The catch in “following your dream”

I was brought up with the belief that I can do anything, become anything. In India, being born in a middle class family and attending a typical public school boils down “anything” to very specific streams of profession: engg/doc/CA. Arts is clearly not an option if you want to financially independent. As a teen who believed s/he would be ‘different’ in the sense that every individual is meant to be, who grew up on Pink Floyd songs, I found this restriction in choice of profession quite suffocating. When you do not want to choose among these typical streams and your parents ask you to suggest an alternate path, you are ‘clueless’. You find yourself asking the question what do I actually want from myself?! What are my dreams?!

After more than a decade, it is clear that dreams do not make you, they do not define you. You dream as per the circumstances. A person working in Mumbai, commuting in local train for long distances daily to work, would dream of earning enough to be able to buy a car. A person living in Singapore might dream of buying a cycle to build some fitness while commuting to office and back.

What becomes very apparent once you grow up is that though the nature of your dreams might not define you, for instance someone might want to help children learn better at school or another might want to become a fashion statement; what defines a person is the intensity and perseverance with which they pursue those dreams.

So many people confuse hobbies with dreams and satisfaction. People think that if someone is pursuing their hobby as their profession, life is rosy for them. Hence exists the warning: You will hate your hobby if you make it your job.

So what is the established difference between hobby and job? Hobby is something that is supposed to make you feel good about yourself. Job may or may not do that. You gotta do the job to earn, to provide, to survive. You may stop pursuing your hobby which no longer pleases you. Today, I read about this tea-seller who writers book as his ‘hobby’ and sells tea as his ‘job’. As I watched the video, it occurred to me that he probably loves doing both the things with equal fervor.

Forgotten dreams, short-lived hobbies; unsatisfactory jobs are all inter-linked and arise due to two main reasons. The first one is that although you need very little to survive, but you are made to believe that you need a lot. We are always made to believe that we need more money than we already have to be happy. Secondly, we are made to believe that we work to earn. On those days, when we feel completely crappy about our job, we are not able to quit because we think we need the dough. Hence, job sucks! We drink to that, sleep over it and get back at the crappy job the next day!

There is another way of looking at those miserable days at work. Just accepting that it is a bad day and move on. Realizing the fact that bad days are very natural to any profession. A world renowned master painter, a scuba instructor, a hiking instructor, a writer, a singer, every single individual feels like quitting because of the repetitiveness, banality of routine, lack of growth as per expectations, same pathetic networking/customer related problems or industry related issues.

Yes, there would be bad days. NO matter what you do. No matter how much you love or hate your job. Those days are of no importance. They are just to be crossed over.

The decision making days are the rest of the days. How great were you at your job for the remaining of the days? Was each day a bit better than the day before? Did you solve a new problem today? Does your job give you an opportunity to do something that you like doing more than anything else, which could be daring, entrepreneurial, leading, managing, creating or simply repeatedly doing something that you enjoy!

A great innovator and leader once said:

And this is where the link between hobbies and work exists. To be able to do great at work, you need to become great at whatever you do. ‘Excellence’ is what you need to crave for, not mere ‘pleasure’. Since hobby is an activity which you definitely ‘love’, if you can’t excel in that, it’s quite unlikely that you would excel at anything else, much less work, which might not be exciting at all! This is what I have learnt in the past few years from a few inspiring people I have met.

In my last trip to the Boracay Island in Philippines, we met a very interesting Austrian couple who were managing the SSI Scuba Diving Centre on the Island. They were trained as scientist and computer technician around 30 years back. For the last 13 years, they have been full time Scuba instructors. They have a dream to open and run a diving resort on a remote and private island in the South East Asia! What we saw, life as a full time scuba trainer isn’t easy, isn’t even fun! You are under paid given the responsibility you handle, the job is repetitive, you got no luxury of home, you are on the move very frequently, there are long working hours, and the job is very repetitive. Yet, this couple knew what the job was preparing them for, how they are only a few years away from owning their own dive centre in their own resort! They learn and understand about five star resort functionality and expectations here which they will put to use in their venture. This is the enthusiasm and power of dream even at the age of 50!

The catch in ‘following one’s dream’ in life, is the expectation that it should be easy since it is your dream! That is never the case. To become great or do great things, you need to fight the impulse of accepting low standard, mediocre work. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude needs to be wiped clean out of the system. It is long trudged road to fight these impulses and keep striving for better and greater. Once this is done, you do, in fact, reach the end of the rainbow!


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