Counterintuitive Ideas on Career-Choice

Do not make that you are most passionate about, your source of livelihood

That is what I have told many people who I interact with online. A few disclaimers are in order, though. I have not yet practically begun my career, so great portion of my analysis is purely conjectural. Also, the above idea if taken as an advise would apply particularly to those who are faced with the prospect of making a career-related choice (in India). Of course, others who are already into their careers, and armed with the benefit of a hind-sight can provide their feedback.

I will begin with an anecdote.

During my MBBS-days, I had come in close contact with my psychiatry teacher. I would rate him as one of the best teachers I ever had. In a seminar a group of students was to present, it became apparent that even two years after the completion of his postgraduation course, he was remembering the respective functions of alpha-subunits (click) of various G-proteins (click). Those readers to who this statement won’t make sense, suffice to say that his study was very detailed and he must have really loved his books and the field of psychiatry to have remembered all that. In short time he had become my idol. I had really started loving psychiatry, yet something was holding me back from thinking of it as a serious career-choice. Of course, he never nudged me into trying to take up psychiatry as a career, but on taking a stock of my own feelings, I concluded that my reservation was owing to the fact that despite knowing in great details the causes of many conditions at even molecular level, we as clinicians cannot do much to correct the ‘root’ causes!

This because, we cannot make the right molecule reach the right part of the brain to act on it. Molecules of any drug will reach even those parts of brain where nothing is wrong, and cause undesired effects. This in turn is because, brain actually uses a very limited number of molecules (called neurotransmitters [click]) to carry out the countless functions it performs. What brings specificity are not as much the particular type of neurtotransmitter released or the specific receptor for it, but more so the way the neurons are ‘wired’ to each other. E.g. a nerotransmitter ‘M’ when released by neroun ‘1’ when acting on receptor ‘R1’ present on neuron ‘2’ can activate it. In turn the neuron ‘2’ activates neuron ‘3’ by releasing molecule ‘N’ acting on receptor ‘R2’ present on the latter. Thus, final effect of release of M by neuron 1 would be the activation of neruon 3. But what if, instead of ‘R1’ present on neuron 2, we have receptor ‘R3’, which inhibits its function instead of activating it? Obviously, release of M by neuron 1 would cause inhibition of release of N, and neuron 3 would tend to remain inactivated. So now, think of a disorder wherein neurons in one region of the brain produce less of M. To counter this deficiency, if we deliver an oral dose of a drug that would enhance availability of M to neuron 2 it can compensate for the deficiency, right? The drug molecules upon crossing the blood brain barrier (click) will reach the fluid bathing the glial cells (click) that surround the individual neurons. The glial cells in turn would modulate the amount of drug reaching neuron 2. Now, the problem is that not all regions of brain are deficient in M! So the regions with normally functioning type 1 neurons will also receive additional amounts of M (because the administered drug would be supposed to do that). So, obviously depending upon whether neuron 2 in other regions inhibits or activates the ‘downstream’ neuron 3, this situation would result in derangement of many functions. Plus, not to mention the difficulty in making most drugs cross the blood brain barrier.

Of course, I did not have to explain what I wrote in the preceding paragraph to my teacher. It was only for the benefit of the reader. So our means to target specific disorders of brain (prominently, psychiatric disorders) are very limited. And that would remain so for the foreseeable future. This limitation would lead to imminent feeling of helplessness and frustration. The bottomline is: I had decided against being a psychiatrist. Some days before that, to look up something he had shown me one of his texts on psychiatry. It was a two (or three, I don’t remember for sure)-volume set (easily over 3,000 pages in all), and it must be said that he had read each and every page more than once. I was surprised and impressed with his dedication. I mentioned that to him, so he smiled and showed me yet another textbook a with one volume more than the previous one, and which he had similarly ‘ill-treated’! 😉 Also, as a clinician, he was gentle and empathetic with patients. I realized, it takes a lot for a psychiatrist to not get emotionally involved with the patients. They cannot afford to do so. So, they take refuge in humor. But despite that he had never been contemptuous of patients and used to take great care in maintaining confidentiality despite the fact that most patients coming to that hospital were poor and quite uneducated, so there would be little chance of litigation; I was left with little doubt that this person just loved psychiatry. A lot. And that he was also a very suitable to be a psychiatrist.

