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Do What You Hate?

workers

Miya Tokumitsu, who holds a PhD in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, vehemently pushes back on the notion that people should make a living doing things they love, which she argues is simultaneously elitist and a tool for exploitation from our corporate overlords.

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit?

That seems at first an odd formulation. After all, the point of the advice is that, since we’re going to have to spend so much of our adult life earning money, we might as well find something we like doing. Someone is going to profit from our work, regardless; the question is how miserable that work is going to make us.

Who is the audience for this dictum? Who is not?

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Again, this seems odd. It’s true, of course, that the overwhelming majority of mankind will never be able to make a living doing something they love. See Chris Rock’s classic bit on the distinction between “jobs” and “careers.” So, yes, to some extent DWYL is an aphorism of those elites who can aspire to the creative class. But I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone argue that those who don’t achieve the goal have failed, much less because their “passion and determination were insufficient.”

Nor does the advice come predominately from the captains of industry or others seeking to exploit workers. Rather, it comes mostly from parents and guidance counselors and those who are either living the dream—they actually are making a nice living doing what they love—or those who are older and have profound regrets over not having, to use a phrase from days gone by, followed their bliss.

Tokumitsu provides a compelling counterexample, though, to make a powerful point:

[T]he most important recent evangelist of the DWYL creed is deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

His graduation speech to the Stanford University class of 2005 provides as good an origin myth as any, especially since Jobs had already been beatified as the patron saint of aestheticized work well before his early death. In the speech, Jobs recounts the creation of Apple, and inserts this reflection:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

In these four sentences, the words “you” and “your” appear eight times. This focus on the individual is hardly surprising coming from Jobs, who cultivated a very specific image of himself as a worker: inspired, casual, passionate — all states agreeable with ideal romantic love. Jobs telegraphed the conflation of his besotted worker-self with his company so effectively that his black turtleneck and blue jeans became metonyms for all of Apple and the labor that maintains it.

But by portraying Apple as a labor of his individual love, Jobs elided the labor of untold thousands in Apple’s factories, conveniently hidden from sight on the other side of the planet — the very labor that allowed Jobs to actualize his love.

This is a classic conceit and not one limited to the elites. Most of us, I think, tend to think of companies like Apple in terms of their founding geniuses and maybe also the creative teams that design and engineer their products. It’s those people who can aspire to—and frequently achieve—the goal of doing something they love while also making a nice living. In some cases, a fabulous living. But we tend to forget about the lowly worker bees who far outnumber the creative types. They’re of course vital to the success of the company but are faceless and interchangeable cogs, at least in terms of the narrative.

After a brief diversion comparing Jobs to Henry David Thoreau, she continues,

One consequence of this isolation is the division that DWYL creates among workers, largely along class lines. Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.

For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story. Under the DWYL credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love (which is, in fact, most labor) is not only demeaned but erased. As in Jobs’ Stanford speech, unlovable but socially necessary work is banished from the spectrum of consciousness altogether.

Think of the great variety of work that allowed Jobs to spend even one day as CEO: his food harvested from fields, then transported across great distances. His company’s goods assembled, packaged, shipped. Apple advertisements scripted, cast, filmed. Lawsuits processed. Office wastebaskets emptied and ink cartridges filled. Job creation goes both ways. Yet with the vast majority of workers effectively invisible to elites busy in their lovable occupations, how can it be surprising that the heavy strains faced by today’s workers (abysmal wages, massive child care costs, et cetera) barely register as political issues even among the liberal faction of the ruling class?

In ignoring most work and reclassifying the rest as love, DWYL may be the most elegant anti-worker ideology around. Why should workers assemble and assert their class interests if there’s no such thing as work?

There’s a lot packed in there, some of which I agree with and most of which I don’t.

