“Finding Your Passion” And The Unawareness Of Privilege

It’s been a few years and it hasn’t died down — the exclamation that in life, that you must “find your passion”, which recently has often been said hand-in-hand with the romanticism of entrepreneurship. Do something that you love and the money will follow, they say. “Don’t waste your time working for a company that pays you ridiculously small amounts of money such as Rp5juta, Rp20juta, Rp50juta or Rp 100juta per month — build a startup that is aligned to your dreams, talents, goal and mission in life”, says one guy.

Statements like this are irresponsible and insensitive, at best.

First of all, not all of us have things like “goal and mission in life” figured out from the get go. I surely haven’t.

Not all of us have “talent” that is competitive enough to survive market forces. Remember, honing talent to a competitive level takes time and money. This is where privilege comes in.

Now don’t get me wrong — I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs, whether or not they started with nothing, or were able to build out their businesses from a position of privilige. The craft is the craft. But we shouldn’t ignore the role privilege plays, either.

My parents — my dad worked as a civil servant, my mother is a housewife — worked tooth and nail to make sure I had as many opportunities as I could open to me, recognizing that going to the proper schools earlier in life would open me up to more opportunities down the road. This is the platform of privilege that my parents built for me. Of course, I had to do my own work to make sure my grades were good but the platform built up over time has undeniable impact to whatever opportunities I face today.

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to choose a major in Design, at that time a questionable career choice. I had my own computer to work my assignments on — yes, this is still a privilege these days — and I had money to buy materials for building my design models. Yes, access to spending money like this is also a privilege. And there wasn’t immediate pressure to search for work upon graduation, aside from my own internal desires to end my financial dependence from my parents. Again, part of the privilege platform.

To merely ask the question “what’s my passion?” begins from a position of privilege, as many, many others less fortunate than us HAVE to work at places they probably don’t want to be, or don’t realise that their talents lie elsewhere. To take time to build something that fulfills your heart’s desire means, well, you have the money to spend for that time. Dreams may grow on trees but once you need a product or a service, you have to spend real money and real time, which is increasingly a luxury — even for the relatively affluent who may lose time and money in traffic jams.

And I won’t even get into the state of the education system, which simply cannot measure all types of talent potentials and aptitude. This again depends on the parents/family, whereas recognition and nurturing of talents from an early age will depend on the parent’s background as well.

Whatever platforms of privilege we have as entrepreneurs, we will naturally use them to the extent of our abilities, as they are as much a part of ourselves as our work is. But we must never forget how fortunate we are. Let’s not burden other people with these messages of “find your passion” nonsense, and inspire them with how to work.