Don’t follow your passion

Confused by the title? I am confused by the opposite. I have heard so many times since I arrived to the US that I should follow my passion, do what I want to do… Yet when I look around, so many people of my age, the Snake People (check out the awesome Google Chrome plug in to convert the word ‘millennials’ to ‘Snake People’) get stuck out of college not possessing the skills or any idea of what they want to do, simply because they “followed their passion”. How do we get unstuck?

What makes you happy

There are probably a ton of things that make you happy. For me it is drawing, painting, sculpting, writing fantasy and sci-fi stories, mathematics, logic, cosplay, machine learning and mixed reality. I do all of these things. Only a couple of them pay my bills, but I like doing them all. When deciding what you want to do at this moment of your life, list out the things you love, all of them. And then consider the next bullet point.

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What lets you live (aka money)

I grew up in a family where the passion angle was brought up emphasizing do what you like, but make sure you have a livable wage. When I was 12, I attended art school, which I really enjoyed, but approximately at the same time, I had to start attending English, German, Math and Chemistry tutors to make sure I had enough knowledge to get into a good university. The art school, as devastating as this decision was to me, had to go. My parents realized that if I were to pursue my passion, I would probably be living on bread and water right about now, and prevented me from going there. I am very grateful to them now.

Those were childhood years. What about college? I tried many majors that would have me stuck in a rut with only a bachelor’s degree – theatre, psychology… I ultimately chose computer science, because I could use math and logic, things that made me happy, but more importantly – I could get a paid higher than minimum wage internship with them. So when evaluating the list of things that make you happy, see which ones you can actually make money on, and pursue them. This does not mean that you would have to give up other things that make you who you are, but it also means that you will have a job and not starve to death.

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What makes an impact

While doing things that make other people happy is awesome, we live in a society and as social beings it is important to work on things that make other people’s lives easier and happier. Think of this as your own ethics code. Could I work on military software that kills people? Hell no. In fact, I would never work on the main Facebook app, because I believe it wastes a lot of people’s time (including my own) on doing nothing, and the world would be better off without it. So where did I end up? – on HoloLens team where I get to utilize four of my happy tasks (math, logic, machine learning and mixed reality). But more importantly, I believe in the mixed reality mission. I can see a lot of awesome things that will be created once humans can share technology in 3D world instead of a flat 2D world of a digital screen, and I love being a part of a team who are making this happen.

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My question to you is – what is it you love to do that will make an impact on people around you and keep you alive and well to keep creating?  Now go do it, and be CodeBrave.

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Don’t follow your passion