Do What Doesn’t Make You Sick

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Many people say you should do what you’re passionate about. It’s an inspirational idea, espoused often in commencement and graduation speeches, and these are the most inspirational types of speeches. However I prefer a softer formulation: Do what doesn’t make you sick with boredom. While it may seem cynical it forms a welcome out from those who feel out-enthused by the overenthusiastic.

Passion is difficult for the large proportion of the population who both don’t know what their passion is and are Australian. The second one might seem strange, but if you grew up in Australia you know that broadcasting passion about any topic will quickly result in having the piss taken, or balls busted. Both unattractive outcomes, and highly demotivating.

The start up I’m now involved in is challenging, interesting, and important. I’d be greedy to need a fourth attribute, when so many barely have one in their professional lives, but I almost did decline because I’m not passionate about health at all. In hindsight I’m glad I ignored the passion thing and took it up; I’ve discovered some advantages for working in a field I’m not passionate about.

My passion for physics meant I was very careful to preserve my name in the industry. It meant I stuck to the normal career path and didn’t try anything too interesting out of fear of ruining my name. In contrast the health industry feels liberating, I’m unnaturally confident and more audacious with my legacy. I can experiment and even have fun. Worst case scenario I overstep my mark and my name is mud in health – that’s cool, I’ll move into a new industry that I’d be at least as passionate about.

My alternative advice: Do what doesn’t make you sick with boredom ignores passion and instead hedges against the worst outcome – that you may be stuck doing something that is not interesting. Avoid that at all costs – boredom is the mind-killer.

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About Author

Mat very recently was awarded a PhD in theoretical physics at the Australian National University. After getting about as many qualifications as one can to be a scientist, he’s decided not that science isn't for him, but that he isn't for science. He lacks the patience for real research and so Mat fits better within the intersection of science and society. The two main intersections are how research and technology is injected into the world (through business and innovation), the how it is injected into each of our lives (through media and philosophy). Mat is currently working on a super-secret start-up in the health sector, supporting himself with a job at the commercialisation arm of the ANU.

1 Comment

  1. I suppose if you don’t know what your passion is then eliminating the things that are boring is a good place to start.

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