JZ's Happiness Hacks
Happiness Hack: Choose a career that you have a passion for or that you’re good at
You’ve probably heard that old silly saying, “If you love what you do it’s not work!” Or “If you love what you do you never work a day in your life?” Or something like that. You get the gist. It’s corny but in many ways it is correct. Let’s not beat around the word bush, work is work. No matter who much you love it, even if you have the best job in the world, I don’t know: Being an astronaut, a pro athlete or being Beyonce’s personal massage therapist, there are some days when your work is still going to suck and will actually require work. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the reason why work is called work not play or vacation or frolicking.
Even the best jobs have some drawback or some bad days. Being an astronaut may be cool, but you do have to drink recycled urine. Even super star ball players get booed or have to do photo shoots. I’m sure even Beyonce’s personal massage therapists has tasks they don’t enjoy. Maybe Miss B has a cold and is sneezing on you? Maybe one of JZ’s weird friends is giving you funny looks? Maybe your hands hurt? Whatever this is the real world we are talking about. No not that silly reality show, there’s nothing real about any reality show. This is life. Somedays even the best job will suck like a heavy duty vaccuum. Not coal mining deep in the shaft and the canary just died, sucked, but still your job no matter what will at times feel like work.
One note should be added to this life hack. Unless you are independently wealthy, you also need to choose a career that people will actually pay you to do. I didn’t want to talk about money right up front because it seemed a bit crass but when push comes to shove you need a source of income to well, do anything: eat, find housing, buy things.
The hack really should read:
Choose a career that you have a passion for and people are willing to pay you do. Even though, I guess it doesn’t matter if you are good at if people pay you. Still if you are good at it chances are you will enjoy doing it which is a big plus too.
Of course chances are people won’t pay you to do something unless you are good at. Yeah my parents used to pay me to stop singing and to be quiet, but that wasn’t really a career it was more like literal mad money. You could be the world’s greatest rose pedal tosser but not only is tosser not really a world there wouldn’t be a lot of demand for that. Sure people having weddings might want you to come and toss rose pedals but it would be hard to make a sustainable career out of that. Plus you will probably piss off a lot of cute flower girls. You really do not want to piss off flower girls. Kicks to the shin are painful. Besides, pedal tossing is really a young person’s game.
If you are a writer, artist or actor people are bond to tell you, “You should just do it for the exposure!” Here are a dozen handy retorts to people who tell you that.
1) I can’t eat exposure
2) I don’t need exposure I burn easily. I need cash for sun screen.
4) Gee how thoughtful and cheap of you.
5) Take a long hike off a short pier. The exposure to the water will be good for your sole.
6) Why would I? (Then start to laugh.)
7) Do you do what do for exposure?
8) I’m not a nudist I don’t need exposure.
9) Great, when my landlord asks me for the rent, I’ll show him my exposure.
10) Sure and then Santa and the Easter bunny will bring me all I need to survive.
11) If I wasn’t so polite I would say: FU and the horse you ran in on. (But why get the horse involved.)
12) Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s how Elvis got his start. But he’s dead now so you see how that worked out.
The point is if somebody wants to pay you with exposure that means that they most likely are new and starting out which means you aren’t even going to get a lot of exposure for your time and effort and work. Oh if they have money they are incredibly greedy or cheap and you will next see any of their money.
Yeah, even if you enjoy doing what you do it’s still work that takes time.
The take away, just like you should avoid exposing yourself to the cold or the sun you should avoid exposing your work for free. Your time and effort is worth more than nothing, zero, zilch.
Now that I got the truth bomb out of the way time for the positive amazing spin. Work is certainly less like work and far more fun and fulfilling if you are doing something you enjoy doing. Plus if you are good at that will also help increase your enjoyment (we like being good at things) and also increases the amount of money people will pay you to do it. For example an original DiVinci sells for much more than an original Zakour. Heck, that elephant who pants with dung has their painting sell for more than any paintings I could create. I take comfort in knowing I write way better books. At least way better than the elephant. Plus I use electrons and ink not dung! Therefor I guarantee my work smells better. Take that elephant who writes with dung! Please note: unless you are an elephant or maybe a monkey you probably don’t want to consider dung artist as a career.
If you don’t have a career yet or are looking to change careers you’re thinking: Okay Mr. Moderately Successful writer what should I chose? My answer is, “I don’t know you. But (as the hack suggests) I would ask you to consider: what are you good at and what do you like? They do say “write what you know.” You can adapt that to, “Do what you know.”
Young me (senior in high school) decided to follow this advice. The things I knew were baseball and comics. Face it I was 17 and really didn’t know much. I didn’t even know enough to know I didn’t know much. But even then I realized I needed a more organized way of figuring what I know and what I’m good at. Being logical even way back then I made a list of my strong points and my not so strong points. That list follows:
French, Spanish (and other language)
Geometry: any math past Algebra
Working with my hands
Have a way with the written word
Great knowledge of cartoons and sports
Can throw a baseball pretty well for 1 inning
Sweating: having been born with dry skin I can’t sweat so I get heat stroke pretty fast.
Good at falling in Judo
Like to make people laugh. (Mostly on purpose.)
Talking in public
Talking to girls
Writing in cursive
Heights: they scare the heck out of me
My voice while loud and memorable isn’t memorable in a good way. Just be glad I am not doing the audio version of this book.
