I moved out of my mom’s house right after I turned 18 to go live in Boston. I was trying to get my degree and doing makeup part-time to get by. All through my four years of college I was flat broke and trying to make it on my own working all the hours I could at Sephora. I would think, “I can’t wait until I graduate so I can work full time and become an awesome freelance makeup artist”.
Four years later, with my degree in hand, I couldn’t help but think of all the money I was going to make now that I had the time to. I would be able to work full time as a makeup artist and perfect my craft. I scoured through jobs landed some good gigs I spent all my time perfecting my skills and working.
Then the craziest thing happened…. I was still broke. How could this be? I work full time, I’m good at what I do, I’m not supposed to be struggling anymore! I’m supposed to be living in my beautiful Boston apartment, not in my old high school bedroom. I’m supposed to be picking up the bar tab for my friends, not cancelling our plans! Where did I go wrong?
Should I have gone to school to become something more profitable? Maybe something in finance or nursing? Nurses and accountants make a lot of money right? Except I hate math and my friend who went to nursing school used to talk about how she had to clean the bedpans for old people. Gross.
I started to think “What’s my next move? Am I ever going to make money doing the thing that I love, or should I get into a career that pays?” I think it’s something most of us think about. The question is, do you focus on making money or finding your passion
Often we hear people say, “follow the money, not your passion”. Money equals happiness right? Who needs passion when you’re rich?
Follow the money
This is the advice my dad would give me (he was also the one to try to talk me into nursing school). My dad is an Ironworker by trade and has been most of his life. Though it’s a difficult job, it’s a well paying and secure one. It is also one of the most dangerous jobs in the US. It ranked 6th on the list of the Times “Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America”. Fun fact.
My father got into Iron working because it paid well, came with great health care benefits, and lots of overtime. Subsequently, he also happened to really love it. He didn’t get started in Ironworking because it was his dream job. He has admitted to me in the past that he once wanted to be a marine biologist, but marine biologists don’t make that much money. Iron working was the obvious choice for him.
My dad followed the money, but he also loved his job. He went into ironworking because he could make a living but he also found meaning and purpose in the work he did.
When we were little kids he would drive by these huge buildings and say, “I built that for you guys, for my kids”. He was proud of the work he did. It made me proud of the work that he did.
We were not rich by any means, but he did what he had to do to support a family of 5 and he made the best of it.
Follow your passion
My dad’s story is the story of a man that started a hard job to make money and learned to enjoy his work.
On the flip-side of that, you could start with passion and learn to make money from it like the entrepreneur Lainey Morse who created goat yoga. The story goes like this; Morse was going through a hardship. She was getting divorced and, at the same time, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. With her life falling apart the only place she felt whole was on the farm. You can see the full story of how Morse got started with goat yoga here.
The point is, that Morse knew what she loved. She loved her goats, she loved being outdoors, and she took a shot to follow her passion… and it worked. She can live out her dream of doing yoga classes with goats while simultaneously raking in 6 figures.
The interesting thing to note here is the common thread between both of these stories and the two lessons to be learned.
- It doesn’t matter if you start with money or start with passion what’s important is that you find meaning in the work that you do. If you follow the money make sure that you can also love the job that makes you the money. If you follow your passion make sure that you can turn that passion into a profit, because a passion that brings no income is a hobby. Which is fine, but we’re talking about careers here!
- Buddha said to, “choose a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life”. Buddha also gave up all of his wealth to go sit under a tree and meditate. If I had the self-awareness that Buddha had I probably wouldn’t be questioning whether or not money is more important than passion. Buddha was far more enlightened than I, but still, I can’t help but think his logic is slightly flawed. Even the things we love can be difficult and feel like hard work sometimes. The goal isn’t to avoid work, but to work in a way that feels meaningful and gives us a sense of purpose.
It is unlikely that you will live up to Buddha’s “never work a day in your life” philosophy no matter what career path you choose. Loving every part of your job every single day isn’t realistic. I do hope that whatever you do it’s something that helps you to discover passion in a way that propels your dreams forward and allows you to create a life that you feel both satisfied and challenged by. Something that you find both purposeful and profitable, and that on most days feels less like a job and more like a lifestyle choice.
Now you tell me which would you choose, follow the money or follow your passion?