Be Above It

We’re constantly being asked (and asking ourselves), “What do you want to do as a career?” Some are fortunate enough to have known the answer to this question ever since they can remember, while others are asked this while trying not to projectile vomit. We’ve probably all heard the old saying, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” from our parents, from our teachers or maybe from a creepy uncle who’s had a few too many by the end of the family Christmas party. Or perhaps that’s just me. But is it really so important to be above intrusive social factors that stand in our way of pursuing careers which we love?

Prestige is one of these factors that create a mental barrier between us and the jobs we find fulfilling. We define prestige as the level of respect by which one is regarded by others; in other words, a lingering relic of the days when social status meant everything. It’s often a driving force in people our age to enter highly respected fields of work such as medicine, law or business. However, a respected job is not necessarily what we personally believe is a fulfilling job, or one that we love. To quote doctor of philosophy, Paul Graham, “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.”

The idea of a respected occupation is simply an opinion. There is no chart with which we can measure how respected one should be based on one’s employment. An example of this false paradigm is that of a respected investment banker whose fraud may have driven thousands into poverty. For leaving the ball and chain of prestige in the rear-view mirror, we are rewarded with hundreds of choices. Steve Jobs, for example, dropped out of his unfulfilling course at prestigious Reed College before attending calligraphy classes, of which he was simply interested. Years later, he used his typography knowledge in designing the first Macintosh; a job, which not only made him a little money, but one he also loved doing. He was above it.

With prestige comes the idea of success. In our modern Western society, success often means earning bundles of money – and to a certain extent, money does play a part in being successful. Money implies a measure of independence and it allows us to have more choice in what we do, such as travelling. But for a long time, this perception of success has just been a projected image that we mustn’t allow to be the driving force in our future career pathways. Success doesn’t have to revolve around money. We all know that money can’t bring eternal happiness, proven by Australia’s list of professions that accrue the highest suicide rates in which finance workers, dentists, veterinarians and physicians (which are all high paying professions) made the top 5.

Television, marketing and advertisements each act as prisms through which we see a recycled portrayal of success; having two cars, wearing a suit to work, and living in a two-story house. I don’t mean to say that one shouldn’t aim to have any of these things, but as modern philosopher Alain de Botton has also said, “We should make sure that we own our ideas of success and that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions.” Many people who perceive success in this way are lacking in perhaps more important areas of life. A man I knew whose net worth was a cool $25 million never showed affection to his children or his wife and by the time the bell finally tolled for him, it was too late. He apologised to his middle-aged children for his neglect while on his deathbed. His whole life, he allowed himself to be overcome by his hunger for success.

Now let me tell you about a woman on the opposite end of the scale. With the little money that her Greek migrant parents had given her, she decided to wander the world as a musician, discovering that cultural experience was what she saw as successful. She didn’t follow her parents’ desires to join the family business; she was above it.

So my point, exactly, is that we should reassess the old spectacles through which we’ve been told to view our future career pathways. We shouldn’t settle on the education system’s career advice, but merely take it into account. Although it is important to work hard during university in order to prepare ourselves to make a living, it is more important that source of income doesn’t chew us up from the inside, poisoning us in stressful ways.

Whether we enjoyed school or not, we basically had to engage with it, but we certainly don’t have to commit to employment that we don’t enjoy. My main message is this; don’t allow your education to mislead you into regarding work as an onerous duty. As for other’s views of success, simply be above the advertisements, be above the television, and be above anything that tells you that success is a suit and tie, a mansion or a brand new Porsche.

So take your strange uncle’s slurred advice to do what you love and be above what society considers prestigious or successful. Ultimately, we will only punish ourselves in careers that we hate and work is not a punishment for living. Life is too short to worry about the regurgitated opinions of other people, which is why we must make the most of ‘work’ by loving it. If you wish to be an astronaut, a musician, a garbage collector, a writer, or a lumberjack, so be it. The question I now ask you is, will you trade away years of your life for a job that kills you, or will you search for a job that brings you to life?

Words by Jordan Leovi?

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