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My New Career
I've been reflecting on my working life and my skills lately and came to a surprising insight. I'm better at composing music and writing songs than I am at designing video games. I'm being careful with definitions here, because I'm probably a better programmer than I am a game designer by a considerable distance, but it still surprised me. After all, I've only been doing music, albeit mainly games related, for less than five percent of my working life.
Given my willingness to use the famous Bradbury quote (you've got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down etc.) so often, it's fair to ask why I'm not transitioning to a career in music, given it's something I'm really passionate about. It's a good question, but the answer might surprise you. Following your passion is usually a really bad idea for work.
Yes, you read that right, and I'm not being inconsistent. Following your passion can work if it coincides with high demand, and you can service some of that demand. If supply is massive, then you might have a problem. You have an even bigger problem if there's little or no demand. The key point is that this is about your work, not your hobbies. By all means pursue your passion as a hobby, but until you are capable of solving problems and meeting real consumer demand for the solution to that problem, it makes no sense to pursue your passion as a career.
So although I'm passionate about music, there's very little money in it as the supply is so high. Much like games in fact, where the bar just keeps getting lower as access to the market through more open platforms, digital distribution and tools has enabled most people to appear competent. So for now, I'm going to experiment with music, not expecting to earn any money from it. Not everything you do in life needs to be a side hustle after all, that's no way to live.
What I do advocate is that if you don't enjoy what you do, you are shortchanging yourself. If you're not where you want to be work wise, then the easiest way to get to where you want to be is to become very good at what you're currently doing. "Be so good they can't ignore you" as Steve Martin famously quipped. In becoming way better at what you're currently doing, you might be surprised to find that you start to find it more enjoyable. Passion comes from discernment , which in turn comes from patient practice and learning. Pivoting to something you would rather be doing is a a lot easier to do from a position of strength.
I almost left PlayStation, without a job to go to, when I was totally miserable in 2010, but it would have been a complete waste of the five years I'd already been there. All I had to do was up my game, and before I knew it, my career had totally taken off and another five years had passed by in a flash. Then I was able to leave on my terms, on my time scale, from a fantastic position, to pursue my passion. It had however, in the meantime, become a much harder decision, because after five years of upping my game and loving what I had to an insane degree, I had suddenly made my job the best job in the games industry. (That's not an objective measure, it's just the line I kept using, because it was true for me. I couldn't have asked for a better job, and in fact, didn't leave for another job, because I couldn't think of a better one.)
I certainly haven’t lost my love for video games development, but I regret not having spent more time on making music, so I’ll change that, but I won’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.