Follow your passion

You’ve probably heard that phrase before.

It’s an American ideal to “follow your passion,” to “follow your dreams.”

But, in practical terms, what does that phrase mean?

For me, it has meant an intense pressure to identify what my passion is, and feeling like a failure when I can’t come up with That One Thing To Live For.

For me, it connotes the status-conscious nature of American society, where we are all classified by what we do for a living, where our jobs become our complete identity.

In this TED Talk recorded in December 2008, Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe talks about a realization he’s come to over the course of his work on the show – that by encouraging people to follow only the loftiest ambitions and by nurturing a cultural bias against skilled labor, we are putting at risk our ability to maintain the physical infrastructure that supports our country.

‘Follow your passion’ – what could possibly be wrong with that? It’s probably the worst advice I ever got. Follow your dreams and go broke, right? That’s all I heard growing up. I didn’t know what to do with my life, but I was told ‘If you follow your passion, it’s gonna work out.’

The thing to do is to talk about a PR campaign for work. Manual labor. Skilled labor. Somebody needs to be out there, talking about the forgotten benefits.

What are the forgotten benefits of which Mike Rowe speaks?

Perhaps the ability to support a family. The ability to go home at the end of the day without having your work follow you. Pride in a job well done.

It makes me think of one of the chapters of the book I’m currently reading, “Working,” by Studs Terkel. More than one of the manual laborers he interviewed for the book mentioned the pride of being able to point to a physical structure – a house, a bridge – and say “I built that.”

What does the phrase “follow your passion” mean to you?

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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