Its OK to Not Be Passionate About Computers

Tracy Roesler bio photo By Tracy Roesler Comment

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We all know those people – they’ve just finished a full day of work programming and they rush home, and sit back down at their computer to work on their video game they’re writing; they go on on vacation and are really excited to work on that test framework they haven’t had time to get to at work. Maybe you are one of those people, and if you are, then I salute you.

I, however, am not one of those people.

Most days, my computer and me seem to get along OK. Some days, we’re barely on speaking terms.

And that’s ok.

It’s taken me a long time to realize it, but you don’t have to be passionate about something to have a career in it. It certainly helps, but it’s not mandatory. In fact, Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, actually advised against following your passion. He argued that you could miss opportunities, never be truly happy, or simply just not be good at what you’re passionate about.

It’s important that you’re not in a career field that you despise, because then you will never be successful nor good at it, and you’ll hate a large portion of your day. But it doesn’t have to consume you and be your end all be all. The corollary to Mike Rowe’s point is true: just because you’re not passionate about your job, doesn’t mean that you’re bad at it.

It’s time we give ourselves a break and stop being so hard on ourselves in finding our “passion” and working in that field. Historically, I doubt many people have been passionate about working in factories during the Industrial Revolution, or working the fields during the feudal system, but they did it as a means to an end.

Working can be fulfilling, but it is inherently just a means to an end. You are making money for providing a service to your company. It’s a business arrangement; don’t feel guilty because you only see it as such. There’s a reason why a job is called our “livelihood”; it helps us to live outside of that world.

Arguably, getting out of the mindset of career=(passion+life)/time can be difficult. I did a search just “passion work” and it returned a myriad of posts like, Top 15 Reasons Why Passion at Work is Important, How To Have Fun at Work and Be Passionate About Your Job, and The Importance of Bringing Passion to Your Job, just in the first page of results. It seems like these days, being passionate about your job is a prerequisite, and the fact that you sometimes stare at your computer going “BLAHHHHH, I just cannot even look at Kubernetes today,” is a bad thing.

There are conflicting messages out there. Steve Jobs said in a 2005 Stanford Commencement “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle” and of course the ever popular “If you chose a job you love you’ll never have to work a day in your life” (Side Note: NOT said by Confucius, or Tony Bennett or Mark Twain, see this article).

The Stoics of course, would argue against anything even resembling passion. They were, after all, stoic. To ancient Greek thinkers, passion could be considered a liability.

We need to change our mindset. Redirect the lens from a focus on passion, to instead one centered more on purpose. (cf. 7 Work Habits That Will Overcome Your Lack of Passion). We need to have a directed goal, the perspicacity to acknowledge situations and opportunities, and the perseverance to get through those tough times. The above Mashable article does a very good job on talking about different things we need to consider in our job (and a pretty good alliterative job as well). While it doesn’t discount passion completely, it focuses on key components needed to have a successful career – that don’t focus on your all consuming love for the command line or for Node.js. (In case you were curious – my passion for Pascal, totally useless.)

We need to move past the idea that we are our work, and that it’s our job’s duty to fulfill us. That something is wrong if we don’t find complete fulfillment in what we do, if we go home and don’t immediately begin working on something tech-related. Our job isn’t our identity, and does not have to be where our passion lays. It can simply be that thing we do to pay the bills, or fund our passion. That doesn’t mean be mediocre. Strive for and achieve, and be fantastic at what you do. It just means recognizing your work for what it is.

Your profession can also be your passion. There are no restrictions on what your job has to mean to you.

I’m just here to tell you, it can simply be a job.

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