He was to quit the college job to start his own practice in one of the bigger towns in Maharashtra. He had this fascination to have his own practice. He made his intentions clear that he would like to lead a comfortable life and earn sufficiently for that. His wife is a dermatologist. So, I could not make out how much would he have liked to earn! Anyway, for many people, private medical practice is enticing not merely because it would offer them chance to earn more (which by the way, does not happen in many cases), but also because it satisfies their entrepreneurial urges. At that time (in 2004-05) his and his wife’s monthly salary had been Rs. 18,000 each. And he was 30. Obviously, it was a very low pay. But he explained that the situation was much the same in any college (now pay scales are better owing to implementation of the sixth pay commission).

So off he went to the town he had chosen. A few weeks later, he had returned to the college for some work. And as we were having a chat, he mentioned in passing that he had joined the local laughter club in his town. I was amused. I asked him if he indeed believed in the purported health benefits of such laughing. He told me, he had joined the club not for any health benefits, but for networking – to come into contact with more people, which in turn would bring him more patients (and more money)!

I was shattered.

Here was a man, perfect in my eyes to practice as a psychiatrist, also quite ethical, who loved psychiatry, and yet he had to resort to such dishonorable means to get patients to earn money? To me it was like his cheating on his love – the field of psychiatry. I cannot yet describe how I had felt listening to him say that. Did he care any longer for psychiatry? Would he still try to remember the G-protein subtypes? Would he still be curious to understand what was wrong with the patient or would he be more interested in getting the patient to come back to him only to dry the patient’s pockets, or earn money from ‘cuts’ (anecdotally, the 30% commission) received by referring the patient for other (needless) investigations and consultations? I want to clarify here, that what had shocked me was not his eagerness to earn money, or even some of the unethical means that he might have come to use in the process, but what had happened between him and psychiatry! He had loved it. And, now?

I concluded that what we are most passionate about is like a romantic relationship. We hold highly idealistic views of our objects of love. We hold them in high regard. We reserve the best we could be for them, otherwise we would be afraid of defiling them. Imagine, having to lie on some very vital matter to someone you love and respect, how difficult is it? A lot, at least for me. But making that passion a means of sustenance is like marrying it! The attraction gradually dies. The small things we dislike about it amplify and start grating on our nerves. The compulsion to earn using what we are passionate about makes us hate what we had loved to begin with. This compulsion also compels us into making ‘adjustments’ in how we do what we do with our passion. It starts seeming like we are prostituting our skills and abilities and the passion that would have gone in acquiring them only to earn damn money!

To say the same thing in somewhat different words, when you earn, you are the supply, your client is the demand. More often than not owing to market forces, it is the demand that shapes the nature of supply. The supply cannot be arrogant to say, “hey dude, here’s what I got. You want it? No? Sorry, look elsewhere”, because our dude would indeed look elsewhere! As an obvious corollary, the supply has to mold according to what the demand is.

Of course, ‘reasonable’ compromises can be made with our passion. Really? Remember, wasn’t your passion your Divine? If it was not, it was never passion in the first place. Wasn’t it something that you had held dearest to you, always maintaining its sanctity, never defiling it? Wasn’t that passion, the manner in which you let it unfold, an embodiment of what you were, what your deepest values and aspirations were? Now you have come to this, that you want to make reasonable compromises with it, eh? So, now your Divine is no longer Divine, but an agreeable neighbor who you could approach in times of need, or much worse, your ‘host’ who you parasite upon like a leech?

