Prescriptions for Life

How to attain your goals, great and small, and create a life you love.

Being Good at Something Doesn’t Mean You Should Be Doing It

How did you pick your current job or decide on your career? You may be good at what you do, but do you love it? According to wellness expert and life coach Dr. Susan Biali, M.D., leaving passion out of your life plan (and your days) can be costly in all sorts of ways. Read More

Exploiting talent

I was in a gifted and talented program in school (a million years ago). My teachers told me that I should consider journalism school, because I was such a good writer. My SAT scores were good enough to win a scholarship, and I seriously started considering colleges.

Then my parents bought a business. They used my college money to do it. Suddenly, my 'bright future' was gone. My father offered to put me through nursing school, but I turned that down.

I decided to join the US Air Force- mostly to get away from the stifling environment at home. In doing so, I got intensive training in another area of interest to me- electronics. I learned about all sorts of radios, computers, and televiison systems. I became an accomplished technician, and shortly before I got out, I purchased a PC.

I did not realize at that moment that this purchase was to be a fortuitous decision. I quickly learned my way around the hard- and software of the little beast, became comfortable with taking it apart, doing mods on it, and messing around with it. It became my hobby- one that I got really good at. People started noticing, and I found myself becoming more popular as I became more adept with them.

This led to a decent job selling them at retail, and in turn, that job led me to an increasingly more lucrative one maintaining and repairing them. My hobby became my career, and I've been at this for 13 years. And I still love nearly every moment of it- even when I'm pounding my head against some diddly little problem.

It really is about passion. I love computers, and messing around with them. I know them inside out, upside down, and backwards. I find myself marveling that I get paid to do something I really enjoy. My father sometimes still nags me for not gunning for the corner office, but to be honest, I've seen too many corroded souls inhabiting such places. At least he doesn't think computers are a 'fad' any more. He kept nagging me about getting a 'real' job. Hey- I have one!

I've recently started another hobby. Of course it involves computers, but is in the realm of electronic music- digital audio workstations and music production. I'm at the base of an incredible learning curve, but hey- that's half the fun! Perhaps this might become my third career!

And I'm still a pretty good writer.

So happy for you

Thank you Sunfell for sharing your wonderful journey. I am SO happy for you! You put a big smile on my face and a light in my heart with this.
All the best,
Susan Biali, M.D.

Hmmm... I think that I'm just

Hmmm... I think that I'm just really happy-go-lucky by nature, and generally enjoy whatever I'm doing. Most of the time. I became a pharmacist because... I figured I could do the coursework (I remember details easily) and it pretty much guaranteed a full-time job at the end. I had a toddler and knew I needed something to support her. I like being a pharmacist, but it's not my passion. What it does is support my family and hobbies.

Not long after I graduated, and was working in a job I really disliked, I found something just for me: singing in a barbershop chorus. I LOVE it. I love rehearsals, I love competitions, I love learning new music and choreography.

A few years later, it became apparent that my daughter's health would not allow her to go to school regularly. So we rearranged our family financial situation, and I found a job working evenings and weekends so I could stay home with her and her younger brother and homeschool them. I discovered I was pretty passionate about that too.

So I'm definitely a "work-to-live" person. I'm not good enough at my passions to make any money doing them (and I don't mind). And I like my work enough that it's totally bearable to work every weekend (and whenever else I can spare) to support the rest of my life. It's a nice balance.

Barbershop - so great!

I think you've done really nicely, actually, what counts far more than earning money from a passion is having a passion, period. And I think it's also important to have some passions that have no financial pressure around them. These days I'm dancing flamenco more just for me, I'm performing much much less and just enjoying dancing for the sake of dancing. Travel is also a passion of mine that I love just for itself. I love how much you love barbershop, that is so fantastic! Sounds like you have a good life, congratulations.
All my best,
Susan