First, as Tokumitsu herself will go on to note later in the piece, it’s simply not the case that creative work is always more lucrative than other work. While it’s true that those fortunate to get the good jobs in academia, journalism, publishing, and the like can make very good wages, most of them make far less money than a mediocre plumber or electrician. It’s true that the former jobs are more prized by society (although, even there, there are resentments); it’s not true that they’re generally better rewarded monetarily.

Second, while society definitely pushes people to do intellectually based work that requires college—and preferably professional or graduate education—rather than become tradesmen, much less coal miners and factory workers, it goes to far to say that we disdain or “erase” those who take the latter path. Certainly, to the extent we “erase” them from our narrative, we do so for essentially everybody. There are maybe two or three people from Apple and Microsoft whose names we know; all the rest—even those who made millions—are “erased” in that sense.

Third, this is, always has been, and always will be the human condition. It has nothing to do with the “do what you love mantra.” Whether people were making their living as subsistence farmers or emptying trashcans at Apple or even being the chief engineer at General Motors, they lived anonymously to those outside their immediate reach and invisibly to history. Hell, there are U.S. presidents that we barely remember; most cabinet secretaries are anonymous in their own day. Almost every four-star general and senior executive in the federal government is faceless, despite their very localized prestige and relatively handsome compensation.

Fourth, and most importantly, it remains odd to me to claim that “do what you love” is some evil plan designed to suppress wages. To be sure, it can have that effect. Far too many people are pursuing jobs as college professors, journalists, actors, writers, and other creative occupations for the market. So, at the low end, this means those seeking to hire people trying to get footholds in those industries can exploit the oversupply. But those skilled and lucky enough to rise to the top nonetheless make handsome if not fabulous sums. The fact that there are thousands of pretty young actresses willing to star in the latest blockbuster for scale doesn’t stop the studios from instead hiring stars for millions.

From there, though, she goes on to make a much more compelling point:

“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and cosign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can self-righteously bestow DWYL as career advice to those covetous of her success.

If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves — in fact, to loving ourselves — what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.

Yet arduous, low-wage work is what ever more Americans do and will be doing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two fastest-growing occupations projected until 2020 are “Personal Care Aide” and “Home Care Aide,” with average salaries of $19,640 per year and $20,560 per year in 2010, respectively. Elevating certain types of professions to something worthy of love necessarily denigrates the labor of those who do unglamorous work that keeps society functioning, especially the crucial work of caregivers.

Indeed, as a recent report in The Atlantic shows, we have more recent college graduates in jobs that don’t require college than we’ve had in a long time—and as many as we ever have.  But this has many causes, with DWYL surely very low on the list.

But, while recognizing that Tokumitsu points to a serious flaw in the advice—that it’s simply unattainable for the vast number of our fellow man and can blind us to privilege—it’s not at all obvious what we should do about it. I don’t know if writing magazine pieces is what she loves or even if it’s the primary way she makes a living, but it’s actually rather odd for someone with an Ivy League PhD in the archetypal “what the hell are you going to do with that?!” field to rail against people pursuing their passions. It’s one thing to recognize that very few people, indeed, can get into grad school at U Penn and that fewer still can afford to spend a decade or more foregoing a real income to achieve their doctorate in a field where they may not find a great job waiting for them. But to tell people that they shouldn’t at least factor what it is they love heavily into their decision-making seems cruel coming from someone privileged enough to have done so.

To be fair, she goes on at great length about the pitfalls, many of which we’ve been talking about for years at OTB. The decline of the tenure track in the academy and their replacement with underpaid adjuncts. The rise of the unpaid intern, the default track for hiring at think tanks, major media outlets, fashion houses, publishers, and many other highly-sought-after creative class jobs. Those are real problems that are damaging to society and to those industries, essentially locking out those from the outside the most privileged quintile from those careers.

But it’s not clear what it is Tokumitsu proposes to do about it. Her conclusion:

In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

What does that mean, exactly?

