Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Iron Kim

There’s a classic question that everybody, not just students, often grapple with at some point: Do I pursue my passions or take the safe, secure and “smart” path to success? College students may wonder: Investment banking or tour with my band until we hit it big? What may surprise you is that there are 30 and 40-somethings out there who ask themselves the same things. In fact, one 40-year old consultant I know frequently threatens to give it all up and live like a rock star while touring with his old band-mates. It was hard to answer this question because I believed that the answer really depended on the individual, since we are all motivated by different things and stand at different points in our lives.

Or, rather, I once did. But in this day and age, you can not longer afford to NOT follow your passions in order to achieve success. Blame the internet for increasing worldwide competition by lowering the barriers to access, or the baby-boomers for producing so many kids who reached maturity all around the same time or a whole handful of other reasons – it still won’t change the facts. Today, universities around the world are handing out a record-setting number of diplomas to bright, educated and talented students who will enter the workforce competing for the same kinds of jobs. Competition from talented but cheap labor from abroad means that the low-skilled entry-level jobs that would typically go to US college graduates as experience-building opportunities are being subcontracted to students in India or China.

Should that be depressing? Hardly. You weren’t really passionate about working those kinds of jobs anyway. And in order to be competitive in this kind of environment, you need to do something that truly motivates you – to the point where you can’t wait for Monday to come around. Or to the point where you’re willing to stay up on a Saturday night to finish a project.

Because for every uninspired law school student who drags his or her feet through law school because it’s a path to a “stable career”, there will be another who will stay up studying longer than you, forgo more Friday night parties than you and analyze maybe two more case studies than you because while it’s “just a job” for you, it means the whole world to him/her.

For every dreamer who thinks that he or she will “try out Hollywood for a year or two and see how things go,” there’s the star-struck wannabe waiting tables, living in a cramped apartment with three other starving artists and pleading with a casting director in order to land a role.

Those who do not love their jobs will be unable to successfully compete with those who do. Not in the competitive world we live in today.

No matter what job there is out there, if you don’t absolutely love it to death, there is going to be somebody, out of the six and a half billion people out there, who does. Somebody who eats, sleeps and breathes for it. Somebody who sees another assignment as an opportunity to excel rather than a burden to bear. Because in this day and age, people who are “ok” with their jobs or able to barely “tolerate” them will have to compete with those who are absolutely crazy about them and can’t tell the difference between whether it’s work or play.

And so in order to stay afloat in such an environment, we need to go on the offense, challenging ourselves to really lose ourselves in what makes us passionate about life. Because if you don’t make an active choice, I guarantee you somebody else (peer pressure, Dad, Grandma, society, etc.) will make one for you. Society, after all, does an exceptionally wonderful job pigeon-holing individuals into neat little compartments. It has done so for thousands of years and it shows no signs of retiring anytime soon.

The fact that we attend an institution such as Colgate is impressive. But it is not exceptional. There are many schools around the nation, if not the world, that could arguably match up to Colgate’s caliber. Your 3.8 GPA is also impressive, but again, it’s not exceptional. Employers and graduate schools are flooded with 3.8’s all the time. Perhaps not as much as a 3.0 or a 2.6, but enough to keep graduates you and I personally know who have 3.8’s unemployed. But passion is exceptional. It inspires. It motivates. It can take you from being another uninspired mediocre employee to a bona fide superstar in your field.

But at the core of it all, it just makes you really happy.

Contact Iron Kim at [email protected]