Follow Your Passion - Maybe
We're making some progress. In many ways we are starting to change the message to our youth regarding how they will become productive, self-supporting members of society. From "go get a job working for a large company and retire with a pension" to "you can be anything you want to be" to "follow your passion and do something you love," we're moving in the right direction, but we're not quite finished changing that message.
We discovered a great story about a young student who set out, without knowledge or experience to make a better prosthetic hand for someone he met at a school science fair. Easton LaChappelle was just in about the seventh grade and found out the girl’s prosthetic hand had just one motion and one sensor and was $80,000. He thought he could do better even though he had no special knowledge or experience. And, he lived in a rural community of Mancos, located in the southwest quadrant of Colorado, with a population of less than 2,000. He started out experimenting with Legos and small electric motors. By ninth grade, he set out to design a prosthetic arm that could be made for less than $1,000. He accomplished that and upon graduating from high school created a company called Unlimited Tomorrow. Today, the company continues. (unlimitedtomorrow.com)
It's All About Problem-Solving
The challenge to youth to “follow your passion and do something you love” has to be within a framework of providing some kind of useful service to others, whether bosses, coworkers, customers or society. To be useful, the service has to solve problems for others. Hence the emphasis at Fab Lab ICC and in our classes on problem-solving in all our activities, projects, and classes. Indeed, as related to career building and making a living, all educational institutions should be emphasizing problem-solving as the primary objective, not how much salary can be drawn from an employer or how much profit can be extracted from customers. Don't misunderstand, salaries must be right for the work performed and profits have to be sufficient to provide for the sustainability of the company and the satisfaction of the investors and/or stockholders. But, money and profits should be secondary to an objective of solving problems in the best, most innovative and efficient ways possible.
Challenge Youth to Change the World
At every opportunity, we challenge youth to start figuring out how to change the world and "you don't have to wait until you get out of school to start." We are not challenging them to make large salaries or become rich. We are challenging them to figure out ways to change the world by making it better. The challenge will be met by solving problems of one kind or another. This kind of challenge will tend to lead these young students to a life of work solving problems by doing something about which they are passionate. There's nothing wrong with making a lot of money and/or becoming rich but that's not the primary goal. If you've built a life around helping others, chances are that you'll use whatever money you make and wealth you build to help others throughout your life.
The Best Life Is One of Serving Others
You can follow your passion if it solves problems in ways better than any other solutions available. You only get to follow your passion if people, individually or in our society, are willing to pay for your solutions. You can't make a living following your passion if no one else cares about or benefits from the fruit of your passion.
If we can continue to change the message to our youth in this way, eventually we'll have a society of people concerned with making the world around them better, many of them following their passion. The best way to have a happy and fulfilled life is to figure out how to serve others by solving problems while doing work about which you are passionate.
Jim Correll can be reached at (620) 252-5349 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Fab Lab ICC or Independence Community College. Archive columns and podcasts at www.fablabicc.org.