To give my example, I love to: observe; make sense of what I get to observe; think; organize my thoughts and articulate them in the most precise fashion possible through words. It is one of the greatest passions of mine. What would happen if I make a career out of it? E.g., if I have a mechanism for receiving donations on my blog, and each time I write something humorous I get Rs. 200, but each time I write on religion and god – criticizing the two, I get nothing. What would happen if my survival were to depend on how much money I make through blogging? Each time I feel like blogging on atheism, would I be able to do it with same passion and honesty as without any concern for how my write up is received?

Think of a school science teacher. What if she enjoys teaching concepts by giving analogies, and also likes to enlist the applications of such concepts? What if she enjoys making students think, and see their eyes fill with wonder on understanding something novel about something ubiquitous? But as you know, that is not what our education and exams are about! They are about mundane facts, or how to underline the most important “points” while answering; how to best convince the evaluator that you know the answers (irrespective of whether you actually know)! What if students do not want to learn what she teaches? Then our teacher might come down to the level of merely dictating notes. Or, if the students are to appear for entrance exams, and if the said teacher would be teaching in some ‘coaching institute’ then she would share ‘tricks’, ‘shortcuts’ and mnemonics with them. What would happen to science and her love for it; that would get buried somewhere? Can you imagine how miserable would she feel?

This clash between demand and supply has been very well exemplified by Howard Roark (click), the architect from Ayn Rand’s (click) novel – ‘The Fountainhead’. Though a great fan of Ayn Rand and her vision, I am stating here something almost contradictory to the ‘moral’ of her story. In her story, Roark triumphs against his adversaries. His complete antithesis – Peter Keating (mentioned in the same Wikipedia article on Roark) – initially succeeds a lot as an architect. Keating’s only drives are approval by others and money. In the process, he loses everything – including the only one thing he had truly loved in all his life – his friend of childhood – Catherine. While, what happened to Keating is very likely to happen in real life, Howard Roark was plain lucky! Also, he had this incredible amount of tolerance. Tolerance of contempt, tolerance of physical hardships, tolerance of deceptions, tolerance of slow rate at which time passed (in other words, patience he showed in waiting for Dominique Francon to understand that he could not allow ‘others’ to dictate to him what he did with his life, and that what others thought of his work was not a determinant of whether he should do it), tolerance for failures. The only thing he did not have was tolerance for derision of his Divine, i.e., his vision of what buildings should be like. His Divine was intensely personal to him – he could not tolerate others’ touching his building-designs, more specifically, the functionality behind them (Rand had sought to use functionality of building designs as the counterpart of ‘truthfulness’ in one’s way of living). His vision of his Divine was sacrosanct to him. Others’ visions, if not backed by the same passion, were mere contaminants for him. All this might make him seem arrogant, to be so unaccommodating, but what endeared him to me was his frank admission of the same! He had one true love – architecture – and he stayed loyal to it. On many occasions, by trading off his comfort and prospects of fulfillment of other desires. Thus, Howard Roark for me became the perfect human being that could be envisioned! He was my Divine (click), and still is. But I am not trying to emulate him. I know I do not have it in me to live the way he had. In fact, Ayn Rand had herself alluded to the fact that her (exemplary) characters are not to be found in the real life, but were extreme idealizations of traits that could be found in some extraordinary humans.To paraphrase her (and in turn, Aristotle), she had wanted to present characters, not as humans are, but could be and ought to be. And she had juxtaposed those perfect characters with the contemporary imperfect world, which was quite adversarial to perfection (as envisioned by Rand). She wanted to highlight the conflicts that perfection had to engage in to be able to survive in its purest form.

So, what is the solution? Should one abandon what one is most passionate about, and totally forget it, only for the fear of the difficulties that the world would pose?

