“Follow your dream. Do what you love.”
A catchphrase that has become the #1 career advice for our generation. We extol the courage of those who dare to venture the less trodden path in an effort to pursue their passions. Yet, somehow, that advice has never sat well with me.
Would chasing your dreams really lead you to happiness and success? I’m not so sure.
In the baking industry, where virtually everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon in owning a little home-baking business or cafe, I daresay that “doing what you love” is simply not good enough. It’s easy to question the viability and sustainability of any new venture in this almost saturated industry. And “following your dreams” may not be the best justification for entrepreneurship.
My current muse is a book called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport, who asserts that passion is relegated to a backseat in the pursuit for compelling careers. Rather, skills trump mere passion in the quest for a job that you love. Aha! There’s my eureka moment, finally. This book clearly explains the reasons, in the right words I could never have found, that justify my uneasiness with the “passion rule”.
We’d like to imagine that we would be able to find a dream job that matches with, and capitalizes on, our pre-existing passions. But I have to confess: I never saw baking as a lifelong passion to pursue, much less a dream career. It was never my end goal in mind.
My journey has its humble beginnings from the time I was a waitress at Wimbly Lu – a holiday job when I was in need for extra cash. My bosses were really flexible and open to new ideas, so I put two new experimental items up for sale (with their permission to enter the kitchen, of course). And as luck would have it, customers ended up enjoying the desserts so much that I was given the opportunity to work in the kitchen and produce the cakes on a regular basis!
Thereafter, every milestone in my baking journey has been a culmination of chance and hard work. Passion was a side effect of these milestones. With every opportunity to challenge my creative boundaries, to delight others with surprises, and to give back to the community through what I do, I grew more passionate about my work over time. My increasing passion was commensurate with my growing competence in baking, and greater autonomy over my creations.
As Newport finds, the craftsman mindset (a focus on what value you’re producing in your job) outweighs the passion mindset (a focus on what value your job offers you) in finding and creating a job that you love. The determination to improve, and to continuously inspire and surprise others, sustains me in my work.
However, a corollary to that is that, you have to be good at what you do – “so good that they can’t ignore you”.
We are enmeshed in a culture that extols success in terms of dollars and achievements. Running alongside that is the fear of disappointment, or failure. The fear that the unforeseen opportunity costs to this chosen path will accrue to be so significant in the next few years that I may eventually regret your decision. The fear that failure – measured through (the lack of) returns to investment, perhaps – would send me back to square one. Acknowledging the possibility of failure is one thing, but being mentally, emotionally and financially prepared to accept it is another.
But it wasn’t until recently that I realized, what if there is no failure? What if there are only non-successes, or transitions en route to success? It’s a matter of perspective, but an important one that gives due weight to priceless moments and experiences in life. And nothing can substitute experience.
Experience is something so valuable, but intangible and almost immeasurable. The excitement I feel when conceptualizing or dreaming up a new flavour combination; the shared joy in knowing I have made someone’s day or made them feel special; the eureka moment when a test trial has finally become successful; the crazy brainstorming for new wacky flavours to experiment with over late night suppers – all these are cherished experiences from which I grow a little more every day.
Sometimes I’m told that this might be a waste of my sixteen years of education. But I’d like to think that the fundamental and most significant purpose of my education was not for me to secure a high-paying stable job; rather, my education has shaped my key values and personality traits, hence culminating in who I am today.
So, yes, I’m a baker, not because I am chasing my dreams or wanting of a path seemingly more exciting than the conventional routes, but because I just want to keep creating, and hopefully through that, make you, and this world, a little happier.
Pursuing your passion is never an easy task. Share your story here and encourage the many others out there who have yet to embark on their journey!