What’s it worth if it doesn’t make money?

Don't dismiss these fish just because they can't fly (copyright by torbakhopper on flickr)

Don’t dismiss these fish just because they can’t fly (copyright by torbakhopper on flickr)

The new year comes with a lot of questions about where I want to go, how I want to live and love in the year to come and who I am. As my friends feel the same way, I have had a lot of interesting and inspiring conversations in the past days and here is one tought I want to share.

I was having lunch with a friend who is free-lancing and we were talking about the project that fills his heart with joy but doesn’t fill his pockets with money. As long as you are one of us, who have to work for a living, that’s a tough place to be in. Rent has to be paid. Bacon (or tofu) has to be brought home.

So, when you are in a situation like this, people may ask you: “What’s it worth if it doesn’t make money? Nice that you have a passion, but if it doesn’t pay the rent, it’s just a hobby!” Really? What do you want to be remembered for? What is going to be your little or great legacy? Maybe this burning passion of yours will change the world. Or make your neighborhood, family, dinner table a better place. It might lead you to do the most meaningful valuable things. And just because it cannot pay rent, you dismiss it?

You could make a long list of people with “hobbies” (things that didn’t pay the rent) whose passions led to legacies that long outlasted their physical existence and made the world a different place… Start with Jesus, Ghandi, Mandela, add most artists, authors and many famous scientists…

Sometimes we are in the lucky circumstances that there is a great overlap between what we are passionate about and what pays the rent. That doesn’t make our passions more valid, it just means we are lucky. If you are not in this space right now, how about uncoupling the two: Find something that is bearable enough that pays the rent. And give your passion all the respect it deserves. Instead of ridiculing it like a fish that can’t fly.

4 Responses

  1. Hi Eva! Each time I read a piece from you..I cant help but commenting :) I completely agree with what you have said here. I am also free lancing right now with the only difference being that its more of voluntary work with no money really coming in…but being part of this world of research especially agriculture development is always so fulfilling :) Having said that I wanted to share with you an incident after I came back to India post my PhD. I went to the bank for some work and the manager engaged me in a conversation and asked me what I did. I told her that I work in the area of agriculture development. She gave me a very loving look and commented…’Oh wow! thats so sweet..what a nice thing to do and a lovely hobby you have…but what do you do for a living?’ All I could do is smile and say…thats my job too…she gave me an uncomfortable smile and carried on with her work :)

    • Hi Rupsha,
      Love it. Yes, many people cannot understand that you would even try to make your passion your profession. Or they would think you are some kind of saint even though you are just doing what makes you happy. When I lived in Ghana, doing agricultural and governance research, a lot of people back home told me how I was so brave etc. and probably imagined that I spent my days suffering to help the poor people. While I enjoyed my stay there immensely and felt so at home that I didn’t even want to move away at the end of my stay…

  2. A great book that really changed the way I think about art and money is the Gift by Lewis Hyde. Some contributions are so valuable they are beyond money.

  3. I like what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve added you guys to
    my blogroll.

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