Richard Branson has a life tip for us all: “You only live one life, so I would do the thing that you are going to enjoy.” Tyler Cowen says, “The rest of the advice, more pedestrian, is here.”
Holy cow! What could possibly be more pedestrian than that? Is there any rich and successful person in the entire world who hasn’t given the rest of us this advice?
Now, in fairness, Cowen was referring to the other piece of Branson’s advice: have a sofa in your kitchen. “The truth is, so long as you’ve got a kitchen which has space for a sofa, and a bedroom, and a partner that you love, you don’t necessarily need the add-ons in life.” Uh huh. Can I translate this? “If you have enough money to buy a house with a ginormous kitchen that can comfortably accommodate a sofa, you’re probably doing OK.” If I tried to put a sofa in my kitchen, there would be no kitchen left.
I know I’m being cranky, but I am sick to death of rich people telling us to “follow our passion” or something similar. (In a 10-part list, Branson repeats this advice in five different forms.) Some of us, of course, are lucky enough to get to do that. I’ve come pretty close, for example. But for most of us, this is a recipe for going broke. That’s because, sadly, the world tends to assign a low market value to most of our passions.
Here’s some better advice: try to avoid stuff that you hate. I admit that this is less uplifting, but it’s generally more achievable and produces reasonable results. You might not ever get your dream job, or your dream house, or your dream partner, because that’s just the way the lottery of life works. But with a little bit of effort, you might be able to avoid a soul-crushing job, a two-hour commute, and an empty relationship. Maybe. It’s worth a try, anyway.
But honestly, most of us are better off saving our passions for our hobbies. This won’t get me invited to give any commencement speeches, but it’s still pretty solid advice.