I feel obligated to note that very few of us truly know what we want to do before the age of 30. Yet much of this list still holds true today. Though the talking in public and to girls (women) no longer holds true.
That said looking at the list I quickly ruled out a number of jobs: gigolo (darn), judo Olympian (though the Olympians did get to throw me around and were impressed by my falling skills), carpenter, plumber, mason, teacher, pilot, fireman, astronaut, policeman, math guy, interpreter at the UN, actor, sports broadcaster, swim coach, stuntman (because of the heights thing or else I could have so rocked, stuntman).
I idealized Met’s legend right handed pitcher Tom Seaver. But being left-handed and unable to pitch effectively once I actually got over heated due to my inability to sweat made that dream a pipe dream. Sadly the left handed specialist who comes in to pitch to one batter gets them out and then go sits and watches the game from the bench had not been invented yet. Too bad I would have rocked that.
I also loved the comic strip Peanuts. Charles Schultz the creator of Peanuts was my other ideal. I mentally devoured ever Peanuts book other there. I could recite Peanuts cartoons verbatim. Much the way today I recite lines from the Princess Bride: “I don’t think that means what you think it means.” But the problem there was my drawing skill was on a scale of 1 to 10 like a 3. Not the stuff syndicated cartoonists are made of.
I figured hmmm, I’m creative and good with words and stuff I can be writer. I love writing. The catch there was I did not love typing on a typewriter. For those of you born this century or even in the 90s you can google typewriter. At the time typewriters were a marvelous way to get words quickly on a piece of paper. They beat the heck out of pen and pencil for speed. But still there was no good way to correct and you could only do one page at a time before popping out one piece of paper and trying to line up the next piece of paper. That “being bad with my hands” thing came into play here. I found myself at an impasse. As much as I thought I’d make a good solid writer (I had an ego then) I knew I couldn’t write novels and books and such on a typewriter. It would take forever. But I still thought that was my best option for now. Go to Syracuse University and major in Journalism or something similar and then turn that into being a novelist down the road. Was it the perfect plan? No of course not. There is no perfect in this world. But it could be the start of my life’s roadmap.
Then a miracle of technology appeared senior year on the third floor of my high school: a computer terminal. For me and the terminal it was love at first sight. Okay, it was a one way relationship but still I had seen the future and it was a teletype machine connected to a computer around 12 miles away via the phone.
The school gave us a book on BASIC which was as the word implies a very basic programming language. Within a day I had written my first program.
10 PRINT “HELLO SCHOOL”!;
That was it but I was impressed. I soon modified it to ask you for your name and then say hello to you based on your name. After that I modified the program more so it would say a random wise ass thing after greeting the person. People seemed amazed that a machine would ask them their name and then respond to that name and then say something funny. By the end of the semester my best bud Cory (who would go on to MIT for a Ph.D. or two) wrote a computer football game. I will be honest, Cory did most of the heavy programming. I did the humor, play by play and a lot of the game mechanics including having a dog run and poop on the field. People played the game and laughed and had fun. I learned I can use my logic and creative skills to make programs on computer to be both useful and entertaining. I had found my future. I would go on to college and major in Computer Science. Yeah, I wanted to write and create computer programming let me do both. I also decided I would minor in English and Biology just to keep the writing dream to be a possibility. Actually the biology was more just in case the US got into another war and started the draft again, then the biology would allow me to go to Med school.
You might be saying, “Now Mr. Zakour, you are saying you wanted to be a computer programmer and writer which is geeky but cool. But today you are just a moderately successful writer. How did that come about?”
To which I will reply, “Please read the rest of this book.” But I will give you a hint a spoiler if you will: The sci fi geek writer I am today owes a lot to that high school kid who decided to be a computer programmer. Yes, that part of me may be buried deep in my subconscious but it still helps drive everything I do today based on creative with a touch of logic and organization thrown in.
Heck that second or third program I wrote over 40 years ago still reflects itself in all of my sci fi writing where I usually have a wise-cracking machine or side kick. Plus my strip Working Daze not only has wise acting computers and geek culture references the entire thing takes place in high tech office. I tie in my real world experience from my years as a programmer turned web guru turned consultant. Truth be told some of the Working Daze lines I’ve used have been directly said to me by bosses when I worked in the real world.
For instance: “Tell me why I think this is important!” “Are you sure this web thing isn’t a passing phase?” “How come nobody emailed me about my email being down?” “I touch the link but nothing happens!” “If the computer is so smart why does it let me make mistakes.”
This is also a true actual conversation I had:
Me: “Computer Consulting.”
Voice: “My computer isn’t working!”
Me: “Can you be more specific?”
Voice: “The screen is just blank. Nothing there.”
Me: “Have you turned your computer on?”
Voice: “Never mind.”
Art and life often imitate each other. Take advantage of it. I know I certainly have to moderately successful results. Heck, I even get people who ask if they can be a comic strip character or if any of my characters are based on them. I also get people who insist I worked in their office. I didn’t unless I did and those people know who they are. I just worked in an office and quite frankly all offices share certain characteristics which works out great when you are writing. Quite frankly we all much more the same than we are different. That’s why if you do what you know not only will you do it well but others will identify with you and your work!
Summary: Do a bit of brain / soul searching. Make a list if you have to. Figure out what you are good at and enjoy and can get people to pay you for. Start figuring out ways to do that.