Presumably, the vast preponderance of those who would like to have been actors or novelists or fashion designers in fact followed this advice. They dismissed their dreams as unrealistic and instead got “real” jobs. But surely the advice isn’t the nobody should pursue those careers. Aside from making sure our sons and daughters and our students are armed with good information about how limited those paths are, why shouldn’t they make their own choices?

Maybe we should turn around the sage advice of Waylon and Willie and encourage more of our children to be cowboys—or at least plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians—than doctors and lawyers and such. At the very least, we should make it clear that those are perfectly honorable and acceptable choices. But it still seems perfectly reasonable to exhort them to try to pursue a path that they enjoy.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Woody says:

    What a thoughtful post, perfect for a Sunday AM. Thank you, Dr Joyner.

    Over the past thirty years, there has been an increased sense of contempt for blue-collar workers – it’s reflected in their pay, trashing of their benefits, and portrayal in our culture.

    Though there has always been a scale of prestige attached to profession, there was a time after the Great Depression that having a job accorded that person a modicum of respect. Now, we treat workers – particularly service workers – as jokes, as losers, as “takers” from society.

    Seems to me that those who play by the rules – work a full-time job and do it well – should then earn a decent existence. Seems to me that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  2. Stonetools says:

    There are people who just treat blue collar workers as serfs, who should be grateful for working for dog food. Conservatives in particular have demonized unions and glorified business.
    After 30 years of conservative attacks on worker rights and enactment of policies that depressed the salaries of working people, it’s not surprising that people don’t respect blue collar workers and think that blue collar work= hateful, dead end job. What’s surprising is that you can make a pretty good living as a plumber, electrician or HVAC technician.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. Mikey says:

    This is an interesting piece. I remember when “do what you love” had an unspoken addendum, “and you won’t get paid squat.” Now it seems “do what you love” means “trampling the proletariat” or something.

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  4. JKB says:

    Wait, let me see if I understand this. Evil capitalism is promoting people to DWYL so they can exploit the fact the individual will demand less monetary compensation for the time they devote to doing what they love?

    And people need to stop letting them mesmerize them into DWYL and instead view the opportunity as an imposition on the individuals time they’d rather spend doing something they don’t love as much and therefore they’d demand more money and time not doing what they love? So these individuals would then have more time to spend doing what they love, presumably uncompensated?

    And this also “disappears” those who do things they don’t love, for which they demand compensation for the imposition on their time and try to do as little as possible while earning a living?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    I truly loved my job as a manufacturing engineer when I was just interacting with equipment. When promotions resulted in me becoming a customer service engineer not so much. If truth be known I hated my customer and grew to hate my job. Perhaps it’s just me – I do tend to be anti-social. But my customer was a medical device manufacturer and seemed to be primarily interested in saving money not the reliability of the devices.

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  6. JKB says:

    @Stonetools:

    Yes, the denigration of the blue collar worker is new? Not.

    Here is a comparison from 1886, comparing two successful white-collar politicians with a blue-collar worker, who just happened to transform the world with his work. But, before he changed the world for all humanity, he innovated himself out of his government job, twice.

    For example : The question being propounded, What is the value of the combined services to man of Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli, as compared with those of Sir Henry Bessemer? Ninety-nine out of a hundred men of sound judgment would doubtless say, ” The value of the services of the two statesmen is quite unimportant, while the value of the services of Mr. Bessemer is enormous, incalculable.” But how many of these ninety-nine men of sound judgment could resist the fascination of the applause accorded to the statesmen ? How many of them would have the moral courage to educate their sons for the career of Mr. Bessemer instead of for the career of Mr. Disraeli or of Mr. Gladstone?* Not many in the present state of public sentiment. It will be a great day for man, the day that ushers in the dawn of more sober views of life, the day that inaugurates the era of the mastership of things in the place of the mastership of words.

