Converting passions into work kills the passion
26 February, 2016
There's nothing like watching your child set off to university filled with enthusiasm, trepidation and imaginings of the glittering career that will unfold upon graduation.
You hope that university life and their subsequent career will live up to expectations and that their enthusiasm will last the distance. So often though, real life turns out to be quite different to one's imagined life.
I remember seeing the results of a British survey that found only a third of lawyers said the job lived up to expectations and more than half of them wished they had chosen a different career path.
It occurred to me that these lawyers must be particularly disheartened given the years of study and hard work required to become a lawyer. Imagine wasting five-plus years working your butt off only to find it wasn't what you had hoped.
The same thought came to mind last week when I read interviews with several "financial advisers to the stars".
The advisers commented that their roles were far less glamorous than they sounded. They explained that working with famous athletes and entertainers differs from working with "normal" clients because stars often have short, unpredictable income streams. They come into a lot of money very suddenly but can then, equally suddenly, find themselves without a source of income.
A sportsperson can be injured or get too old, and musicians can see their careers die quickly after an unpopular album or concert tour.
A career managing the wealth of a professional athlete or musician during their peak earning years sounds exciting because there are so many more challenges than for a typical worker who has an earnings trajectory of perhaps 30 to 40 years.
But it seems that everything we imagine celebrity sportspeople and musicians do with their money, they indeed do. Often their spending on luxury items is unfettered and they outspend their way through life because they think they're invincible.
Some 16% of players in the American National Football League have filed for bankruptcy within 12 years of retiring from the game. The pattern of financial failure is so prevalent as to have spawned a reality TV show Bankrupt and Broke Celebrities go Bust!
For the advisers trying to guide superstars during their finite window of opportunity, the reality of their job is "far from glorious". One adviser expressed his frustration at giving "unappreciated or unheeded financial advice" with his clients taking notice of his suggestions "maybe half the time if I'm lucky".
Another talked of having to fly out to meet a client who was on tour, "all for a 15 minute chat".
It used to be said that the secret to a great career is following your passion. That advice has since been disputed, and today's thinking is more along the lines of: find something you're good at and you'll develop a passion for it.
One career adviser suggests "never follow your passion, but always bring it with you." He notes that real life has a way of stepping in and challenging our ideals and our expectations. "Converting passions into work is the fastest way to kill those passions. Surfing for two hours on a Saturday after a hard week might be heaven, but waking up at 6am every morning to do it with difficult clients is a very different proposition."
My advice to my daughter as she embarks on her university and professional career will be that ultimately the right path may not look as she imagined it would, but that doesn't make it less right.