“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
– John Greenleaf Whittier
While visiting Universal Studios in Orlando, my daughter and I watched a fun animal show at the theme park. Afterward, we approached the stage to speak with one of animal trainers, a young man who told us that he loved his job. As a child, he said, his hobby was teaching tricks to the pets of his family and friends, and he spent all his free time playing with animals. Now, he couldn’t believe he was being paid to do something he loved and would do for free.
This young man had found a way to marry his passion with his career. It wasn’t much money, he said, but he didn’t care because every day felt like play. It was clear this guy was living his dream.
This is a great lesson.
It is easy to focus on making money, thinking this is the key to happiness. And while a certain amount of pragmatism is wise – we all have bills to pay – it’s a shame so many of us abandon our dreams when choosing a career.
My parents were both children of the Great Depression, and during my entire childhood they told me repeatedly that finding steady work at a good wage was the key to success. Yes, they said, enjoying my work was a nice benefit, but the most important consideration was making a good living.
It’s easy to see why they were so pragmatic. My father was born three months before the 1929 stock market crash. My mother was born the next year in London and was a child during the most brutal WW II bombings of that city. Both grew up at a time when the key to life was simply providing for yourselves and your family. After college, I was speaking to an older family friend – from the same generation as my parents – who told me to try to get a job at the post office. It didn’t matter to him that I had no interest in the post office; it was steady work, he said, and what could be more important?
When it comes to my daughter, I’ve encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Yes, I’ve also explained that there is a practical side to choosing a career, including earning enough money to pay the bills. Some balance is important.
Mostly, I want her to spread her wings and fly. I want her to pursue her passion.