In an excerpt from from his recent project “A Week at The Airport“, Alain de Botton interviews the head of British Airways, and considers the true yield of ‘profitless’ industries:
“Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. In this sense, then, the CEO and I, despite our apparent differences, were in much the same sort of business, each one needing to justifying itself in the eyes of humanity not so much by its bottom line as by its ability to stir people’s souls. It seemed no less absurd to evaluate an airline according to its profit-and-loss statement than to judge a great poet by his or her royalty statements. The stock market could never put a price on the thousands of moments of beauty and interest that occurred around the world every day under the airline’s banner: it could not describe the sight of Nova Scotia from the air, it had no room in its optics for the camaraderie enjoyed by employees in the Hong Kong ticket office, it had no means of quantifying the ecstasy of takeoff. In order to understand such things properly, society would have to learn to look at airlines as one might consider a work of art.”
I believe that the question of whether or not to combine one’s passion with one’s income is truly personal. Though it often seems like it would be insane to turn down the chance to turn your passion into a successful career, I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been there and been disillusioned.
It can be liberating and glorious to find a way to make money doing what you love, but it also brings in a lot of baggage. Baggage like obligations and ROI and finances. It can also mean compromising your pure passion to make it more marketable. In reality, many people who try to combine passion and career end up shooting too broadly — the freelance writer who loves writing, but then realizes it’s actually just writing poetry that he loves. Not writing ad copy, or white papers. But he’s making a living writing, so isn’t he doing what he loves?