Friday, September 7, 2012

Finding What We Want to Do, While Doing What We Need to Do!

Last week one of my friends, holding a senior position in the investment banking industry, quit his job and joined a start up company, in an entrepreneurial role.  He was considered a star performer, with a bright future in the industry. Therefore, naturally, his decision to take up such a risky endeavour in this uncertain period, that too in an untested field of sports management for educational institutions, surprised all his friends and peers.

To all those who advised him to reconsider his decision, he was emphatic in his reply.  He said he decided to do something that is close to his heart, after being influenced by two movies, namely, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara’ and ‘3 Idiots’.  According to him, these movies made him want to work in an area where his passion lies.

Whether his decision was right in the conventional sense, i.e., whether the new role is as remunerative as his previous job, in the long run, is yet to be seen.  However, he is happy even though for the first time in his life he is spending his own money instead of earning a salary!

This incidence reminded me of those advertisements that used to show misfits, struggling at jobs that were of least interest to them while still dreaming about their passion.  It also made me to introspect whether I am doing what I am passionate about or not.   I realised that even at this age, I am yet to find my passionate job!

My first earnings came from manual labour.  Even while I was studying for my Pre-Degree course I used to work on holidays and earn money to meet my expenses.  But when a chance came my way to join Indian Air Force even before I celebrated by 18th Birthday, it was like a dream come true.  At that age, serving one’s country as a solider gave an idealistic flavour and made me proud. 

However, it did not take much time for me to realise there is nothing romantic or idealistic about a soldier’s life.  It was like any other work, with its own successes and hardships and its own boredom and ecstasies.  The concept of idealistic soldier was lost very soon as I realised soldiers are like any other human beings, with all its variety- both good and bad, and the romanticisation is nothing but society’s way of motivating people to join a job that otherwise no one else wants to do!

However, not all was lost as it may seem from the above.  I enjoyed the work (never got an assessment below ‘Excellent’ / ‘Superior’ after my training, is testimony to that fact) and also used the facilities provided by Air Force to undertake further studies.  During my studies, I picked up a liking for law.  I thought here is another ideal profession for me to be able to serve the society.  After all, what better thing than being able to ensure justice to the needy!

So it was a foregone conclusion that when I finally left Air Force after 19 years of service, I had to end up as a lawyer.  But this time, the let down happened much faster.  Soon I realised that this too was not something that I aspired for, though I reserve my experiences as a lawyer for a more detailed post.

It took only 17 months for me to give up legal practise and move into corporate world as a Legal & HR Manager.  During the last 7 years, I moved through various roles, different capacities and more than one industry. The journey has been very rewarding in terms of career growth and economic benefits.  But am I doing what I want to do? Am I doing something that I am passionate about? I think the answer is in the negative.  I know, what I really want to do is something that will impact many more people, in much more direct manner, though I am yet to decide what it really is!

But then what keeps me going? Simple... what I ‘need to do’ is what keeps me going.  My passion alone can’t decide what I do.  My various responsibilities and material needs demand that I continue working in a position that is adequately remunerative, at least until I have made enough reserves to take care of those needs and responsibilities. 

We have two types of works. First, the ones we want to do and the second, the ones we need to do.  Indeed, there are some lucky people for whom both the want and the need coincide in the same work.  But for most people, these are different.  The want is decided by one’s passion and the need is decided by one’s social pressures and commitments.  Therefore, a person who wants to be a writer may end up doing the work of a clerk and another aspiring to be an artist may end up working as a policeman, merely to meet their economic needs and social responsibilities.

For these unlucky people, the choice is limited.  Accepting what they want to do might bring them greater satisfaction and happiness.  But it is what they need to do that usually brings them economic success.  The option of taking a risk to see if they can combine both is beyond most people!  In my opinion, blessed are those who can earn their livelihood from their passion! 

In life, choices are never simple and straight forward. Even in this choice, there is a twist.  Lets us see what that twist is.  In order to make the choice between ‘want to do’ and ‘need to do’, one must know what is that one wants to do.  What one ‘needs to do’ is often a function of external variables.  Often the family and social pressures, available options etc force the choice upon an individual, as fait accompli.

But as far as what is that one ‘wants to do’, one has to find it within own self.  No other person can be of much help here.  For example, even if a person can sing very well, he may not want to be a singer. Whole world will tell him to be a singer but his heart might be elsewhere.  People like me might spend their entire lives looking for that one thing that we want to do.

Often we are so sure of having found the answer and therefore we make all efforts to achieve that.  Yet soon after attaining it, we again realise that it was not the one we really wanted. The dilemma and the search continue.

That brings up another question- how do we make the most of what we got rather than what we wanted?  It is only by giving our best to whatever we do, irrespective of whether we are doing it out of our wants or our needs, that we can make it a positive outcome for ourselves and the employer.  

Irrespective of how much we aspire for something, there is no guarantee that we will feel happy or satisfied after achieving the same.  So, instead of leading our entire life unhappy and dissatisfied, we must learn to make the best out of available options.  A bird in hand is always tastier than the one in the bush

But that does not mean that we should give up our quest for finding what we really want.  Keep searching for it and meanwhile keep making the circumstances conducive to take the plunge whenever we finally manage to find it.   Also, even after taking that plunge, if we realise that we have made a mistake, we must be willing and able to move on to some other thing that might catch our fancy.

To conclude, we must learn to be a real rolling stone to be able to enjoy and get better and better throughout our journey, irrespective of the path that we are forced to take.   Change the path towards wherever we want, whenever we can, but don’t ever stop enjoying or slowing down the journey itself.  


  1. You are missing the third aspect ... What we choose to do ;-)

    1. Is there any other meaning for, we want to do & we choose to do, or both means the same?