Growing up I always had an

Growing up I always had an artistic eye. I drew quite well, I enjoyed taking pictures, I liked just sitting and examining any object and all it's intricacies. When it came to movies I hated going to the movie theater. I could never keep up with the plot or dialogue because I was so distracted by the visual aspects of it. The camera angles, the lighting, the shadows, how it related to the scene, the colors used, etc. it was overwhelming! I never understood the movie I just understood the visuals and I felt dumb when people asked me about the movie later and I really could not recall any of the information they were telling me about. I just remembered the visuals and what I thought about them. When I graduated high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I liked making videos. I went to a technical school to study film production and found my niche. Eventually got an internship on set of a television show, then a part-time job on set of the same show, then a full-time office job on the tv show the next season. I have a logical mind and am very businesslike so I am good at this production office job. But I hate it. I somehow got lost in a boring paper pushing office job when I originally went to college for something else and started out in a creative position on set. Truth: Being good at something doesn't mean you should do it!

Visuals

One of the things I always look for when coaching clients and helping them find their purpose and passion, is something that stands out as really unique, something that makes them "weird". There is so much power in things that make you stand apart, I always see that as a huge signpost. Sounds like you maybe need to get back to the part of film production that was your first love? It's like me with medicine, I actually really love helping people create health and knowing information that will help them do that, but being enclosed in a small windowless space with one patient after the other makes me eventually go nuts. Doesn't mean I don't love helping people with their health, I do, but this format is the the wrong type of work for me within the right field.

Would love to hear from you if/when you find your way back to what you really love!
Susan

Quitting the day job

is not an option when you have a family to support and kids to put through college. I guess I could follow my passion as long as I didn't care about my kids having a chance to folow their passions, but that would be pretty selfish, wouldn't it? Also, some of us try to follow our passions when we are young but because of lack of talent or lack of luck or some mixture of both, it doesn't work out. I'm really glad it worked out for you, but there are many many more for whom following their passion is not an option. That's why we have hobbies.

Hobbies ARE passions!

Hi DroneDad,
So glad you made me aware that I hadn't been totally clear in what I was saying...I just made a small edit to my post. When I said it's important to follow your passion in some form, I meant as a hobby. As long as you're doing it, whether you're being paid for it or not, doing it somehow is what counts most. Some of us have passions that are easy to earn income from, some of us have fantastic hobbies that aren't income producers and never will be, but that doesn't make them any less awesome or essential.
Thanks for sharing! And keep enjoying those hobbies : )

I've grown up being able to

I've grown up being able to perform well at many things and even excelled in a few topics (including Psychology).

I'm amazing at Computer Programming and any form of software design, as well as managing and repairing virtually any computer related issue. My Computer Programming teacher pushed me into software developing, but I refused - at that time I was ignorant and wanted to be a Police Officer (which I have many skills to bring to the field). I told him my mind is much too complex and free to tackle syntax all day.

I can fix cars, and have done all the work on my cars myself - operating with an engineer's mindset rather than replacing parts; make sure the problem never comes back again! But my mind once again does not want the weight of working on cars; as much as it is a wonderfull passtime.

I went to school for Policing and found it's not for me, I am too creative of a thinker for it. I love writing, I love anything to do with Psychology and I love teaching!

I'm now happily pursuing my path in Psychology; hoping to work in Research and even teach on the side for a university, while writing a book or two.. or three...

Yes I am told my income may not exceed $100,000; when I could be making twice, even three times as much working in computers or car related fields, but I'm chasing something I enjoy! Fixing cars and the odd computer is just a passtime

Psychology Career

I loved your comment, thank you. And hmmm....if you start writing books, maybe have a blog, start giving speaking engagements, build an online community around your knowledge of psychology, in addition to clinical practice, you might earn a lot more than people think. Or, maybe you don't want to do any of that - you'll still be fulfilled and earning a decent income. Happy is more important than money, once you've got your basic needs covered...congratulations!

Thank you, I really

Thank you, I really appreciate that comment!

I can relate to this so much!

I can completely relate to this on two levels, although they are somewhat interrelated. First of all, being a musician myself I have seen all too often where kids are pressured by their music teachers at school to give up an instrument they are truly interested in and take up another instrument where it is felt there is more of a need to fill up "weak" sections. In a way I can't blame them too much, since it is only natural for the teachers/directors to want their groups to be as good as possible...unfortunately, the student's true wishes are shoved aside. And it's too bad you were not able to work on your first instrument of choice a little longer...with a little work and encouragement you might have eventually been able to produce a very nice sound!

