Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Do whatever you do well:

Not everyone can 'do what they love' - but we should all do the best we can.
By Sue Evans
Date: June 06 2014
Editor Rating:

I was talking to my eldest grandchild recently about what she wants to do when she leaves school. She is 15 years old.

I tried to explain to her that, whatever she does, that it doesn’t mean anymore that it’s a ‘job for life’ like people of my generation are used to. Not only may she change jobs several times in her working life, but she may change vocations.

These are not easy concepts for the average 15-year-old to understand who is faced with making decisions about subjects they should study in the final years of schooling. I found myself saying, towards the end of our conversation, “you should do something you love”.

Not long after the conversation, I came across an article that challenges my thinking on this to the extent that I have altered my advice.

The article by Miya Tokumitsu argues that the idea of ‘do what you love’ is "the unofficial work mantra of our time". She says it is also elitist because it degrades the work of those who do things they don’t love – because not everyone can.

Many of us – in fact, most of us – do the things we need to do to make a living; to help us get by.

While I acknowledge that I am a different generation and there were different expectations, I spent 40+ years as a teacher. I enjoyed it very much and I had some wonderfully fulfilling times – but it wasn’t ever my passion. That would have been doing some form of handicraft for a living (quilting is my current favourite). But I doubt that would have helped put our four children through school and university, paid off our mortgage and set us up to have a comfortable without spectacular retirement.

When I see elite sportsmen (or women, but that is rarer) saying "follow your dreams, work hard and you could live this life too", I cringe because that’s not so, is it?

Lots of young boys I know love the football/soccer player, Tim Cahill, and are passionate about the game – but they’re never going to be a Socceroo. If we tell them to follow what they love, will they be happy when they don’t reach the dizzy heights of the English Premier League or be a ‘Socceroo’ at the World Cup? Is it better for the young person who loves sport to do something that they’re good at and find their outlet for sport another way, eg. as a coach or referee.

My own father didn’t do what he loved. He served in World War II and returned to country Queensland to work as an electrician because that’s what they trained him to do in the Army and where he could get work. He put three children (including two daughters) through university, mostly as a single dad. Should he have put his interests first, and lived the life he would have been passionate about?

Martin Luther King taught that every life is marked by dimensions of length, breadth and height. Length refers to self-love, breadth to the community, and height to something larger than oneself. Being a religious man, for him “higher” was God.

"Higher" will be something different for all of us; but I believe it implies a willingness to not always do what you want to do, to not always be able to do ‘something that you love’.

So I have re-packaged my advice to my grand daughter. Now it is simply this: whatever it is any of us do, we should do it as best we can.

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