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  7. Pinky says:

    I tried the link and McAfee told me not to go there. I hate to write about an article that I haven’t read, but based on these excerpts…

    Tokumitsu’s comments just don’t track with the lives of a supposed worker class that she’s intent on protecting. I’ve known people who loved to deliver pizzas, paint cars, care for the elderly, et cetera. Maybe she can’t imagine that happening, but that’s a failure of her imagination, not of the lower classes. No, it’s more than a failure of her imagination. These lower classes aren’t hidden away in a factory; they’re people that you can walk up to and talk to, in order to find out what they’re thinking.

    And people aren’t class-bound. The factory worker performing a repetitive task has aspirations to the job he loves. Maybe he’s working on a degree or saving money to start a business. Maybe what he wants to do is his boss’s job, and he’s putting in the years at this level in the hopes of moving to the next level. Maybe he’s doing the work he loves on weekends with his band.

    And who says that upper-class jobs aren’t repetitive? Ask someone in contract law whether he sees a lot of variety. Maybe the article makes a better distinction between the jobs she approves of and the jobs she considers meaningless, but from what I’ve seen here, she just sounds like the worst kind of elitist, the one who’s telling fellow elitists about the problems of the non-elites about whom she knows nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    And who says that upper-class jobs aren’t repetitive? Ask someone in contract law whether he sees a lot of variety.

    I know, and have met, many people in high paying white-collar who, after about 20 years of the routine and pressure of their jobs (career), made a major job (career) change.

    I generally agree with Steve Jobs on this:

    You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

    This is not only true for people in white collar professions, it’s true for people in what we think of as blue collar professions. I have friends and relatives in blue collar jobs who love their jobs. They work in auto mechanics and auto body repair; some are HVAC technicians, electricians, plumbers, fireman, policemen. The reasons why they love their jobs are all over the place – some wanted to be in that profession since they were kids, others were in the family business and they wanted to continue it, others have a strong aptitude for what is required. Why doesn’t matter, they love their jobs, and to me that makes a big difference in one’s life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. rudderpedals says:

    This seems to be a real problem for the upper 10% but in that far too many of our neighbors aren’t able to find work of the DWIC (Do Whatever I Can) kind, I doubt that the self-actualizing potential of one’s work is meaningful for most Americans

    On the other hand I suppose we here are the upper 10% and there’s something to say. Concur 100% with James Pearce on the satisfaction in product development and the dissatisfaction with the customer schmoozing and interfacing. Sadly, the development money seems to be getting spent elsewhere and the big $ remain with the sales artistes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Mikey says:

    @al-Ameda: I’ve a good friend who’s an electrician. I don’t think he’d rather do anything else. He truly loves what he does.

    People too often underestimate the level of creativity required in the skilled trades. Problems arise every day that require the application of brain power in addition to tool power.

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  11. michael reynolds says:

    I’m supposed to have that “love it!” creative profession. I’m a writer who makes a good living. But my approach has always been to insist that it’s a job, just like the many, many jobs I had prior to this one. And I tell wannabe writers to treat it like a job, because if you wait around for “inspiration” and joy and love and happiness you end up writing one book, get paid $15,000 total, and have to go back to frothing milk at Starbucks for writers who understand that writing is a job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    Eh, I’ve never made a dollar doing what I love.

    I have, however, made a great deal of money at a job that didn’t really interest me and that I did mainly for the prestige and compensation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. CSK says:

    Once I had occasion to have lunch (for reasons that have no bearing on this discussion) with a group of super-successful, very rich businessmen. They asked me to describe my life as a writer and part-time professor. When I finished, they were staring at me with what I can only describe as naked envy. One of them finally said, “You have a good life.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: I couldn’t work a job that didn’t at least interest me. I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to do it well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Tillman says:

    @Mikey:

    People too often underestimate the level of creativity required in the skilled trades. Problems arise every day that require the application of brain power in addition to tool power.

    The “creative” trades require one solution to one big problem, usually with no moving parts (in a literal sense). The skilled trades require many solutions to so many damn problems, all with moving parts! So you can manage several smaller problems that in turn fix a big problem. I’ve learned, in talks with my “creative” trades friends, that I get better carthasis and therefore job satisfaction out of the skilled trade I work in.