But as far as the other level that is more immediate to me....as I mentioned, I am a musician (trombonist) who has played professionally for the past 37 years and love what I do in that realm, but for the last 30 years I have been balancing it with a "day gig" for a major corporation. I have a reasonable amount of flexibility in terms of being able to be away from work for my music endeavors, but not as much as I would like, and I have lost out on many high profile opportunities I would have loved to have. As far as the job itself, I am very grateful for the security it has given me in order to provide for my family and I am considered to have a high level of competence in it, and I am quite certain that I would not have had that security pursuing a music career....but I absolutely hate it! It has been a struggle all along, even to the point of contributing to my depression to a large extent. My dream (and I should say goal) now is to be able to retire from the job (and I am eligible to do so) in order to be more free to pursue my music career much like I did in the early days, unencumbered by the demands of the job.....but also to get away from the pressure of doing something I hate day in and day out! I really think I have a good plan in place to accomplish that without impacting our current standard of living - all I need is the courage to pull the plug. Unfortunately, I may have to do this with minimal support since my wife is not likely to be on board with the concept. But to me the potential payoff would more than offset any uncertainties involved, and I really think I and others would notice a huge improvement in my dispostion and overall health. And may I say, the encouragement provided in your wonderful book and blog are among the things that provide great encouragement for me - thank you so much! And I would love to share my website with you privately if you wish so you can see what type of music I am involved with. Thanks again!

Your website

Yes, please! Share your website with me! My email address is at the bottom of my post...
Susan

I got so much bad advice as a teenager...

I've always been brilliant with computers. I have a natural talent for understanding software design. I'm great with databases. I can fix just about anything, and I can pick up a new application or programming language in a heartbeat. It's not a passion, though; just something I'm good at.

When I was at high school, there were three things I excelled at: music, writing, and computers. Everyone kept pushing me into computers, telling me both that it makes a great profession, and that it will let me keep music as a hobby. That's what I did - and it was an awful decision I'm still hoping to correct. One teacher, for one year, spotted my passion for writing and tried to encourage me, but everyone else told me how impossible it was to make a living as a writer.

A passion for tinkering does not necessarily translate well into a profession. I'm good at my job - I'm talented at software development - but I abhor the tedium of it. Worse, because I'm good at all things IT-related, wherever I work I immediately become the go-to guy for any and all problems - even if there are dedicated support people who are supposed to be doing that job. It sounds like it might provide the variety I crave, but the sort of menial day-to-day problems people experience don't provide the sort of challenge I enjoy. I've been through a number of employers, always performing well, always hating my job.

On the other hand, I always loved music - even the dedicated, long-term, apparently tedious parts of it. When I was still at uni (studying software engineering), I spent hours a day practicing. I played in a semi-professional orchestra, near the top of what was available in my state. I taught whenever I could, and loved that too. Sadly, the reality of a full-time job means I now have nowhere near as much time to practice, which forced me to leave the orchestra I was with. With my practice and performance time so short, I stopped teaching as well.

I would have loved to pursue music, but parents, friends, career counselors, everyone was telling me to focus on the "better" profession (software) to keep my hobby unsullied by having to do it for a living. I've heard that advice given to others as well: don't do what you love, instead keep it as a hobby, so you can always do it for love, not for money. I think that's awful advice: if you can make a living doing what you love, it's silly not to.

For love and money

I totally agree. I remember once when my father told me my flamenco dancing should just be a "hobby" (this was before I had my own dance company in Cabo San Lucas, that did quite well thank you very much) - I hit the kitchen counter so hard with my fist that it's amazing I didn't injure my hand. Nothing wrong with hobbies (my flamenco is more of a hobby these days anyway), but if you believe you can do more with it why not try? I hate dreamkillers. They mean well but I still avoid them at all costs.

Dr. Susan Biali, I totally

Dr. Susan Biali, I totally agree with your views. Children showcase through their quirks their unique likes and dislikes yet parents fail to accept them. Not accepting children as they are is a recipe for disaster in the future. Children grow to please parents rather than themselves. They become unhappier and unhappier in the process. Like you said, good to avoid dream killers!

