Monday, August 14, 2006

Beware of the career advice 'Do what you love'

Kamal Hasan, in his interview with Mumbai mirror, says that ‘I was a reluctant actor who was cajoled into acting. Now I enjoy it too much to give it up’.

Sonu Nigam, who is now recognised as an accomplished singer in Indian Bollywood industry, says that after having accomplished everything, my dream is to ‘get into agriculture farming’. He says he will spend rest of his life in it.

Jessica, one of the interviewees in the Po Bronson’s book of What should I do with my life, found that ‘Medicine’ is not her love after spending 30 years of her life in undertaking the course of medicine.

Abhijit Kunte, the Pune-based ecologist researcher, found that he loves ‘forests’ when he was forced to accompany a researcher into a forest after he failed in his first year science. It took him 5 years to find that he ‘loved’ forest.

Love is not an emotion which sprungs from within. It is not something that resides ‘deep’ in the recesses of unconscious which suddenly emerges from the inside one fine day and, lo behold, one has discovered one’s love. This image of ‘love’ is not only inaccurate, but also invalid.

Love is a stock which accumulates with our engagement with that object or action.

First, we take action based on our liking. Let us call this stock, the stock of liking. When we like something, say dancing, we do it. We watch dancers on the TV. Suddenly we meet someone who is a dancer. The stock grows. Then we meet a person who is learning dancing. Stock of ‘liking’ has grown now. It now becomes stock of ‘interest’.

When the stock has grown into ‘interest’ we dance gracefully and easily. People tell us we have talent. Stock further grows. As we learn dancing more and more, we realise that it helps us express other part of our Self - such as our love of music, or our fetish for exercise. Stock further grows. We appear in a dance contest. We win, or we get special recognition from some known dancer. The stock grows. As we engage with ‘dancing’ more and more, we start liking the people around it, the work around it, the work-related beliefs about it.

Once this stock of interest has grown beyond a ‘threshold level’, we call that stock ‘love for dancing’. Once the stock has grown beyond threshold level, the stock takes hold of us. Now instead of waiting for opportunities to come, we start finding opportunities. That is why we call this stock ‘love’. At this point, the stock of love drives our actions, decisions and priorities.

As the stock of love takes us into more and more actions and opportunities of dancing, we start learning it more and more. We become known as a dancer. Our self-belief changes. We love the way we think about ourselves, the people we meet, the Selfs it helps us to express. The stock, if it grows further, becomes stock of ‘passion’. Now the love of dancing envelopes us.

As we engage with the world outside, the stock of ‘liking’ got converted into ‘interest’, ‘love’ and later to ‘passion’. This has perhaps happened with Kamal Hasan and Abhijit Kunte.

However, at any point of time, the stock may also stop growing; either because we do not find the right people to engage or because we do not get the right opportunities. This is what happens when many of our childhood likings vanish away.

Or because, after engaging for a long time, we do not find that it is helping us to express our Self fully. Or the beliefs that it entails us to ‘imbibe’ are not compatible with the beliefs we advocate. Or we do not like to be called as ‘dancer’ ( which is issue of self-belief). This perhaps happened with Jessica and Sonu Nigam.
I have met many people who, after years of working in a profession, leave it for something else. Mats Wilander, left tennis, after he won three consecutive Grand slam titles in a year ( which is rarity), to pursue music. Or they keep on changing their professions because they do not find a ‘calling’ which expresses their multiple talents into one calling. Like for instance, Robert Fritz, the author of Creating.

In other words, we cannot tell our future and guess what will happen to us. We cannot guess which ‘stock’ of liking will become ‘love’ and which will vanish away after engaging with real life. And we cannot understand what we love and what we do not until we engage with life.

Therefore ‘do what you love’ is a catch 22 advice. We cannot love until we do it. It is therefore a trap. One cannot determine what one loves at the age of 15. Based on the ‘liking’ and ‘interest’ at the age of 15, one has to choose a path and hope that the engagement with the path will convert the initial liking into ‘love’. But there is no guarantee that it will. We are human beings who know what we know. We are not gods who can peer into our future and determine what we will continue to love.

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