I know the title of this post seems cliché in many ways, but I promise I have a different perspective on this. I’m sure you’ve read enough articles about the importance of following your passion. I agree with some of those articles (most suck), but no one seems to address why urban middle-class India is at a point in time when it has never been easier or more necessary to actually execute on these dreams.
Pre-2005, there was much less talk of following your dreams and what not, because the generation which grew up in the liberalized economy was still thinking about buying Archie’s greeting cards for their crush rather than about what excited them (apart from their hormones). You never heard our parents or grandparents talking about following passion. They somehow understood that money is the most important ingredient for survival and happiness, and we turned out ok despite their being in jobs they didn’t always enjoy. So what’s our problem? Surely we can do the same considering we had far more comfortable childhoods right?
We can’t struggle through our careers precisely because of our comfort in childhood. The human psyche is an amazing thing, and as we begin to understand it better, we realize that struggle is an important component which leads us to self-actuation. In our parents’ case, they had crippling responsibilities when they entered the job market such as having to pay for sisters’ weddings, and our grandparents were completely dependent on their children financially in retirement. Our parents’ resolve to work hard through the week and save a good portion of their income came not from their genetic programming but due to external circumstances beyond their control. After decades of struggle, they’ve removed the necessity for us to go through that horrendous phase in life.
And yet, they expect us to work hard at our careers just like they did, because the end result of that struggle is a financially stable life and emotionally happy family. Fair enough, but what if our easy lives have removed our ability to work hard for money, because we’ve always had enough of it to meet our basic needs even if we weren’t rolling in luxury.
That’s why even if we’re not rich presently, we save a much smaller portion of our incomes than our parents, eat out more often than we cook, and go on expensive vacations.
If you’re an urban middle-class Indian who’s below 30 and debt-free, your parents probably don’t need your income, and won’t for another decade (if you’re really well-off, for their entire lives). They had enough to take care of the education, upkeep and weddings of you as well as all your siblings, and have some left over for a rainy day.
If the above paragraph is true for you, you have no business not taking risks in your career. You should constantly be questioning yourself about whether or not you’re enjoying what you’re doing, and think about what you feel strongly about. Once you do find that elusive object of your passion, you need to take the necessary steps to execute and make money. That’s when you’ll find the grit to struggle like your parents once did.
You can obviously choose not to do that for a number of valid reasons as well as excuses. However, when you find yourself to be 40 years old and laden with responsibilities, your family will actually need the money and playing with your cash-flow will be extremely irresponsible. That’s when you’ll finally gain the motivation to struggle through your career, and by then it will be too late to build the life our parents built for us and themselves (you’ll have two decades of struggle left in you as opposed to your parents who had four). You’ll be the parent who has to depend on their children in retirement, taking your family back two generations financially.
So remember, the obstacle is the way. Ironically, if you have no obstacles preventing you from moving forward, you’re going to remain stuck where you are.