Thank you

I have been following your posts and wondering about what you have been working on so am grateful for this post. It really struck a chord with me - as does your story.

One of my passions is Mexico - the culture, language, people, food, art, geography, etc. A few years ago, at a cross roads in my life, I ditched everything to move there for a year and pursue my longest held passion - silversmithing. After a year I returned here and resumed my position - a crushing depression followed.

Like you, I am good at my day job, gifted even, but it is not my primary love. After a great deal of self examination about life priorities, I have built a little studio, get up at 4:30 am to work on jewellery, go teach an exercise class, and then head off to put in a day at work.

The interesting thing, is that I am now flourishing on all accounts, and so much happier. The simple integration of two passions in my free time, prior to heading off to work, has made my life, and my "billable hours" so much more rewarding. I am even fielding requests to sell my work. That cliche is true, do what you love and the rest will follow. Thank you for the reminder.

thank you

Thank you so much for following my posts, I always LOVE to hear from people like you. Congratulations on being so committed to your passion - I too am working harder than ever before but finding time for it all (especially what I love most, like blogging!). Amazing how energizing it is when you're living "on purpose"...and then the opportunities come along, the ones that you dreamed of...and you start pinching yourself all the time (and giggling a lot that it's really happening!). I had to leave Mexico too, which was heartbreaking for me as well, but I'm very excited about the new dreams that are now unfolding, they will for you too.
Susan

I can relate to this and not...

I'm a 22 year old guy in India, a place where education is contained in strictly defined curriculums and course structures. I graduated in commerce, and while in college, took to theatre passionately. It instilled in me a renewed love for the performing arts, an urge to tell stories, a yearning to fight issues.
I had to fight my parents really hard to let me take up a filmmaking diploma, because i really wanted to learn it, and me being wonderful in commerce had set my parents' hopes high-they had already visualized me climbing the corporate stair.
Once through with my filmmaking course I took up this job as a Production Assistant in an ad-filmmaking company, and a few weeks into the job, I realized this is exactly what I dont want to do. There's not much I can get involved creatively in, the job is just about referencing and making treatment notes for Directors who dont even have the time to talk to me. The bosses are happy with me oz I'm good at what they tell me to do, but I never wanted this.
I want to make my own short films, which I'm not getting the time for, due to this job, I want to go out and assist in feature films, which do not pay (not that my job here is paying me a bomb).

Now, quitting this job is the first thing I should do. But if I do that, I dont know for how long I'll be able to pay my rents. I plan to try for modeling jobs ( I'm an actor, pretty bad-but I wanna go to acting school later WHEN I CAN, to brush up my performing art ) to sustain me while I write and make my own films.

Sounds like a plan, but all of this is too uncertain to rely on. If I fail at this here, I'll probably soon have to go back and get an MBA degree ( Indian parental pressure ), and I dont want that.

Now, true to the title of your article, I am and have been good academically, I understand commerce and economics pretty well. But that doesn't mean I should pursue it, right?
On the other hand, I'm not the best actor around, or the most natural storyteller, or a wonderful filmmaker. But there's a yearning to learn, to explore, to exhibit. Should I let it go because I suck at it, or because I may not been able to?

Well, truth be told, I already got half your answer writing this comment. Thanks. Thanks for this wonderful piece.

Fabulous!

Follow that yearning to learn, to explore, to exhibit. No doubt it will take you wonderful places...and often those places end up being a total surprise! : )
Susan Biali, M.D.

I threw all expectations out

I threw all expectations out the window a long time ago. Now, I'm pretty lucky with being able to, if circumstances necessitate, make some money to live for in different fields, I think at least. Just make enough to get by, while doing other things. I do what I want, or try to. If I wanna sit around and look at the wall, I will sit around and look at the wall, or try to. If I wanna build and nurture my garden, I will do that, or at least try to. If I wanna do whatever, then I will try to do that. If circumstances allow me to, then I feel blessed and am lucky.
I try to keep passion close to my heart. Do what flows me so to speak. I let my curiosity be my driving and learning force, and am glad and lucky when that is possible.
Financial freedom, or independence, is the only thing I find valuable with money, but it is of course important, so I try to get some and take good care of it, because it allows me some freedom to do what I want regardless of my money situation, unless that whatever brings holdings down of course. Then it is time to earn a few more.
If I can combine my passion with pecuniary matters, then I have hit a gold nugget.

