To Follow Your Heart (Or not?)

Today, I saw this amazing article in my Facebook feed, thanks to my friend Madhatter:

The article talks about how Tumblr inspired an entire generation of folks to code. I’m a fairly recent Tumblr adopter, but I have a very similar story with WordPress. I started blogging for fun with WordPress, and figuring out ways to change the appearance and add functionality to my blog helped me learn PHP, MySQL, and HTML/CSS. It led me to an entire career of freelancing, which eventually opened gateways to a career in WordPress, and brought me to Automattic.

In other words, I would simply not have this life, had I not started blogging for fun way back in the late 2000’s!

I’ve written about my story in detail in HeroPress, check it out:

The case studies mentioned in the Mashable article and my own story may be specific to the technology industry, but I think there is a deeper layer to it. These days, there’s conflicting discourse on following one’s heart. If you do a quick internet search, you will find many articles that argue (with proof) that pursuing a career that is related to one’s passion has both benefits and detriments. I belong to the former clique – I strongly believe that following a career that aligns with one’s passions could be deeply meaningful and would result in career success. In fact, I had argued for this proposition in a blog post that I wrote a few years back!

In this post, I don’t want to discuss whether following your heart for a career is good or bad. I leave that conclusion for you, the reader, as I believe that there is a lot of nuance and individual preferences in the outcome. However, I do feel that one should follow their heart, even if it is not for a career. I would like to elaborate why:

  • It makes you feel good
    Why do we live? What is the purpose of our lives? While we don’t know (and I doubt if we will ever find out) the answers, I do feel that our lives are meaningful if we do what we love. Spending some time doing what you love adds meaning to your life, and gives you a sense of fulfilment that few other things will help.
  • It brings out the best in you
    Following your passion gives you a sense of excitement and joy that improves the overall quality of life. The benefits that bring could be far-reaching.
  • You get better at doing what you love
    The more you do what you love, you get better at it.
  • You gain skills that help you in every walk of life
    Even if your passion is not directly related to your profession, as you pursue your passion, you learn certain skills. Some of those may not directly help you, but they might eventually be beneficial to you.
  • Wayfinding
    When you work on the things you love doing, it might someday help you find out what you really want to do in life. It might be your passion or it might even be something tangential – in my case, blogging helped me find out my profession. And when I started doing something I love full time, it eventually led me to other interests that have culminated in me pursuing an exciting and fulfilling career of community management. Several years back, I’d never imagined doing this for a living!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not asking you to resign your (potentially?) uninteresting job to follow your heart. Even with my belief in the ‘follow your heart’ mantra, I feel that this might be a bit of a foolhardy enterprise. All I ask is for you to spend some time doing what you like – it could be writing to your heart’s content, reading books, playing tennis, doing woodworking, or even spending some time with mother nature. Who knows… it might lead you to your life’s purpose, your raison d’etre.

And of course, I am speaking from experience!

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