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The Passionate Path vs. the Safe Path

The Passionate Path vs. the Safe Path

When it comes to deciding what to do with our lives, we are frequently presented with what looks like a very painful choice: the passionate path vs the safe path. The latter involves the slow mastery of a dependable profession; we will be bored — but we know we’ll never be fired. Meanwhile, the former is a high-wire act in which we fantasise generating an income from what we deeply love and yet we constantly fear penury and humiliation.

The choice can feel acute, but it may be less so than it seems, once we properly explore the concept of safety. We are never properly safe so long as we are doing something we hate or are pursuing out of cowardice.

In the deeply competitive conditions of modernity, our back-up career – the one we adopt out of fear — will be someone else’s central ambition; our plan B will be someone else’s plan A, which places us at an immediate disadvantage in terms of the energy and focus we are able to muster. The ‘safe’ choice might ruin us.

By contrast, what we love is what we are obsessed by anyway, we’d do it for free — which decisively increases our chances of mastery while reducing the price of failure. A decade of mixed results on a passion-project is inherently less onerous than unspectacular returns for a whole career in a hateful field.

It is in the end not very safe to use the one life we have forcing ourselves to do what we know from the outset we won’t enjoy — simply in order to keep living. This isn’t safety; it’s masochism. We may all have to spend our first two decades suffering through the education system; but at some point, we are allowed to leave school; at some point, we need to have a shot at answering what life could be about beyond obedience and timidity.

It is not very common to have a passion; most of us don’t. Yet if we are blessed enough to have one, we are risking far more than we should by failing to heed its call.

By The School of Life

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