Shit sandwich

January 03, 2019

What's your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?

"What should I do with my life?" It's a big question. We have frameworks for it.

One framework: "Do what you love". "Find your passion". "If you do a job you love, you won't work a day in your life". This feels like a young person's framework; it's about feelings, and emotional energy.

Another framework, what I'd call "strengths-based", says you should figure out your unique blend of skills ("I'm good a communicating complex ideas"), and shape your work/life around that. Silicon Valley's growth mindset cult—the one that says we can all be NBA athletes or billionaires, if we'd just try hard enough—hates this.

The "shit sandwich" framework reminds us that all kinds of work involves misery. Mission-driven nonprofits don't pay well. High finance pays well but involves a lot of stress and late nights at the office. Consulting seem glamorous? I hope you like airport food and parochial client politics. Startups? I hope you can handle being poor and watching your friends climb the corporate ladder, while you toil in obscurity working on things the world dismisses as "toys".

There's no free lunch here; if you want the good parts, you'd better want the bad parts as well. There's no fame / glory / accomplishment without risk, personal cost, of work; you have to like the bad parts.

I think these frameworks are like religions. Christianity teaches the importance of forgiveness; Buddhism has great insights about mental control, and nonattachment.

Related: Starving artist vs. robot.

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