Friday, August 18, 2006

Beware of the career advice 'Choose 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 it a 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 of ‘liking for dancing’ grows. Then we meet a person who is learning dancing. Stock of ‘liking’ has grown now. It now becomes stock of ‘interest’.

Once the stock has grown to ‘interest’, we dance gracefully and easily. People tell us we have talent. Stock further grows. As we learn dance, 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 ‘passion’. Now the passion 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 interests 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 entailing us to ‘imbibe’ are not compatible with the beliefs we advocate. Or we do not like to be called as ‘dancer’. 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. 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.

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.

On the contrary, lack of understanding what love is can mislead a person. I know of a student, Jaya. She was excellent in drawing. But since her childhood she wanted to become a doctor. She was caught in the horn of what love is and what it should be. She continued to believe that she should become a doctor, while on the other hand, she continued to engage and excel in drawing. Her special abilities with drawing and singing clearly told her that her engagement with life, based on her senses, is far more pronounced than her cognitive abilities of understanding biology or medicine. But she refused to heed to the feedback of the environment. Even when she entered HSC she continued to strive for CAT exam for medicine.

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 while deciding the course or discipline to take. 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.


Jhon Mathew said...

when it comes to choosing career most of us tend to listen to our head discounting the love part for timebeing (for safety reasons), - therefore also loosing the interest, like you have mentioned "do what you love’ is a catch 22 advice. We cannot love until we do it. It is therefore a trap."

I hope most of us do this as we dont/know/get more info about the object or action, left alone to battle without any support system

Hiren said...

First of all, I don't think that it is neccessary to become well known for the interest to turn into passion. It can be intense from the beginning.

One also has to take the practical aspect of how it pays. I am fond of poetry but it's commercial profile is not so impressive and therefore I cannot do what I love.

Artistic professions entail a very high risk in case of failure. That is why like your doctor example, some people are destined to live " a double life" which is the title of Alyque Padmasee's book. ( He happens to be former chairman of Lintas)

Anonymous said...

so many times it is difficult to choose what we love due to background,economy and the family demand.

Sanjiv Bhamre said...

Here is some research to support the hypothesis that 'passion develops slowly' and is not innate in a person. For more details, read this article of Stephen Ceci,