In a way, yes. But of course, not totally. It is not as bad as it might sound. I think it is best to pursue what one generally likes but also has a few misgivings about as one’s vocation (for income). This will ensure two things. First, you would be sensitized to the possibilities of disappointment and frustration. If your fears indeed turn out true, you would be emotionally prepared for that. Also, as you would not have invested all your emotions in the ‘also-liked’ activity, you would still have lot many things to look forward to in your life if your career does not shape up exactly the way you had wanted. The second thing that this would ensure is that you will still have fascination for your passion. Your romance with it can continue on the side. You can pursue it as your amateur interest, doing exactly what you want, exactly on your own terms, without any care of who says what or how much you get to earn from pursuing it. Additionally, one can use that amateur hobby as a source of supplementary income (e.g., photography, painting, writing, etc.). Another related idea is to try to save sufficiently in the early parts of your career, and when you have requisite financial security, you could try making a career out of your passion.

Of course, not all career-options are open to amateur pursuit. E.g., joining the army or being a civil engineer or a doctor. But if one looks at such choices carefully, it must be asked, how can one develop passion for them without any exposure to the actual work involved in those fields? I have seen many adolescents/children get fascinated by the white coat, the stethoscope and the respect that doctors command. But that is not what medical practice is about! Fascination for such things hardly amounts to passion! And I’m afraid, quite a few teenagers harbor wrong impressions about what a particular field of work entails.

Also, despite my never having been to any western country, I feel people there do not need to be as much apprehensive while selecting their career for many reasons. First, there seems to be lesser competition for college ‘seats’. Second, work ethics are better, so it is easier to like one’s work there (whereas, the situations seems to be quite the opposite in India!). Third, the society is more accepting of various kinds of career choices. There would not be neighbors or relatives gossipping about an unconventional career choice one makes. Also, they are more accommodating in general of choices people make. E.g., someone aged thirty-five making a career switch would not be ridiculed by his 15 years younger class mates, but in all likelihood would still be respected for exploring new things. Fourth, owing to greater availability of college seats it is easier to make a career switch. Fifth, on the whole less effort is required to be able to afford the basic amenities for living. Meaning, even if one makes a bad career choice, and income would be less, their existence would not be ‘hand-to-mouth’ so to say. Whereas in India, vast majority of employed people have to struggle real hard for even basic survival.

So basically through the preceding paragraph, I just wanted to point out that the extreme paranoia that forms the backdrop of my entire argument, would apply only to India or few other countries with comparable social milieu and economic condition.

I am aware that given the extremely loud message conveyed by the media (in form of career advise in ‘educational’ supplements) and movies like 3 idiots (click) of to go for career involving one’s passion, my arguments to some might seem extremely wacky or deliberate attempt to be stand in opposition to common sense. However, that of course is not the case. 🙂

Your thoughts are welcome!

15 thoughts on “Counterintuitive Ideas on Career-Choice

  1. First of all, I loved this piece (inspite of initial prolix-assumption thanks to my blog-apathy) thoroughly.

    I liked for the fact that you maintain a going-against-the-tide-against-the-tide kind of view and explained it with anecdote. The part where you say how the person in question visits laughter club for enhancing monetary means, was like the crux of the whole story.

    Personally speaking, for a person like me who wants to be a director today and writer tomorrow, i must say, passion counts but as soon as soon as the M-factor comes into picture, the entire balance suffers a ripple.

  2. the prof situation reminds me of some listening to pirated music of the person they adore..

    on careers, what we like need not be what we are good at. and both might not mean we might earn big.

    generally people like to think only about money and not the satisfaction they feel as the criteria for success.

    i dont think for everyone money is everything. just that some form seems more acceptable than others. and there is a “this is normal” factor too. just because other drs network, the prof might have thought let me also network.

  3. perhaps i have been too harsh with the comparison.

    after all as long as a blogger doesn’t compromise the integrity for the sake of popularity, it would be ok if the blogger networked with few sites to increase exposure to his blog.

