The Amazing Power of the Word “and”
In the current career advice / self-development world, it is very difficult not to stumble across the “follow your passion” advice. Which, for the record, I feel can be quite harmful advice. Not that you should not be doing work that you enjoy doing and are good at, but you need to ensure that there is an actual market demand for what you want to do.
The idea behind the advice to “follow your passion” is to take an activity that you enjoy doing and try to monetize it. The thinking is that by doing this, you will spend your working hours doing things you enjoy doing. I cannot argue against the idea of spending as much of your working time as possible doing something that you enjoy; I think that is a critical element to building a successful career over the long-term.
But there is a real danger in trying to monetize something you love. By taking such an activity and trying to warp it into a way of making money, you are altering your relationship to this activity. It narrows down what you spend your time doing, as you try to spend both your working time and your non-working time doing the same type of activity.
Over the long term, this does not bode well for your career or your well-being.
Instead, consider the freedom of the word “and”.
It is okay for you to have multiple identities, to wear multiple hats. You can be both a writer and an accountant. Or a dancer, gymnast, teacher, and musician. You get the idea.
By embracing the power of “and”, you open yourself up to allow for many possibilities, many ways of potentially earning a living. But more importantly, you allow yourself the room to be you, to explore, and to have fun.
Economics showed the enormous power of the division of labour, where everyone specializes. But there is something magical that happens when you embrace the multiplicity of your personality. You can have very diverse interests and talents, explore them through play, without worrying about them not fitting your “brand”, that they don’t line up with how you currently earn a living.
When you embrace this notion, you lean into what makes you uniquely you. This carries enormous power, as you differentiate yourself. This differentiation is a key asset; no one can compete with you. No-one is better at being you than you are.
So instead of figuring out how to focus on one thing that you love doing and then monetize and scale it to make a living, just spend as much of your time as possible exploring and playing with things that you enjoy doing. Get even better at them. And if you can discover a way to monetize this thing, great. Do it. But don’t make monetizing everything that you do the goal. That is a sure-fire way to take the joy out of things that you enjoy doing.
Embrace the power of play, exploration, and continuous improvement of activities that you enjoy. And stable ways of earning a living doing them will come with time, once you stop trying to force it.
Stop trying to blend in, to check the boxes that you think people are looking for. There is so much power in being uniquely you. Just be you.
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