    Computer coders have moving parts to work with, but they’re on a screen that you can’t damage in any way without getting called out by your boss.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Gustopher says:

    In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

    And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

    Here’s a nugget of goodness, even if Mr. Joyner questions “What does that mean?”

    If we are doing something we love, then doing more of it is just good fun. And, if we are doing something we just mostly enjoy, and trying to live the DWYL life, it is much easier for management to set expectations on hours and the amount of work done that employees then try to match — because they are doing what they love, right? who wouldn’t want more of that? — without demanding appropriate compensation, or seeking a good balance.

    The balance is probably the main point. Work you love is like drinking — don’t do it to excess.

    It’s also another spot where the author lets her own privilege shine through. Unpaid overtime is more often demanded much more coercively — the boss who says “Make sure you’ve cleaned up your work area and gotten supplies before clocking in”, etc.

    I work for one of the Best Companies To Work For, and it’s really clear that some of my coworkers buy into that, and are completely ignoring the rest of their lives because they want more of the Best Job Ever.

    However, most of those ones are also insufferable Libertarians who believe that they pulled themselves up by their boot straps from upper middle class white backgrounds with excellent school systems, through the horrors of the finest private colleges and have now reached the pinnacle of success — working for someone else — and that everyone else should be able to do the same. Really, they are a-holes, and keeping their work-life balance so skewed towards work is just a kindness to the rest of the people they would interact with in real life.

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  17. CSK says:

    William Faulkner hated being a Hollywood screenwriter. He got through it by repeating to himself, “I get paid on Friday. I get paid on Friday. I get paid on Friday…”

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  18. Pinky says:

    Mike Rowe, the former host of Dirty Jobs, is really interesting on this topic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    I couldn’t work a job that didn’t at least interest me. I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to do it well.

    If they pay you enough money to do it, you’ll likely change your tune.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: I do think she gets the bottom line right and meant to say so but got distracted by the fact that it’s easier said than done. I mean, go ahead and demand better hours and higher pay. If there are a hundred people just like you lined up to take your place, you ain’t getting it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: If they pay me a bunch of money for half-assed work?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    If they dangle a $2 – $5 million year-end bonus in front of you, your attitude to doing half-assed work might change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. michael reynolds says:

    The flip side is when you’re practically required to claim you love your job and to deny you care about money. That’s part of this, and part of what bleeds through the original piece. This leftover from the days of the gentry when the “better class” of folks would never even talk about money let admit they wanted more of it. People are appalled when I answer a question about “inspiration” and tell them I’m inspired to pay my bills and feed my kids.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: Well, in that case, if they’re willing to part with that much money and let me fwck off all day…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The flip side of that is a line I’ve often heard: “You don’t need this job; you’re a rich writer.” Excuse me? What’s surprising is the number of otherwise worldly people who spout this drivel. I can only surmise that they read a news item about John Grisham getting a $20,000,000 advance, and they deduce from that that people like me regularly get $2,000,000, half on signing and half on delivery of the manuscript.

    But I agree with Samuel Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Well, in that case, if they’re willing to part with that much money and let me fwck off all day…

    It’s a year-end bonus. If you don’t produce, you go home with nothing. If you work smart and hard, you get $5 million for you and your family.

    If you can’t motivate yourself with that, then yeah, maybe you really can’t work at a job that doesn’t interest you. But in the end, it’s your choice and no one is holding a gun to your head.

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  27. JKB says:

    @Mikey: If they pay me a bunch of money for half-assed work?

    And that is why your modern liberal artiste cannot find a job. They show up having studied nothing that improved their employability and with an anti-profit, anti-business, anti-corporation attitude, then wonder why employers won’t hire someone who is almost guaranteed to do half-assed work out of resentment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  28. JKB says:

    It is not terrible to do what you love, but, a better plan is to come to enjoy what you do. Perhaps to achieve the latter, you must try several things. Take a “systems approach” as Scott Adams did.