  4. As you’ve rightly warned (on Twitter) this is a long post, with many points. Before I could reply in detail (If required), I wanted to make sure I understood your post and make a few points which were obvious:

    Without getting into too much semantics, I’d like to provide simple definitions of 2 terms used in this article:
    iii. Passion – Boundless enthusiasm
    iv. Career – A chosen pursuit, profession or occupation

    Having read and re-read your article, I (hope correctly) found 2 important points you are making:
    a. One should not make his passion, his career
    b. One should take up what he likes, his secondary passion, his career (In your words : what one generally likes but also has a few misgivings about as one’s vocation)

    If we were to follow these rules, most people passionate about medicine, engineering and research would never be able to do so, because medicine, engineering or research, as you know very well, cannot be pursued as a ‘hobby’ – and this holds good to both India and western countries.

    Also, if people were always skeptical about chasing their passions, where would all the sportsmen we’ve come to admire and worship be?

  5. @ lost_scotoma:

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Yes, you’re right with regard to pointing out the earning potential v/s inclination of taking up such vocations as you pointed out. In those fields, earning is very difficult.

    However, what I wanted to additionally point out was that the moment one realizes that one can earn money through the career that had involved their passion, the carefree indulgence in passion ceases to be. It becomes a game of calculation. E.g., you might enjoy watching movies a lot. But if it would be made a condition that your earning would depend on number of movies you watch, and then on answering some weird questions based on that movie, you would start hating movies that you used to love watching! Still worse, if you don’t have a choice of what movie to watch at what time? Imagine, you want to watch a spoof, but you are not allowed to watch and instead made to watch a very deep, philosophical movie? [This is in line with marked forces shaping how and what you do with your passion].

    Take care.

    @ WDM:

    Thanks for the inputs!

    Yes, I have pointed out in the post itself that many people wrongly estimate their aptitude for various jobs. Additionally, they make a wrong estimate of what kind of skills and efforts are required to do a particular kind of job.

    So, though the above thing sounds ‘bad’, one of the side-benefits could be that what we never aspired for, or never thought ourselves to be suitable for, could turn out to be our true calling!

    I’m not sure, if you had meant to post some other comment in between the your two comments as I could not completely get you blogging-reference. Yes, if someone says that he hangs out at popular blogs only so as to get more readers for his blog without finding those blogs interesting (psychiatrist having no health-benefits from joining laughter club), I guess then, such person would very likely also make compromises with the content and style of his writing. It would lead to imminent neglect of the passion of writing. But yes, if one is passionate about evoking certain reactions in the reader (as against simply wanting to express oneself), then even networking solely to get more readers is not bad at all!

  6. @ bharkadatta:

    You’ve asked a very difficult question – what did I mean by passion? 🙂 Let me still try attempt answering it. Passion would be something that would tend to occupy the position of (one of the) purposes of living. Passion is not the means for living, but rather would be its end. I hope, I do not sound too rhetorical when I say that!

    Yes, I have pointed out in the post that certain professions, like medicine, civil engineering cannot be practiced as amateur hobby. But then I have also pointed out that for all practical purposes, how can one be passionate about becoming a doctor in class 12?! Meaning, one knows what it is like to play cricket or to sing or to dance or to write, or even what it is like to understand theories of science, but how could one ever know what it is like to diagnose and prescribe or to perform a surgery or to look at things under the microscope. Similarly, I don’t think one can e.g., be truly passionate of being a civil engineer (except one has seen one’s close family member do that work and would have also enjoyed them). We are just not exposed to such fields.

    And well, about the western countries, I have pointed out one more thing, that you can become a doctor at even the age of 45! It is much more difficult in India. There the society and rules & regulations seem to be more conducive to such career switches.

