So much passion seems to go into work these days. But is it really good for us?
How many times nowadays do you see people trying to convince employers or customers that they’re “passionate” about what they do? Sometimes it happens at a job interview, when a candidate has to persuade the interviewer that they love their chosen career more than the next prospective employee. Sometimes freelancers make the wildest claims about their strength of feeling for their chosen profession in an attempt to lure clients. And sometimes it seems that if we’re not passionate about what we do we’re in the wrong job, or we’re somehow inadequate.
But is that really true? Passion brings all kinds of things into the professional sphere that perhaps don’t belong there. Of course it’s good to enjoy what we do, but strength of feeling leads to the kind of hot-headedness that we might be better off without when it comes to making a living. Surely a cool head is a better asset in business than a burning heart.
And passion for your job can lead you to do far more than you need to do or should be doing. I speak from experience. When I was an eager young journalist nothing seemed too much trouble. I worked crazy hours for not very much pay and I loved it. Even away from the office, I talked and talked about nothing but work and what we should be doing and how we could do things better. But where did it get me in the end? As an employee, that kind of effort simply leads to burn-out. Those who get on; those who go up in the world, are not the ones who care passionately, they are the ones who look coldly at a situation and see how they can gain an advantage.
That’s why the chance of having a second career as a freelance translator has been so good for me. I like my job very much, but I’m not passionate about it. It’s the way I make my living, and thinking that way I can make the decisions I need to make without strong feelings and emotions getting in the way. I can also decide that I want to have a life outside work, that I don’t work weekends, that I take holidays when I want to take them without a shred of guilt. And when it is time to work I can choose who I work for and what I work on with my head, not my heart. Yes, I prefer some types of job to others, but because there’s no passion involved I’m never tempted to sell myself short just so I can do the work I enjoy.
You may think all this sounds cold and unfeeling, but that would be to misunderstand my point. In fact, it’s because I see translators very much as human beings that I believe it’s important and healthy for us to keep work in its place: an important place, yes, but not necessarily the centre of our lives and certainly not among our passions. My advice would be to reserve those for the bedroom and other areas of our lives where they won’t get in the way.