02 October 2010

And Sturgeon Was An Optimist

Brit has kindly suggested that, as the iconoclast's iconoclast (making me an iconophile, and indeed I quite like a nice icon), I might one day write for the Dabbler on things that everyone knows but that aren't true.  (For example, that the Chevy Nova in fact sold very well in Latin America.)

Obviously, ever since I've been wracking my brain for something sufficiently obvious to be worth disproving, and I haven't really come up with anything.  The closest I've come is to knock down that terrible piece of trendy job advice: follow your passion.

Whatever you do, don't follow your passion.  Following soon becomes stalking; stalking becomes sneaking into it's bedroom late at night and abducting it; and abducting it becomes burying it at the crossroads while eating its still warm heart.  Following your passion will kill it.

This follows from Sturgeon's Law:  90% of everything is crap.  So, if your passion is movies and you become a film critic, what you actually spend your time doing is mostly watching crappy movies.  If you love cooking (which usually means you like making one big meal on the weekend after planning a menu and shopping for specific ingredients), what you actually spend your time doing as a chef is cooking crap.  (If you open a restaurant, rather than just become a chef, what you actually spend your time doing is losing money.)

Telling people to follow their passion is telling people that, if passion is their passion, they should become a prostitute.  Actual prostitutes are not in it for the sex.


Brit said...

Actually that would do nicely - The Dabbler is all about amateurism. (Perhaps if you love writing you should become a blogger, not a journalist?)

Can I use this is some form?

David said...

Sure, not least because I'm curious to see how you make it Dabbler-worthy.

Harry Eagar said...

That goes in spades for newspaper reporters, who spend most of their time watching or investigating things that are not news.

Or for military men, who seldom fight.

I have often thought of the example of Ching Lee, who trained a lifetime to fight battleship-to-battleship and, when he got the chance, ended the battle in about 2 minutes.

It's a good thing, though, that people (or some of them) do prepare thoroughly for infrequent but important events.

We see what happens when, for example, a G.W. Bush or a Nicholas II goes in untrained.

When I had Bell's palsy, my physician diagnosed it immediately, although he had never encountered a case in almost 60 years of general practice.

David said...


I can easily see that newspaper writing is exactly the kind of job that people would come to because of passion, and that would then kill that passion.

On the other hand, jobs that involve hours of tedium punctuated by seconds of sheer terror are a different phenomenon.

Hey Skipper said...

I followed my passion.

Worked out pretty darn well, all in all.

Peter said...

Is it following one's passion you are advising against or doing so too passionately?

David said...

Moderation in all things, to be sure, but what I'm saying is that the job destroys the passion.

There are always exceptions, but my guess is that even Skipper, sitting in the right hand seat as the computer he's riding in levels off at 30,000 feet and starts finding its own way from Shanghai to Anchorage, isn't in the throes of passion.

Harry Eagar said...

Possibly I am an exception, but after 44 years, I still like my job, despite the large amounts of time spent on 'chicken dinner.'

Even scientific research, no matter how passionately one wants to (for example) find the philosopher's stone, turns out to consist of mostly doing tedious stuff.

A machinist doing highest-tolerance work will often spend a couple of hours setting up an operation that is then completed in seconds.

Even Mickey Mantle spent half his time on the bench while the other team batted.

Hey Skipper said...

[Even] Skipper, sitting in the right hand seat as the computer he's riding in levels off at 30,000 feet and starts finding its own way from Shanghai to Anchorage, isn't in the throes of passion.

Keeping in mind, of course, that passion is the realm of younger men than I.

What was, for the best part of 20 years, once a passion has matured into a job that wants a Zen approach, and provides ample opportunities for reflection en route.

Of course, there is such a thing as an exception that proves the rule.

Brit said...

David - but didn't you follow your passion out of the legal profession?

Brit said...

I have Dabblerised this here.