    In the end, you’ve raised a very valid question. The answer lies in the fact that my blog post is from absolutely individual perspective, whereas you ask it from a social perspective. So, for every hero we admire and worship there are countless who perish (because of ruthlessness of the society) in their attempt to reach there despite possessing comparable talents and skill as the heroes. At the beginning of your journey are you ever sure you would end a hero or one of the perished and ‘also-beens’? So yes, in that sense what I suggest in my post is from a very defensive perspective (“the extreme paranoia that forms the backdrop of my entire argument”). The call is individual’s to risk facing imminent pain in return for minuscule chances of success and fame, or to play it safe.

    Also, you might have overlooked one thing that I had pointed out in the post. What we think to be our passion need not be what we have aptitude for. It, many times happens to be just wishful fancy.

    I guess, when you had given the reference of sportsmen we worship, it was Sachin Tendulkar that was in your mind. I was told that in the beginning he had actually wanted to be a fast bowler! So see, what is passion was, was ultimately different from what he succeeded in. Likewise, one of the best batsmen we have had – Jayasuriya – he had entered cricket mainly as a spin bowler.

    But I hope I have been able to clarify that my post was not from perspective of the society. Society is actually not interested in heroes as it is interested in making out who the losers are (to be ridiculed and heaped contempt upon). 🙂

    Thanks a lot for your time and ideas!

  7. You’ve made your position very clear from the field you are specializing in – medicine (Both here and on Twitter). However, in many, many other fields, your observations are far from true.

    It is true that as kids we would want to be doctors, astronauts or even superman – it is incorrect to call this passion : in most cases, it is a ‘passing fad’.

    I agree to an extent that one cannot be passionate about something unless one ‘enters’ the field – but how one enters the field depends very much on the nature of the field : For ex, it is true in medicine that without some professional training it is not possible practice it, but it is not true in the case of, for example, photography – There is a great deal one can learn on one’s own and go out in the field and try it out for himself. Even if one is an amateur, one can be passionate about photography, even though photography at the highest professional levels requires as much skill as an engineer or surgeon!

    You correctly pointed out that Sachin wanted to be a bowler – but you quickly jump to conclusions saying it was his passion by saying what is passion was, was ultimately different from what he succeeded in! At best, we can only arrive at the conclusion that bowling was Sachin’s aspiration. But his passion for the game itself is unparalleled.

    On twitter, you raised the question of many, many failed cricketers – Anyone with a passion for a particular profession should be aware of the fact that not every one can be #1!

    I know 2 people who’re in the same profession as I, but have great passion for Scuba diving and photography respectively – they are using their careers to fund their passions & learn more about it, both are planning to take it up as a full time profession sooner or later. They are not faced with the moral dilemmas that you described a doctor would face : In any case, doctors who face such dilemma are far & few, because not everyone would have a passion for serving the poorest of the poor!

    With the opening up of the Indian economy, privatization has helped people chase their passions in a better way – especially those who are passionate about corporate jobs – these is little chance of these people ever facing any kind of ethical challenges, because most organizations operate on the highest ethics and corporate governance policies!

    Agreed there is a lot of politics and favoritism in the industry, but to the truly passionate, it is a challenge to overcome and not a reason to surrender!

  8. Hi!
    I think,I completely agree with Bharkadutta all depends upon the passion and the situation you are in..we cannot generalize..

    Your examples of your Sir were pretty good…I would support you here by taking an example of a filmmaker who compromised on his art to earn money…His name is Anurag Kashyap (I guess you must be aware of him)..He came to Mumbai with Rs 6000 to work in Hindi Film Industry..he slept on roads for many months..He has not compromised a lot in the films he has directed but he did write dialogues for films like Kaante (which was a copy of Reservoir Dogs) and Main Aisa Hi Hoon (which was a copy of ‘I am Sam’)..He confessed that he did it for your point is bang on..Anurag Kashyap didn’t have income from other job to back himself up and had to compromise..

    Bharkhadutta has made a brilliant point about privatization here..many new careers are opening up e.g Animation, tea-tasting etc..Yes, there are careers which don’t have much of a scope in India, but, if the people who are taking up that risky career are stubborn, they might end up opening up the gates for other people..

