Follow your dreams or follow your talents? Katzenberg versus Branson

As an artist, my ears always prick up when I hear someone saying ‘just do what you love.’ It’s lovely to think that I could spend my life drawing and painting and make a good living at it. You probably have a similar passion or talent that you’d love to pursue if only you didn’t have to eat and pay the bills.

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin fame is in the ‘do what you love’ camp. He recently gave the BBC his top ten tips for success and one of them was:

You only live one life, so I would do the thing that you are going to enjoy. Then, if you’re doing something that really interests you, it will result in a much more enjoyable life rather than just doing something for the sake of making money.

But the reality is that we can’t all do what we enjoy and make enough to live on. Some of us aren’t good enough at what we enjoy. Some of us enjoy something that just isn’t lucrative and never will be. Sir Richard just happened to be good at conceiving and starting new businesses, but that’s not my talent, and it may not be yours.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DEO of Dreamworks Animation has a different philosophy.

Business leaders “talk to kids today about follow your dreams, but I’m not actually sure that’s such a great idea,” he said. “How about follow your skill?…I believe every human being does something great. Follow that thing you’re actually really good at and that may become your passion.”

Note that he says it may become your passion, not that it definitely will.

But I do think his advice makes a lot more sense than the quote from Richard Branson, because if you follow what you’re good at, it’s likely you’ll be successful and, at the very least, that success may give you the financial freedom to eventually follow your true dream (or at least to indulge in it during your spare time).

This has certainly been true for me. I started Blue Sky Resumes because I realized I was good at writing and that I had a talent for sorting through vast amounts of information and finding the salient points. In addition, my years in HR had taught me what mattered to hiring managers and recruiters. Because I followed my talents, the business was successful and I am now able to dedicate some time every week to my passion, which is drawing and painting. And because I don’t need to live on the proceeds of my art, I can focus on subjects that interest me, rather than looking for things that will make money.

I suppose if I had followed Richard Branson’s advice, the only advantage would be that I would now be very slim. Because I wouldn’t have been able to afford much food over the years!

What about you? Do you think it’s wiser to follow your dreams or your talents?

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