    Here’s an interview where Adams discusses that approach as well as the “follow your passion” advice. Spoiler alert: it is better to develop a hard headed plan with success as the outcome than to “follow your passion”, which may not be enough to sustain you when the going gets tough. Not to mention, you often have to adapt, overcome, roll with the punches before you can succeed. Your passion would need to be adaptable or left behind.

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  29. grumpy realist says:

    One major difference between Japan and the US: in Japan, the assumption is that you will be proud of your job and make it the best you can. On the other hand, even though you may not be paid that much, you still get the respect of society.

    If we didn’t identify worth==paycheck so much in the U.S. we’d have more variables to play with to reward people.

    And I think that nurses and caretakers aren’t going to be respected, period, until they all go on strike and let someone else deal with the task of getting Grandma onto the toilet. My own feeling is that we should be paying them a hell of a lot more than we do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  30. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    It’s a year-end bonus. If you don’t produce, you go home with nothing. If you work smart and hard, you get $5 million for you and your family.

    Ah, I see, misunderstood you at first.

    In that case, yeah, I’m sure I could use that as an external locus of motivation. But it’s quite likely I would find something in the work that interested me, even if a relatively minor aspect.

    I’ve generally been someone who would forgo making a lot of money in favor of doing work I found motivating and interesting. Fortunately, doing well at such work has given me a comfortable lifestyle (not $5 million comfortable, but low six figures and the ability to support a family on a single income in the D. C. metro area).

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  31. superdestroyer says:

    What most people need to remember is the difference between normally distributed careers and log-normally distributed. Normally distrusted career fields career fields, like pharmacist, can be well paying but will not make one a millionaire. A log-normally distributed career field such as being an author, an actor, or a political wonk have a few people who get rich and most people never make real money and have to give up.

    When people say “DWYL” what they really mean is that it is OK to pursue a log-normally distributed career field.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. Peter says:

    Even leaving aside the question of earnings, I’ll bet the average plumber or electrician is just as satisfied with his work as the average person in a glamor field such as publishing or fashion.

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  33. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner

    The problem is aversion to new social structures and institutions. We very much prefer to fiddle around the edges with “reforms” that invariably leave the original problem intact rather than do the truly revolutionary.

    Michael Reynolds is strongly of the opinion that technology is gradually eliminating work, starting with the so-called unskilled and working its way up the ladder of complexity. I would suggest that more broadly, capital investment is simply too efficient over the long-term and overwhelms the effects of spending multipliers to stimulate demand. So let’s double down on investment incentives to eliminate work as rapidly as possible. Seriously, our goal should be to become so productive that repetitive, dull jobs are no longer necessary.

    At the same time we roll back the absurd credentialism (originally intended solely for staffing of the civil services) which has reduced labor force mobility to the level of sclerosis. Institute a national apprenticeship program which everyone is free to enter for any profession and tie it to a Jobs Guarantee which will create a position for you.

    Our current system isn’t the way it is because so few have the ability to create, it’s this way because it denies most people the opportunity. There’s no greater waste than the human capital we let go to seed due to social models that would still fit in the medieval period (schools, guilds, lack of universal quality education, “earning” our place with bizarre ritualistic suffering).

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  34. An Interested Party says:

    And that is why your modern liberal artiste cannot find a job. They show up having studied nothing that improved their employability and with an anti-profit, anti-business, anti-corporation attitude, then wonder why employers won’t hire someone who is almost guaranteed to do half-assed work out of resentment.

    As opposed to all those incompetent members of the Bush Administration or the various fools on Wall Street…yeah, no half-assed work in those places…

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  35. Grewgills says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Nurses here start in the mid 40s and at the higher levels are making over 100K. I don’t know that we can afford to pay them much more and pay for healthcare.

