Do what you don’t hate
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.