Life Isn’t Always a Party

In The Myth of Separating Work and Play, I made the argument that you shouldn’t choose a career based on what it pays or how practical it seems. My aim was to recommend how it’s better to Do What Interests You.

Some readers misinterpreted this argument as a naive suggestion to live your life doing only what you want. They thought that I was saying that life should be no work and all play.

I apologize for my lack of clarity. It was never my intention to promote these ideas, because I don’t believe them. I don’t believe you should live your life doing exclusively what you want. Similarly, I don’t believe that you should attempt a lifestyle consisting of “no work and all play.”

What I do believe is this:

In all walks of life, there are times when you must do things that you’d rather not do.

This is a life lesson that has been permanently burned into my brain as a result of my father’s relentless storytelling. It never failed: If I complained about something I didn’t want to do within earshot of my dad, he would immediately launch into the following story:

When I was at Trinity University, I had an economics professor who assigned term papers. I don’t mean that he gave the whole class a single assignment that we all had to turn in before the end of the term — this was a visiting professor from Columbia University with a low tolerance for cheaters.

He wanted every paper to be a unique work by an individual student, as opposed to a collaborative effort by a group of them. His method for ensuring this was to create as many topics as there were students in the class. So on the first day of the term, he walked around the room dropping the different subjects onto desks at random. When I received my assignment, I didn’t think the subject matter was relevant to my major.

I met my professor in his office after class. When asked what he could do for me, I explained that my randomly assigned topic didn’t relate to what I was majoring in. As I discussed the possibility of picking a subject matter relevant to my degree in construction management, he turned the back of his chair towards me and stared out the window.

Regardless of his seeming disinterest, I continued to present my case to the back of his chair. Once I was finished, I stood there expectantly while he continued staring out the window.

Without knowing if he was ignoring me or just considering my request, I eventually said “Excuse me, sir?”

He whipped his chair back around to face me.

“You will do your term paper on the subject matter that I assigned you,” he said. “There will be things in your life that you won’t necessarily agree with or want to do, but you will still have to do them. That’s how the world is sometimes. You do things just so you can proceed to the next stage of your life.”

My father left the office thinking his professor was an old fart. In time, however, he understood that the advice was honest. At every stage of his life — whether it was in college, the Peace Corps, the service, government work, or while embarking on his career in construction management — there were tasks that just needed to be done.

That’s life — it isn’t always a party. There will be times when you have a task to perform, an obstacle to overcome, or a dispute to settle — none of which will leave you begging for more.

Put another way, there is no such thing as “no work and all play.” Every walk of life will have some bad aspects, so Learn to Take the Bad With the Good.

If you've found this website helpful, please click the PayPal button. You will be helping me pursue my dream career as a writer. Thanks for your support!

2 Responses to “Life Isn’t Always a Party”

#1 Derrick Kwa on 13, Oct, 2007 at 11:48 pm

I think it’s a matter of the larger goal. If the larger goal is something you are passionate about (in the example you gave, if you are passionate about the major you’re taking), you’ll be more willing and able to put up with the bad parts that come along with it.

If you’re not passionate about the larger goal, however, that’s when you should quit, in my opinion.

#2 umar on 17, Oct, 2007 at 4:32 am

yet there are people who spend their lives doing something they never wanted to do. I personaly know many of them. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you are in love with what you do for a living.

Leave a Reply