    I would take an example here.You must have heard about the amazing band Indian Ocean. Their music is bloody original and is of the highest possible standards..when they started out, they had just 4 shows in 4 years!So the band members took up alternative employment to survive…But,the alternative jobs were related to music and creativity.These people have proven that a original Indian band can survive. The new bands will find it easier to enter the market now.

    I can speak of the field I know..
    If a person wants to take up writing (scriptwriting/ publishing a book)he doesn’t have to kill his soul completely and work in some totally boring field to earn income. He can join an advertising agency instead.Many wannabe scriptwriters/ lyricists/writers/filmmakers today work with ad agencies to have a regular income. So,if they don’t become scriptwriters,they can atleast have a back-up and even their passion to write is fulfilled to some extent 🙂 Examples of people who took this path and are successful today: Prasoon Joshi, Jaideep Sahni,Shyam Benegal, Dibakar Banerjee etc..

    But yes,I have to agree with you on many points..a 15 year old kid wouldn’t know a shit about agricultural engineering unless he is on the field! Dreaming of playing for the Indian Cricket Team is pretty scary and the examples in Medicine that you have given also sound diffcult to me.

    About Roark: well, even he went to work in a quarry 🙂

    A very well written post 🙂

  9. @ bharkadatta: I think you’ve missed one of the points when you mentioned photography. I’ve never said, “don’t pursue professionally what you’re passionate about”, but just that don’t make it the main source of your income.

    With regard to Sachin being passionate about the game and not bowling, I’d consider it contentious point, but actually fast bowling and batting require very different skill sets. E.g., most fast bowlers are rarely good batsmen. If it were only passion for the game that would count then there’s no reason so many fast bowlers can’t bat well. Take the recent example of Muralitharan (okay, not a fast bowler) itself, how good was he as a batsman? But well, this line of my argument would amount to excessive nitpicking, so I leave it at that.

    If you’ll revise my post in your mind, you’ll realize, I’ve never talked of being number one or not being number one. That, too many aspirants have failed to be able to make even decent living for themselves, might be statistics for some, but for the individuals themselves it amounts to a grave personal tragedy – firstly not being able to earn, and secondly seeing their dreams shattered – when their only passion would let them down (we’ve not even talked of contacts, pedigree and bribing that many times are involved in selection). That’s exactly like how in a plane accident, hundreds might die, but they merely become statistics, but those who survive are hailed as illustrations of miracles, etc. My argument stems from the realization that it’s not easy or even worth being mere statistic. And as I’ve clarified above, my position is very defensive, but as of now I also consider it pragmatic. Of course, if one wants to test their courage & tolerance putting at stake mere one given life-time, there’s nothing much to argue there.

    I have also stated that my experience with this issue is very less (so of course, I could be wrong). If what you’re suggesting about corporate ethics is indeed accurate, then it’s good that India is emulating Western economies, which would anyway invalidate my conjectures….

  10. …About the scuba diving example, well that’s what exactly I’ve provided as alternatives in my post – pursue them ‘part time’ or save up sufficiently in the early period of one’s career from one’s ‘regular’ job, and then take up one’s passion full time.

    One more thing, in my post I’ve clearly stated that what I found shocking about the psychiatrist was not so much his lack of ethics, but the fact that his love for psychiatry had taken a backseat. What brought about this unthinkable change? Surely, not that he was unsuitable for the field of psychiatry as he had proved and judged his passion for the field for 5 to 6 years (four years of postgraduation training and two years 1.5 years of job as teacher and psychiatrist). I believe, the only thing that changed between the two was that in the early part of his career, earning was not a concern, but latter it was.

    Yes, there could be other confounding factors in my reaching this conclusion from the psychiatrist example, but I can’t think of any right now. My conclusion also follows from the fact that we humans usually do not like others telling us what to do or how to do it. Feeling of possessing autonomy is very important to feel good.

