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Enthusiasm doesn't mean a huge paycheck, mates A large paycheck doesn't necessarily come from doing what you love or from following your personal mission, although the wealthiest people in the word most likely are masters at wealth creation because they are doing what they love. For most people, as long as they're competent at what they do and working in a money field, a large paycheck can be the offing. A boring job can still bring about a high paycheck. A deadend job, however, won't. A large paycheck doesn't come from a deadend job."

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The Baker's Dilemma
Baker's Dilemma

What to do if your job brings you no joy or what you love is something you can't do well enough?

How many of us have ever been told to do what we love and the money will follow?  Since time began, this cliché must have been spouted as often as "just be yourself."  Too bad both pieces of advice only work in select circumstances.

If what you love to do is accountancy, plumbing, or teaching, then doing what you love should yield some kind of payoff.  A love of the work will bring greater enthusiasm to the job, more clients, and a greater livelihood.  But be forewarned:  the extent of the greater payoff will be determined more by the type of work you choose than your enthusiasm.  If I am bright enough to get into the University of Toledo's medical program and wind up an unenthusiastic general practitioner, while you're much brighter and attend Harvard's linguistics program but pursue a career as a passionate high school teacher, I'm going to be taking home the larger paycheck, a much larger paycheck I might add.  I know people who went to mediocre law schools and got positions at marginal firms.  Nevertheless, they earn more money their first year out than a very bright and multi-talented friend of mine, who has an Ivy League Ph.D. degree and has worked as an assistant professor for almost ten years.  

Enthusiasm will help a plumber become a more likable plumber, a professor become a more likable professor.  Likability may at some point translate into greater prosperity, but I say that with great reservations.  When you were in high school, did the more likable teachers earn more money than the ones with dispositions similar to a wet towel?  You already know the answer.  Likability had nothing to do with remuneration.  High school teachers are paid according to their degrees and their tenure.  That's it.  If they're affable, it's a bonus -- to their students.  It doesn't translate into a higher income.  Being enthusiastic only has a chance to reap you greater rewards when you're in a job that's not based entirely on a pre-negotiated salary.  An enthusiastic doctor or salesman, for instance, stands to attract more clients, and thus, more income.  

But, as already stated, the profession you go into has a greater bearing on your income than your enthusiasm.  In the real world, it's difficult to think of enthusiasm as entirely separate from your job.  You might be the most enthusiastic teacher within a thousand mile radius, but if you were suddenly forced to dig ditches for a living instead, could you still summon that same enthusiasm?  The degree of your enthusiasm depends, in large part, upon how satisfied you are, both with your current living situation and your prospects for the future.  

This explains why everyone with the necessary aptitude does not become a lawyer or a surgeon or a general manager of a hotel.  Instead, they choose to offer new age dance classes or teach yoga or own a scuba diving shop in some tropical locale.  It might seem easy to tell yourself you could work X number of years at a high flying respectable job, just because it pays very well, but if you're not that excited about it, life becomes less meaningful and summoning the energy to go to work another day turns into an ordeal.  I've met plenty of people who abandoned superb paying jobs to pursue a life more to their own making, a life filled with more enthusiasm.  I'm sure you have as well.  

We've all been told that each of us has something worthwhile to contribute, and if each of us pursues our personal missions, the world would be a better place for everyone.  Well, for the sake of argument, imagine a baker in a small town.  He's not a very good  baker.   In fact, he's quite a bad one.  His breads aren't moist or doughy.  His cakes are crusty.  He's not a terrible baker because he lacks the enthusiasm for it.  No.  This baker rather enjoys baking, but just has no talent for it.  Lucky for him, he's the only baker in town and he's an extremely nice fellow, so people buy his mediocre baked goods anyway.  I appreciate this is not a completely realistic example because in today's franchised world, a chain would soon appear in this second-rate baker's town and knock him out of business.  A generation or two ago, however, when people knew their bakers and grocers personally, a run-of-the-mill baker might've been able to eke out a living.  

In our example, baking brings our baker his greatest passion, even though he can't do it well. Eventually, the economics of supply and demand shut him out, and our baker is forced to do something else for a living which he has less enthusiasm for.  

Welcome to life.  Most of us are like this baker in one way or another.  We're not particularly great at our jobs.  We may be competent or acceptable, but we're not sitting at the top of the heap.  But, unlike the baker, we're not enthused with our work, so we have an excuse.

What about the people who are enthused with their work and pretty darned good at, too,  but can't make an acceptable living at it, people such as character actors, musicians, writers, and singers?  If these people can't earn enough to support themselves and their families, they necessarily have to seek other employment in jobs they may not be so enthusiastic about.  Think of all the actors you meet waiting tables in New York City.

Now, not all these characters actors and musicians and writers and singers are good at what they do.  Most are like our baker friend -- pretty average.  In the long run, it's to theirs and to society's benefit that they be forced to seek employment elsewhere, in something they're better at.  Still, a minority of the crowd is immensely talented.  A few of them find their big breaks and go on to a life doing what they love with the money following.  The rest need to find alternatives.

I think it's quite true that if you surveyed the wealthiest people in the world, none of them would have struck it rich doing work they hated.  Each of them had a passion for the projects they invested their time in to produce their wealth.  Their success doesn't verify that doing what you love leads money to follow.  Not at all.  More accurately, by doing what you love, you've just got a better chance of the money following.  

The trick in life for us all is to try to find a way to balance enthusiasm with the greatest possible payoff.  A very few of us are extremely fortunate.  We hit the lottery and become movie or pop stars or channel our enthusiasm into entrepreneurially creating our own jobs and wind up with a huge payout.  A lot more of us are not so lucky.  We feel we can't pursue the work which fills us with the most energy because the statistical odds against us succeeding are too great.  Therefore, we trade some of our enthusiasm for a more secure job that yields a greater payout but brings no sense of greater satisfaction.  

I call this balancing act the Baker's Dilemma.  The highly paid lawyer who works for a prestigious DC firm, dislikes his job, but feels he can't leave because he'll suffer a standard of living drop -- he's facing the Baker's Dilemma.  The actor resembling Marlo Brando who's been turned down for his fortieth straight audition and is feeling the pressure to get an office job -- that's the Baker's Dilemma.  You're mentally trapped in some sort of eerie limbo state, where you feel that what you're doing isn't bringing about any contribution.  Either you're receiving some validation for your work, but the validation means nothing because the work means nothing to you, or you're receiving no validation at all and wonder if you're really meant to pursue the path you're on.    

There's no cut-and-dried answer to the Baker's Dilemma, and if we make the wrong decision, there are no do-overs.  Money isn't everything, but it's insipid to believe that money is nothing either.  Money -- or the lack of it -- has the ability to make us do things we normally wouldn't consider, and sometimes sticking it out in a well paid job which bores us to tears is worth the while because if we left that job, we'd really have no clue what better job we'd go after.  How can we expect to if we have no idea what 'better' means?  

Better to not make a move if you don't know where you want to go.  You'll never know if you've arrived.

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