Do NOT Follow Your Heart

Note: This is Part 7 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

Follow your heart. Follow your passion. Go where your heart is.

Those are the common wisdom you might have heard from thought leaders, your teachers, your family and even your friends.

According to the author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, that’s dangerous advice:

…the conventional wisdom on career success—follow your passion—is seriously flawed. It not only fails to describe how most people actually end up with compelling careers, but for many people it can actually make things worse…

What’s more, The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment At Work Fosters Inequality points out:

Passion-seeking seems like a promising path for avoiding the potential drudgery of a life of paid work, but this “passion principle”—seductive as it is—does not universally translate.

And worse:

Passion-seeking presumes middle-class safety nets and springboards and penalizes first-generation and working-class young adults who seek passion without them. The ripple effects of this mantra undermine the promise of college as a tool for social and economic mobility. The passion principle also feeds into a culture of overwork, encouraging white-collar workers to tolerate precarious employment and gladly sacrifice time, money, and leisure for work they are passionate about.

If you think your’ve found your passion and you’re following it, good. Just know that you’re extraordinarily lucky, because that’s likely NOT the case for most people.

For most people like you, you’ll have to do better than luck.

You’ll have to consciously try out difficult things.

You’ll have to intentionally hear your critic’s uncomfortable thoughts.

You’ll have to bravely go where no previous you have gone before.

Your heart often tells you none of that.

“Your heart” is just a bigger stew of your filter bubble.

Whatever your heart tells you is far more likely to be something your mind finds comfortable, drowning in the milieu of cognitive biases.

Heart is a lonely hunter. You’re none other than the hunted.

Being a designer is far more about servitude than about passion.

Design is, by definition, a service relationship. All design activities are animated through dynamic relationships between those being served… and those in service, including the designers. Design ideally is about service on behalf of the other — not merely about changing someone’s behaviour for their own good or convincing them to buy products and services.

The Design Way

If you want to be a designer, then the first thing on your mind shouldn’t be how you have a passion for design, or how you followed your heart to be a designer.

Instead, the constant thought should be what you can offer the world and the people in it.

As a designer, you’re constantly seeking out opportunities to serve – for your organization, your colleagues, your family, your friends, the whole world.

Yes, like a real hunter.


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