    “there is a lot of politics and favoritism in the industry, but to the truly passionate, it is a challenge to overcome and not a reason to surrender!”

    Well yes, that’s why the call is individual’s in what to do, but from what I’ve observed, almost everyone compromises, and very few are able to sustain that enthusiasm (or perhaps none).

    To summarize, my post is from the perspective of those who become statistic, and not the shining stars. For, it’s easy to look at shining stars and be tempted to reach there. But very few realize what made them reach there, or how many had falled how badly to reach there.

    Thanks again for taking time to comment!

  11. @ Sushmita:


    Since you completely agree with Bharkadatta, kindly read my above response to her! 😀

    Anyway, I think you’ve made fundamentally the same point as her (obviously, as you agree completely!).

    Think of the following analogy: There’s a button – there’s one percent chance that on pressing it you’ll get a crate of Cadbury’s Bournville (assuming it to be one of the best chocolates manufactured in India), but there is 99% chance that you get a terrible electric shock that can maim you for life and that you might also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (click) (corresponding with your losing confidence in yourself, and permanently acquiring a paranoia of committing yourself to something – just like some people experience after divorce or break up with someone of long-standing relation). And of course, whether you get chocolate or shock is entirely random. On the other hand, you have an option of pressing another button that comes with 50% probability of a mild electric shock, which you also get to anticipate and 50% probability of getting Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Also, with the second button you might get chunks of Bournville without having to risk electric shock.

    On first inspection you might feel that I’ve skewed the analogy too much in favor of my argument (could be true also), which is possible because your life-experiences and observations could have been different from mine. But just try a social experiment – ask as many people as possible who could get what they were passionate about (be it job, admission, lover, spouse, wrist watch, a new house they bought), what they felt after actually getting there? Did the satisfaction surpass their expectations or they were kind of disappointed? You might get what I’m trying to say from that statistic. :)…

  12. …With the scriptwriter v/s ad copywriter example you gave, just see what I’d said in my post, does it fit?

    “I think it is best to pursue what one generally likes but also has a few misgivings about as one’s vocation (for income).”

    If a profound lyricist like Prasoon Joshi did not have misgivings about advertising, then perhaps he was not passionate about poetry in the first place. But I believe, actually he must have joined advertising as some sort of ‘compromise’ (not necessarily a big compromise), and then when he could create sufficient financial security for himself, he could ‘diversify’ into what he was most passionate about. Again, you’ve also not considered the many people who’re as much talented or even more than who could succeed (in the examples you gave) struggle and languish without making a mark.

    And yes, Howard Roark had incredible amount of tolerance, perhaps that’s why he was character in a ficiton! 🙂

    I repeat, life is very precious, because we get to live it only once. Of course, I lay no claim to omniscience. Even my calculations can get awry. But I believe, each time we take decisions with far-reaching consequences, we should look at it from multiple perspectives, and as Ayn Rand had said multiple times in Atlas Shrugged, we must keep on checking our premises. 🙂

  13. You have said it all..Prasoon Joshi couldn’t survive with the income from poetry writing and hence he took up advertising..He had done an MBA and he did get a job in client servicing (another job in advertising were people holding an MBA get in).But he left it..copywriting is better in terms of creativity than client servicing..But yes, he had compromised to some extent to become a lyricist

    And I wasn’t just supporting Bharkadutta..was supporting you on many points too 🙂

  14. Sushmita,

    Hahaha! I didn’t mean it in tug-of-war sense that you agreed with bharkadatta completely, just meant that as you were in agreement with her view, my response to her would be relevant to you, too. 🙂 Of course, I didn’t want to let go off the opportunity of teasing *her*! 😛

    Thanks for the info on Prasoon Joshi. After I’d put in that comment, I’d just gone through Wikipedia on him just to check if my assumptions about him were correct. I realized one more thing: he’s from a well-to-do family & could’ve much easily afforded to take chances with his career.

    Thanks, again!

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