, the ap­peal to pas­sion in the work­place should be a red flag to the anti-au­thor­i­tar­ian senses of the Aus­tralian pub­lic. The writer Miya Toku­mitsu told

The At­lantic last year there was much be­hind the in­jec­tion of self into work.

“The most cyn­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion is that em­ploy­ers de­mand pas­sion be­cause they don’t want to hear com­plaints,” she says. “If you make pas­sion a job re­quire­ment, you can’t com­plain about your work­load.”

Toku­mitsu came across a job ad for clean­ers that re­quired they be “pas­sion­ate”, which is a bit like ask­ing a mime to be louder. To what ex­tent can a per­son main­tain zest for a work­place cov­ered in sugar soap? Heaven for­bid we find any pas­sion at all in a pub­lic toi­let.

I saw one ad­ver­tise­ment last week that re­quired the suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cant to be “happy”. Ask­ing a re­tail clerk to smile is one thing but can em­ploy­ers man­date the state of our souls now, too? Just think of the per­for­mance re­views. “Jen­nifer was a model em­ployee, ex­cept for a se­vere case of spir­i­tual en­nui which was not at all in keep­ing with our core value as a re­tailer of clothes made in Bangladesh.”

Does joy at­tract a penalty rate? Dou­ble time-and-a-half for the ef­fort re­quired to es­chew bone-rat­tling de­spair? Call me when the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion holds an in­quiry into pas­sion.

A friend left dog­groom­ing af­ter years be­cause it wasn’t ful­fill­ing. Now, if you can’t bathe a dog for fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and be glad about it, noth­ing else will be any bet­ter.

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