The late Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford has been in the news lately. It's a wonderful speech; go and read it now, if you like - I'll wait.
One of the parts of the speech that has been celebrated is this:
"I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
The thing is, that's a lovely idea, but it gets read as meaning something like "do what you love, and the money will follow." That's not what he said, though. Steve Jobs became fabulously wealthy doing what he loved, but Steve Jobs was Steve Jobs: he was one person out of several billion on the planet. His experience was unique. To put it simply, "You are not Steve Jobs".
I wish he had said something in the lines of:
"You might not be as lucky as I was, to be able to do what you love straight away and be successful at it. You may have to choose between things you already love, and things you could come to love, and things you know you will never love. Whatever you choose to do, try to love it because you might spend the next 40 or 50 years of your life at it. It probably won't make you rich, although it might, but you will have spent much of your life in a project you love. There's a lot of reward in that."
Mick Jagger was asked in an interview if he thought that electronic music downloads would destroy the music industry, and make it impossible for musicians to get rich as he did. Jagger said that electronic downloads were making it possible for many, many musicians to get their music out there without needing big record labels. Sure, he said, it probably would be much harder to get rich - but through history there have been very few musicians who got rich. Jagger reflected that he had been lucky to come at a special time, when a lucky few - like himself - got fabulously rich from music. Such a thing had never really been possible for musicians before and maybe, he thought, it would never happen again.
Many people love making music. Few will get rich from it. Many people love making new gadgets, but few will get rich from it. Few people naturally love dentistry, but it may be a better career choice, for some people, than making music. As you decide what to do in your life, you may have to, so to speak, learn to love dentistry. But, in our world, you don't have to - and should not think you have to - do something you could never love. So don't.