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  36. JohnMcC says:

    @Grewgills: Happen to be working in an ICU, operating a continuous dialysis machine on a young man whose ethanol intake poisoned his liver which poisoned his kidneys. He’s on a ventilator and on two continuous drips to stimulate his blood pressure. My academic preparation for this is: I have a 2-year Associate Degree. I love what I do.

    This is what I say to people who think “we” cannot afford salaries for healthcare workers. Imagine a room at the Holiday Inn. Remove the queen-sized beds and set up a hospital bed and a computer & desk. While you’re leasing hospital equipment you can also contact a respiratory care company and a dialysis company and move in the dialysis machine and the vent. The companies will come around daily (and whenever you call) to service and trouble-shoot the equipment. Labs will pick up and report results. Pharmacies will deliver anything you want. Doctors can visit the Holiday Inn.

    The cost of the room at the Holiday Inn is — roughly — $100/day.

    The room I am sitting in costs about $1500/day BEFORE the costs added by the dialysis and the vent and the labs and IV meds and such.

    The difference between that $100/day and that $1500/day?

    My smiling face and bald head.

    If you think nurses are an “expense” you have no idea how to recognize a “profit center” when one falls on your ugly fat toes.

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  37. C. Clavin says:

    I have DWYL for my entire life…across two very successful careers.
    I’ve never worked a day in my life…but they are still jobs. And they are called jobs for a reason.

    A wise man once set out these guidelines for me:
    Art always comes first. Money second. But you cannot make art without money.
    If you focus on making each and every project an artistic success you will make money.
    If you focus on making money you will go broke.

    I sit here typing from the 97th percentile of incomes.
    Your results may vary.

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  38. Tony W says:

    “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

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  39. Monala says:

    An article from a few days ago the in The Atlantic is an interesting contrast to Tokumitsu’s article, positing that we often do lower-income kids a disservice by telling them to pursue fields just to make money, rather than encouraging them to follow their passions.

    <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/the-danger-of-telling-poor-kids-that-college-is-the-key-to-social-mobility/283120/&quot; rel="nofollow"

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  40. Monala says:
  41. Monala says:

    @An Interested Party: Yeah, I was starting to feel surprised that I agreed with pretty much everything JKB was writing on this thread. Then he made that comment.

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  42. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    The world JKB would like us all to live in would be incredibly dreary and dreadful.
    (And that doesn’t even take into consideration the fire-fights in Kindergartens and Movie Theaters that he also would like to see become common-place.)

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  43. grumpy realist says:

    @Grewgills: I was thinking more of:

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two fastest-growing occupations projected until 2020 are “Personal Care Aide” and “Home Care Aide,” with average salaries of $19,640 per year and $20,560 per year in 2010, respectively

    level.

    Is this what people without a college education are expected end up doing?

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  44. Grewgills says:

    @JohnMcC:
    I teach in a nursing program and most of my closest colleagues and a good number of friends are nurses, so I am not disparaging the profession in any way. Starting at better than 40K straight out of a two or four year degree with reasonable likelihood of moving to 6 figures isn’t bad. It’s certainly better than I got after four years plus then teaching high school and a little better than my start as adjunct faculty at community college then university.

    The room I am sitting in costs about $1500/day BEFORE the costs added by the dialysis and the vent and the labs and IV meds and such.

    The excuses for that vary, but one of them is salaries of doctors and nurses on staff. Salaries of medical professionals are a driver of increasing medical costs* along with hospital consolidation, more medical devices bought per community than are needed at ridiculous mark ups, drug pricing, and an opaque and byzantine pricing system.

    * This can be overstated, but it is a piece of it.

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  45. Grewgills says:

    @grumpy realist:
    That is the likely place for them to start in the foreseeable future, particularly when public school teachers here are starting at less than 35K after four years and an additional credentialing program. Social workers are starting even lower after a 4 year degree.

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  46. What do I hate? Nothing. Hate is a sucker’s game. There is zero value to even entertaining it.

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