This about bears the bottom

This about bears the bottom line of what I think on that point,

"Whenever it is in any way possible, every boy and girl should choose as his life work some occupation which he should like to do anyhow, even if he did not need the money."
- William Lyon Phelps

Thank You

Love this Morten, thank you!
Susan Biali, M.D.

Passion close to your heart

I absolutely love that phrase "I try to keep passion close to my heart". I really think that if you're doing that you can't lose, you won't get lost...I can absolutely understand the balance you describe, I live that too. My medical income helps buy me even more time to do what I love, travel, etc. It's all good!
Susan Biali, M.D.

I have been at the same

I have been at the same company for 23 years and was very lucky that for most of them I loved my work. Loved it. A few months ago, I was reassigned to a brand new area that I have absolutely no interest in, "because you're a smart lady....blahblablah...". This area is staffed with people either brand new to the company and/or the industry, and my former boss thought I would be a good member of their team.

I. AM. MISERABLE. I hate everything about it. I am becoming passive aggressive and potentially self destructive; I recently provoked our area's leader into screaming at me in a way I have never been spoken to in my life either professionally or personally. This after many many years of working with the highest levels of management and being respected and very appreciated.

I have not written a resume or looked for a job in 23 years and I know it's time but I feel stuck and angry. Trying to find my way through this......

Miserable

So sorry to hear about your situation, terrible. Yet I often say to coaching clients who are experiencing misery to this degree that it will likely prove to be a gift, because you have no choice but to make a change. If you could do anything instead, what would it be?
:)
Susan Biali, M.D.

Great Article

At 37 years of age, a housewife and full time Mother of 3 kids, I recently started recording myself singing on a karaoke website, having not sung for 15 years. The positive feedback gave me a real boost. I could spend hours in a state of flow when I was singing. Little did I realise that I was getting the vital practise I needed on my instrument and the confidence to put myself forward to sing at a Charity Ball. I am on the verge of starting a career as a professional singer. Having been through a huge list of things that I could do, because I am good at them, I have been in the process for the last 2 years of narrowing down that list to the things I love. Thanks so much for this article. It really speaks to me...right now.

Awesome!!

What a BEAUTIFUL story. It truly is never too late. I would love for you to keep me posted on your story, this is the kind of story I would write about in my books and share with thousands of people through my speaking work - SO inspiring! Keep it up for the sheer joy of watching where this takes you!
All my best,
Susan Biali, M.D.

Susan I found what you have

Susan I found what you have written so wonderful and yet so painful to read.I feel so full of admiration and a gladness for your being fully what you can be...yet it brings up pain that I am not realising myself.I have been a painter my whole life really..it is a passion...and core to my being,yet there is something that so often blocks me from working.I have had ill health all my life and have often been too ill to work,so that 'muscle'has never developed strongly.Also when i work it is with great intensity and very hard to sustain day by day.When I am not working at all I feel a sort of shame-but feel paralysed.It is very hard to articulate...but the sense that I am not being ,at all,fully what I can be causes me much suffering,particularly as it is my psyche inflicting this on me.

A book I'd recommend for you...

You are an artist, you will find your way to abide in your gift, I just know it. The pain is a signpost! I have experienced the same challenge with my writing - it can wear me out and take up insane amounts of time when I actually make myself do it, but it's so thrilling when I've got the finished product. I struggle so much, though, to actually get myself to do it. The other side is that if I'm not doing it, I suffer a deep pain. This is actually a totally classic situation, and it apparently means that your art is very important, both to yourself and the world (based on the book I'm about to recommend, which is brilliant).
Read the book "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield, you can download it onto a Kindle on your computer in a heartbeat ( I have no personal gain from promoting this book). I think it will do wonders for you!
Keep painting!
Susan

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Susan Biali, M.D., researches health and happiness. She is also a professional flamenco dancer and author.

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