Wednesday 22 June 2022

Advice nobody wants to hear: career and/or/as/vs. human nature.

1. I cannot provide advice on "career choices".  I can provide advice on human nature.

2. Most people give advice that is shaped (and warped) by their own positive experiences.

Someone who was a computer programmer 20 years ago may be profoundly ignorant as to how difficult it is to earn a living as a computer programmer today.

In the past, being a computer programmer was "easy money".  Now, it is easy poverty.

The man who is giving you this advice: he has "no skin in the game".

He is not thinking about the percentile chance that his advice will fail: he is not thinking about what you will do (how you will survive) if his plan is a failure.  He is thinking about this (and talking about this) as if it "can't lose".  It can.

You have to plan for the possibility of failure.

Many, many people in computer programming fail.

If you are not passionate about computer programming, and you are not talented in computer programming, why would you compete with people who are passionate and talented?  Maybe there is an answer to this question: MAYBE.

I have a reason to compete with the authors of children's storybooks, even if I am not especially passionate and talented about producing children's storybooks: I have an ethical reason motivating me to make the effort, even if I fail.  Some jobs may fall into this category (i.e., you're not talented at it, you're not passionate about it, but do it anyway).

However, in the year 2022, nobody in their right mind would say that computer programming is a "safe" or "easy" career compared to (e.g.) becoming a nurse, becoming an x-ray technician, or any of those other boring jobs attached to health services (some of which require very little formal education, and are actively sought out by new immigrants from third world countries for that reason: they are "a way to get ahead" soon after arriving in America, etc.).

Again, my commentary here is about human nature: I don't know you, and I don't know if you'd be the worse nurse in the history of the world or what.

3. With any kind of art (rap music, painting, stand up comedy, etc.) the verdict comes from the audience.  It doesn't matter what you think your art is worth, it doesn't matter if you find your own creation entertaining: either an audience exists for it, or else it does not.

I could repeat what I said about illustrated children's storybooks, above, under this heading: yes, there are some exceptions to the rule, and yes it is possible (e.g.) that it would be worthwhile for me to produce a series of children's storybooks that nobody appreciates aside from myself and five other people (because I have a sort of ethical reason to do so, etc.).

However, my point here is, under heading #3, that you have to ask the question of whether or not there's an audience that will embrace you: the rate of failure in the creative arts (and the performing arts, etc., "art" most broadly defined) is much worse than the rate of failure in computer programming.

4. You have to decide to what extent you're interested in working WITH your own nature, as opposed to AGAINST your own nature.

And the caveat is here: we are talking about your KNOWN nature --i.e., your nature inasmuch as it is known to yourself.

Most of us, up to a certain age, only know about ourselves, "I like video games".  We don't know what our talents are, we don't know what talents we lack.  We don't know if we would be a good police officer or a bad police officer.  We don't know if we'd be good at nursing, computer programming, etc., because we really don't know ourselves.

Knowing what classes you enjoyed in school (and what classes you did not enjoy) is similarly misleading.  If you enjoyed high school science class, that DOES NOT mean you'd enjoy a career in the sciences (it does not even mean you'd enjoy university level science classes).

Would a job that forces you to work in isolation (like computer programming) be good for you or bad for you?

Would a job that forces you to socialize with people (face to face, like nursing) be good for you or bad for you?

Consider the possibility that you don't know the answer yourself yet: you have to ask yourself questions about human nature in general, about YOUR OWN nature in particular, and then you have to decide the extent to which you want to challenge your own nature to change (i.e., work against it) as opposed to taking advantage of the inclinations/passions/talents you already have (working with your nature, not against it).

It would be much easier for me to write a comedy novel than to do stand up comedy; it would be easier for me to do stand up comedy than to make a documentary film; what's easiest may not be best for me ("personal growth"), may not be best for my audience, and may not be the best way to make money.