“Numbers never lie, after all: they simply tell different stories depending on the math of the tellers.” — Luís Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway
My mother gave me lots of great life advice.
I have decided that I disagree with her advice on how to choose a career.
I was fourteen when she gave me this advice. A friend of a friend, a professor at the University of British Columbia, invited us to a cocktail party he was hosting to celebrate something. We were introduced to one of his colleagues, a math genius.
The genius entertained us for a few minutes with some math related trivia. We moved on and my mother gave me her advice on choosing a career. “Do not make a career of your biggest passion. You will end up with no difference between your professional interests and your personal interests. All your conversations will be about the same subject. Look at that professor, he spends his day working with math and, when he socializes, he only speaks about math. What a boring person.”
There was wisdom in her advice. It stuck.
I have since met many people that only talk about their work. I do not enjoy sitting with them at lunch. I like evenings with them even less. I try hard to change the subject. I once spent ten minutes talking about boxer shorts and one of my friends told me of a great brand. As soon as the underwear subject reached its end, the party-poopers were at it again.
I have met a few people that make their living doing what they love most. Most hate it when everyone only wants to talk to them about their profession. They are always trying to change the subject.
The professor was an exception. He really did love what he did. He was just socially awkward. He was comfortable using his practised routines about something he knew better than everyone else present. He should have left his comfort zone and learn to talk about his other interests.
The others bitch, plot, and celebrate political victories. They are consumed by their work and barely have the time for their passions.
Obsessive love is never healthy. You can make a career of what you love, just leave room for other interests. Most of all, please learn to talk about something other than your work.